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Total Recall (1990) - Film Review

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by Chrystal Byrne (subscribe)
Freelance writer living on Brisbane's north side. Studied creative industries - currently studying library and information services.
Published August 23rd 2012
Get ready for the ride of your life
Total Recall (1990), directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring buff-man Arnold Schwarzenegger and blonde siren Sharon Stone, is a futuristic (sci-fi action to be exact) narrative inspired by the famous short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick.

Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall presents a barren dystopian future; the year 2048 sees mass rebellion on the planet Mars and Douglas Quaid (played by Arnie), a construction worker, dreams nightly of fantastic exploits on the planet – though he (believes) has never been. His 'wife' Lori (Sharon Stone) 'worries' about her dear Doug and vies for his daily attentions, pointing out that Earth is the perfect place for them – away from the political chaos of the red planet.

Quaid can't shake the idea of Mars though and takes a visit to Rekall, a company that uses memory implants to give its clients experiences of extraordinary vacations. There, he chooses the Blue Sky on Mars package inclusive of an optional espionage persona, and prepares for his implantation. Needless to say it all goes wrong and Quaid starts remembering a life entirely different to that of his own – a rebel spy on Mars. Suddenly, Quaid is being attacked and chased by armed thugs and even his 'wife' (notice how I keep drawing attention to this word? Yeah, remember that) has turned against him.

Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone as Quaid and Lori

Total Recall plays heavily with the notions of reality vs. virtuality and contains a few scenes of uncertainty on these matters. Is Quaid the good guy or the bad guy? Is Quaid really Quaid, or is he Hauser? Who is Hauser and what does he want? Without giving away any plotlines, Total Recall twists the viewers' perceptions and beliefs – is it real or is it recall?

In my opinion, although it is classified as a science-fiction action film, Total Recall contains many unnecessary grossly bloody and violent scenes. Some of the more grotesque/noteworthy are:
Quaid wrenches tracking device from his brain through his nose
Quaid 'appearing out of woman' (shudders)
The shooting of the rat (poor innocent rat)
Excessive gun fighting scenes
Quaid stabbing doctor/scientist in the neck with an exceptionally huge screw/thing
• Quaid stabs man through nose and brain
• Mutant midget woman with automatic weapons
• That choking/decompression/eye-popping/face-melting/skin-reddening scene with Quaid, Melina and Cohaagen in the poisonous Mars atmosphere

Total Recall (1990)
Quaid and Melina in Quaid's Mars dreamscape

Although Total Recall was released in 1990, it doesn't fair too badly in the visual department. I mean, yes the ladies all seem to be sporting ridiculously fluffy hair-dos and the effects aren't up to scratch in today's standards – but Total Recall did debut at #1 at the box office in its time. And yes, the end scenes are corny and scientifically incorrect (volcanos and geysers of water and pure oxygen blasting into Mars' poisonous atmosphere creating blue skies and an Earth-like atmosphere) but Total Recall did win 1 out of 3 nominated Academy Awards (for Best Visual Effects funnily enough) and currently holds an 85% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 51 reviews.

So before you scoot off to see the 2012 version/remake of Total Recall, see the original. Really, it's not at all bad if you can get past the above mentioned gross and unnecessarily bloody scenes (hey, maybe I just think they're gross bloody and unnecessary), and maybe then you'll be able to 'spot the differences' between the two. Happy watching.

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Why? Becuause you should see the original Total Recall before the 2012 remake.
Where: In the comfort of your own home.
Cost: A couple of dollars from your local DVD store.
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