Total Recall (1990)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Micheal Ironside

Synopsis: Douglas Quaid is frustrated with his lot in life, despite a beautiful wife and a stable job.   He attempts to get out of his rut by having his dream holiday implanted in his head… a trip to Mars.   However it seems he had memories of Mars already that had been wiped away and replaced with his current memories.   What ensues is an action packed reality where Quaid’s true history remains a mystery to him for the majority of the film.

total recall


After having recently caught Schwarzenegger’s return to action cinema in The Expendables 2, I wished to revisit this gem, which I had not seen for many years.   Having now rewatched it, one thing is very clear to me… I have absolutely no desire to see the remake whatsoever.   The fact of the matter is, the film didn’t need an update in the first place.   Sure, some of the effects are dated by today’s standard, and the story does take massive liberties with Phillip K. Dick’s original short story, but the film remains dazzling and mind-bendingly entertaining.

First of all, this was Schwarzenegger in his prime… a period where films were sold on his surname alone (think about it, how many movie posters from the period bothered with the Arnold??).   Ok, so whenever he screamed in pain or anguish he sounded like a wounded oxen mixed with  chainsaw, but he dominated any scene he was in.   He had a charisma, was the king of the one-liner, and his dominance was just as much due to these elements as it was the sheer bulk of the man.   This was also one of his more interesting performances, which did show elements of his softer side, playing a simple man caught up in an extraordinary situation.

The other major star of the film, not impugning his costars at all as they are all wonderful, is the world which Verhoeven created for this film.   Even before getting to Mars itself, there are glimpses of technology and a way of life specific to this imagined setting.   This just explodes however as soon as we hit mars, especially the imagination that went into creating the mutants that inhabit some of the districts of the red planet.   It is this imagination which makes the film stand out, well beyond the action that was is on display.

As I said, not impugning the costars, Stone is sizzling in this film.   Her full, sexy, femme fatale persona in effect, and you can understand why it would be difficult for Quaid to let go of the dream that she is his wife.   For many a male at the time, that WAS the dream!!   Ironside is also brilliant as the lackey that is always on Quaid’s tail, and perhaps much more memorable than his character’s boss.

The interesting thing going back and looking at this film at an older age is to understand the political undercurrents that are present in the film, and the social commentary that Verhoeven is making.   He clearly highlights where capitalism goes wrong, when one man has too much power such that he strangles the joy of life for anyone under his corporations umbrella.   The mutants represent an underclass not so much for their deformities, but more for the simple fact that they are underprivileged, like and second-class group in history.

So I come full circle with this review, and once again ask, why the remake??   The themes in the original are timeless and do not need updating.   The film remains entertaining and thrilling to this day, despite a few out-dated special effects.   Producers that give these films the green light are trying to cash in on the good name of a brilliant product, and unfortunately they often do make money.   Sadly, this is often at the expense of tarnishing the good will that was once there with consumers, or, at the very least, this consumer.   Forget Farrell, Total Recall is only Arnie, all the way!

4 stars out of 5


Total Recall on IMDB

Total Recall on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=]

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