Total Recall (1990)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Douglas Quaid’s (Arnie) world goes to hell when he heads to Rekall Inc. to get a memory “vacation” implant for a trip to Mars. After his rendez-vous, everybody he knows suddenly tries to kill him and he might not be who he thinks he is after all. Is Quaid living his Rekall implant or is the craziness really happening to him?
"See you at the party Richter!" - Quaid
Loosely based on a Phillip K. Dick short story that goes by the name of “We Will Remember It For You Wholesale”, Total Recall is one of the most excessive and relentless action/sci-fi flicks on the block. It’s a far cry from Dick’s low-key story, that’s fer sure. Having said that, I can’t deny that I had an incredible good time watching this piece of bloody candy.
Before I get into anything, I have to put this on the map: I love Paul Verhoeven. I love his “in your face” approach, his “exploitation” tendencies, his satirical humor (it's more prominent in "Robocop" and "Starship Troopers" but we get some of it here too) and his high enthusiasm when it comes to film (I’ve met the man and he’s just like his movies: loud and exciting). Here, Verhoeven tries to have his cake and eat it too. Does he pull it off? Yes and no.
The script for Total Recall has a certain amount of depth. It tackles “identity”, plays with reality and tries to make you think further than the average action movie. That’s one side of the coin. The other side is that it stars bigger than life Arnold Schwarzenegger who’s known for destroying small countries by himself in his previous films ("Commando", for example) and subtlety is not really his thang. Couple that with nutso Verhoeven and you can imagine what this movie is filled with: rivers of blood, dismemberment and witty one-liners.
And there’s the rub. For the film's first 45 minutes, I was using my brain and was totally absorbed by the story. The whole “is it reality or is it a dream” angle fascinated me and kept the whole noggin working. The movie offers many foreshadowing moments early on (little hints of things to come, clues about what’s going on) and those little bits kept me intrigued. But then something happened. My "fun times" spirit (bare with me here) took over and my grey matter shut off. I didn’t really care if Arnie’s world was a dream or not anymore, all I cared about was the next gruesome fight sequence, the next Arnie one-liner or the next Sharon Stone kickboxing scene.
Now is that wrong? I guess on a certain level it is. The script is obviously superior to the average action flick and its novel storyline deserved my full attention the whole way through. But how the hell am I supposed to keep thinking when Verhoeven and Arnie keep slapping all kinds of gruesome violent goodies my way? I mean, we get it all here! Over-the-top shootouts (all about the escalator scene), crazy chase sequences (the cab chase…fun times), wild special effects (that thing up his nose…ouch), psychotic hit-men (lead by bad ass Ironside), exciting cat fights (Stone and Ticotin go meow), slick gadgets (loved that hologram thang and the way Arnie used it) and to top it off, all that yummy stuff takes place on impressively detailed sets of a futuristic city or on planet Mars! And you expect me to think with all that! Fuck that!
Total Recall borders the line of intelligent Sci-Fi and crowd-pleasing Arnie blood-fest constantly. The latter eventually took over for me but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And even though the film does lose a bit of steam by the end (I didn’t really care about the mutants, their leader and that whole conspiracy about the air machine subplot) the film still packs a wallop. If you like your Sci-Fi heavy with violence, fast on the pace and fun to the last drops of blood, then strap yourself in your chair and hold on for a messy ride! It doesn’t get more entertaining than this! Go Verhoeven go!
This a Paul Verhoeven flick, what do you think? We get bodies getting mangled up by bullets; we get a spike in the neck, a weird instrument through the nose and ripped off arms. Yes, it’s a blood bath and yes, the effects are on the ball.
Although Arnold Schwarzenegger (Doug) has a bigger than life personality, he lets some it go here and actually shows vulnerability and confusion. That made me care about the character more. But Arnie fans do not fear: the one-liners and the ass kickings are still there as well. Rachel Ticotin (Melina) does okay as the tough brunette and delivers an adequate performance. Sharon Stone (Lori) is at her prime here. She’s sexy, brutal and also seductive. Much like her part in "Basic Instinct". I love Ronnie Cox (Cohaagen) and although he can play this part in his sleep, I still loved watching him. Michael Ironside (Richter) does what he does best: play a psychotic villain. Here he goes "all out" and is definitely NOT on autopilot. Great show! Mel Johnson Jr. (Benny) does fine but his character got on my nerves.
T & A
A letdown for a Verhoeven flick. Arnold shows us his pumped upper body early on and we get a glimpse at his butt crack (yes, the ladies will drool). Us dudes get to see a mutant chick with 3 tits. It’s sad that Sharon Stone kept her talents hidden. But like Verhoeven says in the commentary, “he got even with Basic Instinct”…LOL!
Paul Verhoeven gives the film just the right amount of style. He doesn’t overdo it so the directing never distracts us away from the story. The movie looks good, moves at lightning speed (except for the end) and Verhoeven sure knows how to shoot mayhem. I can imagine him behind the camera loving every second of violence he was slapping in the film, smiling widely. I love this guy!
The score by Jerry Goldsmith rocks the house! It's aggressive and badass when it needs to be and other times it has a “dream like” quality that augments the ambiguous images that it backs up.
