Total Recall

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Script: Ronald Shusett & Dan O’ Bannon
Cast: Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell, Mel Johnson Jnr
Running time: 113 minutes
Year: 1990
Certificate: 18

When Doug Quaid (Schwarzeneggar) grows tired of his job as a construction worker he becomes desperate to do something more interesting with his life. So, when his wife, Lori (Stone), refuses to even contemplate moving to Mars, he takes matters into his own hands and visits Recall Incorporated, who implant fake memories and experiences into people’s minds so they can experience, first-hand, what it’s like to be someone else, but with very few risks – except for the occasional accidental lobotomy of course! When the procedure doesn’t take because Recall realise that Quaid already has had his memories wiped, they let him lose, back onto the streets and now at the mercy of a number of determined people, including Richter (Ironside), who want to see him dead. Thus begins a fast-paced sci-fi actioner that doesn’t let up until the final curtain, and is all the better for it.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s 23 page short story, ‘We can remember it for you wholesale’, from 1966, Total Recall is both innovative and thrilling in equal measure. The world-building of the colony on Mars is second to none and is one populated by fascinating denizens, including mutants and androids, and the story-telling is exciting and insightful.

This is probably the film that really brought Arnold Schwarzeneggar to the attention of the masses, which can be viewed as his reward for him being behind the project for years before it got the green-light and for bringing many crucial elements for its eventual existence together. And Schwarzeneggar is ably supported onscreen by genre stalwarts Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside, with Sharon Stone demonstrating why she quickly became one of the biggest female stars on the planet, at least for a while.

The film is served well by an excellent film score by maestro Jerry Goldsmith, and the special effects, despite their age, still stand as some of the best ever committed to celluloid, especially the excellent model-work done by Mark Stetson. And much credit must also go to director Paul (Robocop) Verhoeven, who obviously had a clear vision of what he wanted, along with a strong enough personality to deal with larger-than-life characters such as Schwarzeneggar, who did, back in his heyday, have a tendency to somewhat dominate a film set.

Studiocanal have done a great job with their 4K Ultra High Definition restoration of Total Recall, which was supervised by the director himself. A brand new poster and trailer have also been created to promote the release. The film was restored from a scan of the original 35mm negative, with the colour grading supervised by Jerome Bigleur, at Hiventy.

You don’t have to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy or appreciate Total Recall since it works on a number of levels and can be seen either as a good old-fashioned action romp or as a political allegory for dictatorships and fascism everywhere. Although one does need to have a certain tolerance for violence as this is a lot more violent than I remember it to be, with glorious blood squibs going off aplenty!

Studiocanal is distributing Total Recall on 4K UHD and Blu-ray. There are a bunch of extras on the disc which include:

Audio Commentary with Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Paul Verhoeven – The two larger-than-life characters reminisce about working on the project. Paul clearly enjoys talking more about the techie stuff, while Arnold is more interested in the process and people. We find out that Arnold rehearsed his sex scenes with Sharon at their hotel and he reveals that Stone was actually quite shy.

Open your mind: Scoring Total Recall (21.24 min) – Various film historians, such as Robert Townson, discuss Goldsmith’s contribution to the film, calling his score a “a masterclass of action scoring.”

Dreamers within the Dream: Developing Total Recall (8.26 mins) – the production designer, William Sandell, explains how the look for the film came about and reveals that the pyramid was originally going to be a Sphinx-like structure. 

Total Excess: How Carolco changed Hollywood (59.22 mins) – A fun feature-length documentary about the film company behind Total Recall, Carolco. This is full of famous talking heads (Michael Douglas, Oliver Stone, Paul Verhoeven, etc.) chatting about their own experiences working for the company, who redefined action cinema for Hollywood during the 1980s and 1990s. All fascinating stuff, that’s full of some great trivia for movie lovers. For example, it seems that Rambo: First Blood is the film that made the company a big success and then Cutthroat Island is the film that brought it to its knees.

Total Recall: The Special Effects (23.15 mins) – Mark Stetson (modelling) and Tim McGovern (CGI) take us through how they created the amazing special effects that litter the film from start to finish. It turns out that the dog going through the security X-ray machine in the film stopped to have a poo during one take! 

Making of (8 mins) – An electronic press kit type of mini-documentary that’s still worth a watch for the short interviews. Apparently the film took up 10 massive sound stages at Mexico City’s film studio!

Imagining Total Recall (30.12 mins) – Another sort of making of doc, but this time the screenwriters get to have more of a say, which is nice to see. Apparently, writer Shusett optioned the rights to Philip K. Dick’s short story for just £1K! We also discover that Patrick Swayze was the first choice of lead.

Trailer (1.30 mins) – The iconic floating Arnie head trailer

Total Recall
4.5Overall Score
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About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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