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Quaid, a 2084 construction worker haunted by dreams of Mars in this crowd-pleasing science fiction spectacle. Against the wishes of his sexy blonde wife, Quaid goes to Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories, so he can "remember" visiting the red planet that is now being settled by human inhabitants. However, Quaid is actually an amnesiac secret agent from Mars - or is he?
For more about Total Recall and the Total Recall Blu-ray release, see Total Recall Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 25, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Paul Verhoeven (I)
Writers: Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Jon Povill, Gary Goldman (I), Philip K. Dick
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell
» See full cast & crew
Total Recall Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 25, 2012
Note: There is no way to discuss Total Recall without revealing some of its twists. If you haven't seen the film and don't want to know at least some of what happens, it's probably best to skip to the technical aspects of the review below.
Great authors often arrive at similar ideas without there ever being even a whiff of plagiarism. Philip K. Dick had his short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" published in 1966, just a few short months after a little remembered novel by British science fiction writer L.P. Davies appeared. The Davies novel was entitled The Artificial Man, and it was optioned by none other than William Castle and turned into the pretty cheesy if still moderately enjoyable 1968 film Project X, recently released on Blu-ray by Olive Films. The similarities between these two offerings are really rather remarkable: both posit secret agents who have had their memories erased and who have had new identities "implanted" into their synapses, and both feature the slow but steady breakdown of both a faux reality and the agent's own mind, which is struggling to reconcile "facts" it knows subconsciously aren't right. Project X really could have been the Total Recall of its day, had the film simply stuck closer to Davies' original conception, because Davies' novel unfolds very much like Total Recall doeswith an unsuspecting man evidently ensconced in a fake world who slowly begins to realize things are not exactly as they seem. Unfortunately Project X decided to "give up the ghost" from the get go, letting the viewer in on the plot to keep the agent fooled, and that one decision set the film off on a wrongheaded tack from which it never fully recovers (not to mention the less than stunning special effects which were available on a relatively paltry Castle budget). Total Recall, on the other hand, plies much the same territory as The Artificial Man (if not Project X), and sets up its central gambit perfectly, by letting the audience figure out along with hero Douglas Quaid that he's not who he's been led to believe he is. (There's one rather odd similarity between the Davies novel and Total Recall which may suggest that one of that film's many screenwriters may have read the Davies novel: in The Artificial Man, the hero's real name is Hagen Arnold, and in Total Recall the main villain bears the surname of Cohaagen.)
Unlike the somewhat boneheaded "spill the beans early" approach fostered by Project X, Total Recall's credited co-writers Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon and Gary Goldman (the film evidently went through scores of writers in various stages of pre-production) in conjunction with director Paul Verhoeven rather neatly adopt a "spill no beans" approach, at least insofar as letting the audience in on whether construction worker Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is or is not a former secret agent who has had his memory erased for some nefarious reason. Instead, the film toes a very deliberately ambiguous line where we initially meet Quaid, who is experiencing recurrent dreams of living on Mars, and then are along for the ride of what seems to be a waking nightmare for him when he visits Rekall, a high-tech organization that implants false memories so that participants can visit exotic locales (like Mars, for instance) without leaving the comfort of Rekall's comfy recliners. Unfortunately, Quaid reacts violently to the procedure and Total Recall then spends the rest of its running time with Quaid trying to figure out if the Mars memories are actually real or illusion, or whether or not his formerly quiet domestic life with gorgeous wife Lori (Sharon Stone) is a waking dream. While at first glance Total Recall seems at least to suggest that Quaid is indeed a former agent, a closer reading suggests that Verhoeven wants to perhaps subliminally keep the viewer unsure as to what is real and what is an implanted "dream".
Total Recall is a brisk, often incredibly violent, film that whisks the viewer into an alternate reality (actually, two alternate realities) and rarely pauses to catch its breath after the brief and relatively peaceful opening few minutes. Once Quaid determines that he's not in fact Quaid, and sets out to Mars to figure out what's going on, the film launches into a sort of guerrilla warfare, freedom fighter vs. The Establishment scenario that seems oddly prescient of later films like V for Vendetta. The film had a famously troubled third act, as director Paul Verhoeven discusses explicitly in supplements included on this Blu-ray, and despite several writers' and Verhoeven's own best attempts, the film does tend to get bogged down in needless dramatics as things wend their way toward a conclusion.
This is one of the rare Arnie films that not only plays to the performer's strengths, but also allows him a chance to actually "act", within the limited confines of which he's capable. Schwarzenegger actually does a credible job depicting Quaid's confusion and frustration in trying to figure out what's going on. The action set pieces are brilliantly staged by Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger performs them with his usual élan. The supporting cast is aces here, with Stone wonderfully sly as the faux wife. Michael Ironside is suitably despicable as the main villain of the piece. While Rachel Ticotin is fine as the main love interest, she has a curiously remote quality here, perhaps due to less than effective writing.
Many science fiction films don't age particularly well (Project X is a perfect example in this regard). Total Recall is the rare exception, a film whose innate intelligence still shines, leaving the viewer wondering exactly what's real and what isn't. Mix in some romantic sparks, what were then state of the art special effects, and a lot of kick-ass action, and the result is one of the most uniquely satisfying films in Schwarzenegger's and Verhoeven's oeuvres.
Total Recall Blu-ray, Video Quality
Total Recall is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of StudioCanal and Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. This is an all new high definition transfer supervised and approved by director Paul Verhoeven and struck from the original camera negative. As evidenced by the restoration comparison included on this Blu-ray as a supplement, the results are rather dramatic. Contrast is markedly better in this presentation, as is color timing and especially saturation. Despite the plethora of scenes bathed in red, fine object detail pops impressively, especially in close- ups. No extreme digital tweaking appears to be in evidence, so this transfer has a beautifully filmic appearance, with a nice layer of fine grain overlaying the entire film. Total Recall was done in the days of practical and optical effects, and those occasionally show their age, but not to any real detrimental effect.
Total Recall Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Total Recall offers lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes in English, French and German (and sample the German track to hear Arnie speaking in his native tongue). The English track is an incredibly visceral experience, completely immersive and wonderfully nuanced. The film zooms from set piece to set piece with an abundance of gunfire, snapping bones and other foley effects clearly directional and rendered with excellent fidelity. Dialogue and Jerry Goldsmith's nicely bombastic score are well prioritized and are delivered cleanly and clearly. Dynamic range is extremely wide and LFE is utilized very effectively in several key sequences.
Total Recall Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Total Recall Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Total Recall remains one of the best Schwarzenegger films, one that is smart but visceral. It may stretch the bounds of credulity as it kind of stumbles through a still awkward third act, but overall this is still an incredibly effective and impressive piece that blends an intelligent screenplay with some great looking special effects. While some may have some niggling complaints about not all of the previously released supplements having been ported over to this new release, otherwise this is a completely stellar effort that offers superior video and audio. Highly recommended.
Total Recall: Other Editions
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Total Recall Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: 'Total Recall' Mind Bending Edition - July 31, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Lionsgate Films are offering two members a chance to win a copy of Total Recall (Mind Bending Edition). This completely remastered edition debuts on Blu-ray July 31 with several all new supplemental features.
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 31-August 7 - July 30, 2012
This week, Lionsgate is re-issuing the 1990 sci-fi-epic Total Recall on Blu-ray. While the release seems timed simply to capitalize on Sony's upcoming Total Recall remake, director Paul Verhoeven uses the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You ...
• Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition Blu-ray - June 28, 2012
Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition to Blu-ray next month. Director Paul Verhoven's action-sci-fi favorite stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) as a blue-collar nobody who becomes the unwitting central ...
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