Special Limited Edition DVD released by Artisan Home Entertainment
Image: 16:9 Newly remastered Widescreen Version (the only way to see the film, the image is crisp and the colors are vibrant)
Sound: 2.0 English Dolby Digital Audio (the sound is clear, the bone cracks, the bullet hits and the imposing score comes through gangbusters)
Extras: You like extras? You’ll be well served here. Check out what the DVD has to offer!
Rare Audio Commentary with Arnie and Verhoeven: This commentary with Arnold and Paul (yep, they’re in the same room) is very entertaining. Both men have great senses of humor and whenever things begin to go quiet, Verhoeven jumps in and talks about something. They blab about the effects, the subtext of scenes (is it a dream or not?) but my fav thing is when they talk about behind the scenes stuff (like for example, Arnold and Stone rehearsed their opening scene in bed in a hotel room with Verhoeven present…kinky). This commentary is a keeper.
Imagining Total Recall Documentary (~ 30 minutes): A fascinating look on how Total Recall finally made it to the screen. This documentary made especially for this DVD talks about the “Phillip K. Dick” origins of the story, goes into the special effects and how they were accomplished, has Arnold, Verhoeven (the man is so interesting), screenwriters Ron Shusett and Gary Goldman talk about the production. The only thing missing was Sharon Stone’s and Rachel Ticotin’s two cents (although they do show up via 1989 stock footage to talk about the fight sequences). And where was Michael Ironside?? He’s not in here. Overall though, this documentary still kicks major arse!
Rekall Virtual Vacations (repeats itself continually): Imitating the film where you can put a “nature” background on your TV, here the DVD gives you 3 options. You want to have the “Dunes Of Mars” in the back or maybe “Planet Lumina 3”? Then have a blast! But if you’re like The Arrow and love the beach, you’ll slap on “Earth Beach” on your screen to relish the sounds of waves crashing in, the birds chirping and marvel at the computer enhanced scenery before you. A cute idea that keeps with the spirit of the film.
“Visions Of Mars” featurette (~ 5 minutes): Dan McCleese (Chief Scientist Mars Programs, Jet Propulsions Laboratories) gives us his opinion as to why Mars is so fascinating, on its initial source of conception, the evidence that water once flowed on the planet and the ongoing Mars explorations still going on today through probes. This little documentary backed up with kool computer created images of the red planet kept me interested and is yet another slick extra on this packed DVD.
Visual Storyboards Comparisons (~ 1 ½ minutes to 3 minutes each): This extra shows us storyboards for 3 specific scenes unravelling at the same time as the scene they were drawn for (which plays in a little box at the bottom right corner of the screen). The three scenes are “the initial dream sequence on Mars”, “Arnie and all being sucked in the air vent at the end with the subsequent release of Mars air” and the “finale” where Mars has air and Arnie and Ticotin smooch. Storyboards always fascinated me. They are so detailed and well drawn. I would say the first scene is the more interesting one since the storyboard is almost identical to the scene it was drawn for. Seeing then unravel together at the same time was way kool.
Conceptual Art: A slide show of designs for the movie’s various costumes, effects, cars, Rekall machine and Mars landscapes. The drawings are groovy but the FF button can’t be used here so you have to watch the slide show at the speed they chose, a bit too slow for my taste.
Photo Gallery: Miscellaneous pictures of Arnie on set, makeup being applied to the mutants and various special effects being tested or created. Interesting but again the FF button didn’t work here so you have to go with their flow.
Production Notes: The production notes mainly cover the effects and the creation of the sets. Interesting but basic.
Theatrical Trailers and TV spots (8 in all): We get to see all the TV spots and the “initial teaser” that was used to promote the film. Is it me or did the TV spots give too much away? This section is worth it just to check out the “ambiguous” first teaser.
Cast and Crew information: Standard info about everybody in front and behind the camera. We get a mini-bio for everyone plus their filmographies. My fav to read about were Arnie, Verhoeven, Ironside and Phillip K Dick. Did you know that Michael Ironside was nominated for a Genie Award (Canadian Oscar) for his prestation in “Scanners”? You’ll know now and find out much more about each respective personality.
Is that enough for you? To top it off, the menu animation this DVD shows off is awesome! We travel through a corridor with scenes from the film playing on the walls, until we get to the “hand key hole” like in the movie. The DVD itself is packaged in a “Mars” like canister that stands on a cardboard half box. Yes, it won't fit in your library properly but it doesn’t belong there! This is the kind of DVD you show off on your bookcase or something (that’s where mine is). This DVD is a major treat for all Total Recall fans out there.
If you’re in the mood for an extremely intelligent Sci-Fi flick that explores the theme of “identity” in full depth then hit “Blade Runner” (another adaptation of a Phillip K. Dick story). But if you’re craving a fast-paced, wall-to-wall action blood bath, that showcases more smarts than the average “bang, bang” flick then implant "Total Recall" into your mind and have a rollicking good time! “Hope you enjoy the ride!”
At one point, Patrick Swayze was cast as Quaid and Bruce Beresford was hired as the director. But Dino DeLaurentis (who owned the rights at the time) lost lots of money and had to do some cuts. Total Recall was cancelled. At another point, David Cronenberg was attached to the project and Richard Dreyfuss was set to star.
The budget for this film was between $55-60 million dollars.