DVD REVIEW: Total Recall – Ultimate Rekall Edition

Based on the 1966 short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, the 1990 film Total Recall has been regarded a classic for both Arnold Schwarzenegger and sci-fi films in general.  With the original story only being around 20 pages long, it merely acts as a springboard for the violence that makes up the almost 2 hours of film.

The plot of the story is fairly simple. In the year 2084, Douglas Quaid (Quail in the short story) is a man who has always dreamed of going to Mars, but his wife is reluctant to go. Instead, he goes to the Rekall Corporation to have the memories implanted.  However, things do not go to plan: it turns out he already has the memories of a secret agent, and now that others know this, agents come after him.  Needless to say, his wife was in on it the whole time too; alone, he starts to run.

Quaid is then contacted by an unknown man who leaves him a suitcase which explains that he is actually called “Hauser” and he used to work for Cohaagen, the governor of Mars, but after finding out some sensitive information he had his memories wiped to protect himself.  He removes the tracking device and heads for Mars to meet Kuato.

On Mars Quaid heads to Venusvile, a red light district where mutants due to radiation live. There he meets Melina, the woman from his dreams and apparently Hauser’s former lover.  Believing that Quaid is still working for Cohaagen, Melina wants nothing to do with him.

At Quaid’s hotel room, his wife is with the president of Rekall try to convince Quaid that he is living out implanted memories and that he needs to take a pill to wake him from his dreams. However, Quaid sees that it is a trap and kills the Rekall president only for more forces to arrive. Melina comes to save him, killing his wife in the process.  They race back to Venusville with Benny, their taxi driver and meet the resistance and Kuato, a deformed humanoid conjoined to his brother’s stomach.  Kuato reveals that Cohaagen is hiding an artifact that, if turned on, will provide Mars with a breathable artifact.  However, Cohaagen’s men show up, led by Benny, kill the resistance and capture Quaid and Melina.

They are taken to Cohaagen ,who reveals that Quaid was just another persona to infiltrate the resistance.  He orders Hauser’s memory to be re-implanted and Melina to be turned into his slave but they escape and head to the artifact, killing every bad guy on the way.

In the reactor room, Cohaagen has planted a bomb which explodes, blowing out one of the walls exposing the vacuum of Mars.  Cohaagen is pulled out first and dies, followed by Quaid and Melina who just manage to turn on the reactor in time. Mars has its new atmosphere, and Quaid and Melina kiss.

Ok, so it’s not as simple to write down as it was to watch.  The film itself is an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, and by that I mean to expect a lot of shooting and swearing, more swearing than I was expecting.  They really went for that 18 certificate (R rating in the USA).  On the whole, it is an enjoyable watch with the make-up effects being great for its time.  I always enjoy watching films before CGI became the norm for everything, I feel that there was much more skill involved.

Comparing to the Original

When I say that this was based on the short story I mean that they took basic premise and ran out to space with it, literally.   The first part of the film is fairly close to the original but after Rekall is when it changes.  In the story, Quail never goes to space, 90% of the story is him talking to his handler about what happened to him on Mars – he killed some people, and then wondering how to get out of this situation.  They come up with a plan that he be implanted again, but this time of his childhood fantasy that he showed humility to a tiny invading alien race and as a reward they agree that for as long as he was alive and on Earth they would not invade.  However, guess what – they go to Rekall to get it sorted, but it turns out they don’t need to build those memories after all.

I personally prefer the original story. I like the ideas that Dick questions about whether fantasies are just forgotten memories if your mind has been tinkered with but I can see how 2 hours of conversations might not make for a good action film.

What I must argue about the film is whether it was necessary to make it so violent and have so much profanity?  Part of me feels like the director, Paul Verhoeven, wanted to make something that would be as different to Blade Runner as possible.  Again, another film based on the work of Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Overall Total Recall sits on the overly violent side of Philip K. Dick interpretations which, though it plays to the mass audience, might not endear people to read some of the truly excellent work that he wrote.

Ultimate Rekall Edition: What makes it special?

This edition is great as it is a triple play, which I prefer as then I can watch it on my laptop as not every optical drive in my house is Blu-ray.  From earlier versions of the film I have seen something has definitely been tweaked with the colour, it now seems a bit crisper and more natural.  The triple play options and the improved colour alone make this Blu-ray worthwhile for me, as it means if I want to have it on my laptop for long journeys I don’t need to mess about with programs copying the disk and converting files.

The extras included are very good, with a long interview with Paul Verhoeven, a featurette about the making of the film that looks to be from the early 2000s and photo gallery.  However, my two favourite items are a restoration comparison which really show the colour enhancements that have been done, believe me you’ll wonder how we ever coped pre-HD TVs.  Also, the special effects documentary which goes into detail about how the special effects were created, including some truly massive miniatures.  This documentary is really interesting, as in my mind this is one of the last films to use miniatures before the big jump to CGI.

Film Rating: 3.5/5
DVD Exras Rating: 4.5/5

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