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Douglas Quaid seems to have it all, a good job in construction, a loving and beautiful wife and a comfortable living standard, so why does he have reoccurring dreams of another life on Mars. His wife tries to distract him from what she sees as an unhealthy obsession, but Quaid decides to visit Rekall, a company which specialises in creating fake memories of fantasy vacations. Quaid chooses to live a memory as a secret agent on Mars, but the process goes horribly wrong and Quaid wakes up to a reality where he is indeed an agent who has hidden the biggest secret of the century and must travel to Mars to get the girl, free the mutants and beat the bad guy. The problem is Quaid is not sure if he has woken up at all...
Total Recall (1990 - 1 hr, 48 min, 58 sec) is another film based on the works of Phillip K. Dick, who was obsessed with trying to determine how you could tell anything was real. The film was directed by Paul Verhoeven. The film has been rereleased on a triple play box set, as well as a, limited edition, steel cased set.
The film is a combination of excessive violence and existential angst regarding the meaning of reality, not helped by the fact that the audience is told twice - once at the beginning and again towards the middle of the film - the whole plot of the movie. Even the ending, as it has already been spelt out by more than one character, does not clear up the central question as to whether Quaid is indeed this cartoonish all action hero, who gets the girl and saves a planet, or if he has suffered some form of psychotic break, when the exact same memory is inserted in his brain.
Verhoeven has always held that the whole thing happens within Quaid’s mind, though, for obvious masculine reasons Arnold Schwarzenegger has always preferred to think that the whole thing was real and both reiterate their positions on the full length commentary. The truth is that Total Recall is structured in such a way that either explanation is equally true
On the surface we have the absurd story of Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a man who goes to have memories of a trip to mars, where he discovers he is a secret agent, implanted, as a form of vacation, only to discover that his memories are not inserted, but are resurrected by the machine. The problem is Quaid likes his new personality and has no wish to become his alter ego, Hauser. When his memory is restored, his previous employer, Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), decides that he knows too much and needs to be eliminated, Quaid discovers that his wife, Lori (Sharon Stone), is not his wife at all, but is just there to oversee him. Cohaagen sends Richter (Michael Ironside), who is Lori’s real husband to kill Quaid. The only thing that Quaid can do is follow his pull towards Mars and a woman called Melina (Rachel Ticotin).
The visuals are some of the best of the late nineties, the only thing which doesn’t hold up to the passage of time is the prosthetics, which look obviously fake. Fans of Dick's work will probably be disappointed regarding the distance between the written word and the final film. Apart from the use of a similar sounding name and his discovery that he is an agent, there is little which survives from the original story. However, it would be true to say that whilst the situation had been changed the general thrust of the film, which challenges notions of reality, is very much thematically Dick.
The film is presented in both its English 5.1 audio form as well as with a German audio track. The print is pretty good, being a restored version straight from the original negative. This is, at least, the fourth or fifth outing for this film, with previous releases on both DVD and Blu-ray, so the main point of buying the new set would be the wonderfully restored print in glorious high definition, so I’m a bit confused why the PR company only supplied the DVD version, which is better than the copy I already own, but not as good as the Blu-ray. I’m suspecting that the Blu-ray, is great, but as I haven’t actually seen it I can’t really comment
For extras, on the DVD, we have the full length commentary with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven, as well as an interview with the director (33 min, 22 sec) and a shorter piece on the films special effects (23 min, 17 sec).
Total Recall is a stupidly rich film experience as well as being simultaneously richly stupid.