Cert 18 / Region B / Running Time 103 mins
“The walls of reality will come crashing down. One minutie, you’ll be the savior of the rebel cause, and the nest thing you know you’ll be Cohaagan’s Bosom Buddy, you’ll also have fantasies about alien civilizations, as you requested. But in the end back on Earth, you’ll be lobotomized. So get a grip on yourself Doug and put down that gun”.
Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up for the first adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. Set in 2084, construction worker Douglas Quaid (Arnie) keeps having dreams about Mars, a place he’s never been. His wife Lori (Sharon Stone) is concerned he’s getting obsessed with the idea of going to Mars and Quaid happens upon the idea of having the trip implanted into his memory using mega conglomerate Rekall’s technology to do so. With friends advising him against the idea (“Hairy from Verk”) Quaid goes ahead and does it anyway but something goes wrong and a previous memory implant reveals Quaid had a secret past someone had tried to bury in his brain… or is this just part of Rekalls implant?
Released in 1990, Total Recall was probably the first new film I saw of Arnie after spending the previous two years catching up with his existing work on video. Being a teenager at the the time (and probably only just) I had to wait for the rental release on VHS but as soon as I could I had Total Recall in my Arnie lovin’ mitts ready for his adventures on Mars.
Total Recall was pure Schwarzenegger goodness and still is twenty two years later. It’s got the big action, it’s got the classic lines and it’s got more Arnie yells and the odd sounds only he can make than probably all of his other movies put together. Not only that, there’s a great story being told here. Questions raised about whether or not all of this is real was only really a concern as I grew older and in all honesty it’s not the best played or indeed explained of mysteries. This is Arnie on Mars, plain and simple.He’s working with mutants, trying to get his memory back and dealing with bad guys who shoot everything. Sure there’s the scenes and moments that question the reality of the situation but as Verhoeven says on the extras both the reality and the dream is happening here all at once. Even though my older self appreciates the layers at play, my teenage self wins out and tells me all this is happening and Arnie has to save a planet with ancient alien technology.
That’s the thing with Total Recall, despite the relatively intricate layers to the story, Verhoeven and Arnie play this light. Beyond the scene with the suffocating mutants, there’s never a huge sense of danger or importance and even the grand scale of the air making machine at the end of the film is played with an almost classic Hollywood romanticism as opposed to anything with any real weight. This is Arnie doing what Charlton Heston did with Planet of the Apes and making large scale sci-fi accessible to the entire audience. The film lets the really sci-fi lovers delve deeper if they choose but really this is just pure 90s popcorn action and not at all as deep as the story might like to think it is.
Given this new release, with it’s steelbook limited edition case is hitting our shelves to coincide with the new Len Wiseman remake, I watched Total Recall keeping the new project in mind. What could be better with another adaptation? Well, there’s not a chance Colin Farrell will have the charm and charisma Arnie carries this film on, that’s for sure and Sharon Stone is the perfect mean bitch here -although I’m looking forward to seeing if Kate Beckinsale goes for the nuts as much as Stone does in the original.
I guess the remake will improve the landscape of the film because revisiting Total Recall here, Verhoeven’s film looks dated and not just 90s dated, more like 50s – 60s sci-fi dated, with tacky looking sets and lighting that just screams limited budget. Also the way the dream / reality questions are played could be much better in the remake. The scene in the original where the doctor offers Arnie the pill to get out of the dream gone wrong is really the only moment that hits the question bang on the head, so more of a play on Colin Farrell’s grip of reality could make this Rekall nightmare play out a little more psychological sci-fi than Verhoeven’s original did. With all that sad however, the original Total Recall didn’t need to play with the dream / reality angle too much because at it’s core you have Arnie, tussling with Michael Ironside, mutants, three boobed prostitutes and Johnny Cabs, so even though a more serious approach might help the story along, it probably won’t equal the sheer classic Arnie fun the original Total Recall delivers.
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 / Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 German / Subtitles: English, French, German
As we all know, Total Recall has already been out on Blu-ray and it wasn’t all that great in the presentation department and came with with no extra features. This new edition is an improvement but for those who may never have seen the film before, this Blu-ray isn’t exactly going to blow you away when placed side by side with modern sci-fi actioners. When compared to previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, colour is much improved. Mars is red (not orangy red), skin tones are much warmer and colours in general are very strong, even if some of the lighting in the Mars scenes make the film look cheaper because of it. Detail isn’t all that improved from the previous Blu-ray release and even though the image holds up better with stronger blacks, there’s an obvious softness to the presentation. Grain is also very noticeable, especially in the old school effects shots and while it’s not overbearing, or all that noticeable for the most part, artifacts still show up on what is a fairly clean transfer otherwise.
As for the audio presentation, I found it a little uneven. Dialogue is generally fine but the score felt a little bit too low for me. The bassy elements of the score are good and get stronger as the film travels forward but the sound effects, such as the harsh 90s machine gun fire and explosions felt like the jumped a little bit too much from time to time (but then that was late 80s – early 90s action filmaking more than the disc itself).
As for extras, there is of course the steelbook edition and everyone loves a steelbook but on the disc itself we’re given the following.
- New Interview with Paul Verhoeven.This is about 35 minutes in length and frankly brilliant. He’s such an enthusiastic guy and gives plenty of insider information about the project.
- The Original Commentary with Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a track I’ve loved for ages just for Arnie’s goofiness. He states the obvious, he tells you what’s happening in the scenes and he refers to his character as “I” all the time. “I” discover the secret, “I” save the day. I love this track as it’s just plain fun.
- Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall (23 mins) is a great look back at what were cutting edge effects at the time.
- ‘Making of’ is a vintage featurette and runs at about 8 minutes. I love these old original featurettes.
- ‘Restoration Comparison’ shows the work that has gone into improving the film for home release.
- ‘Imagining Total Recall’ (30 mins) is the original making of from the DVD release
- Photo Gallery
Total Recall is still in my top 5 Arnie flicks. I don’t think I love it as much as I used to as I’ve found myself wandering off after Kuato dies on the last few rewatches I’ve had of it but even with that said Total Recall has too much to love about it. “Hairy from Verk”, “Give deez peeple air”, the infamous use of a commuter as a human sheild, the X-ray jump, “Two Weeks”, “I’ve got five kids to feed”, Johnny Cabs, the delivery of the classic line ”What the FUCK did I do wrong?” the laughing hologram, the tracker out of the nose and of course Arnie’s vacuum of Mars face. Total Recall is a movie that holds a great deal of fondness in my movie loving heart and this release provides just about enough to make it worth yet another purchase, even if there are still plenty of areas that could be improved.
Total Recall Ultimate Edition Blu-ray is released on the 16th July 2012