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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Thriller > Total Recall (1990/Lionsgate Blu-ray/Older Version)

Total Recall (1990/Lionsgate Blu-ray/Older Version)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: C     Film: B-



Please Note: This original Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger Blu-ray version of the film has since been reissued in a nicely upgraded Blu-ray edition, rendering this edition obsolete, plus the poor 2010 remake (reviewed elsewhere on this site) has been issued on regular Blu-ray and in the new higher-bit Mastered In 4K Blu-ray series by Sony.



In his climb to be the biggest movie star around, Arnold Schwarzenegger took a big step forward in this process with Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall in 1990.  Based just enough on Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Schwarzenegger stars as Quaid, a happy family guy who is about to find out his life is a sham and something sinister is really behind the happy façade.  He is a construction worker on Mars, it is 2084 and he even has a wife (Sharon Stone, in a career-building role herself) who loves him.  Then he visits the Rekall Company for a memory transplant and all the sudden, something is wrong and different.


He starts to realize he is not remembering reality correctly to the point that he does not know what it is.  He sees things that seem familiar but he cannot remember specifically why.  Then a tape surfaces where he is told he is really a spy, though not even that adds up.  He then stops trying to figure out everything when forces out of nowhere start trying to kill him.


Though the film keeps things a mystery so we and he do not know what is going on, this is more about pumping up the unknown factor for the sake of action than telling us any kind of complex story.  This is why the film does not always hold up on repeat viewings, on top of which, the film was a very hard R-rated film in its brutal violence.  Some suggested it should have received an NC-17 and like so many Verhoeven films, almost did.  By today’s standards, it is still brutally violent and was always the slightest bit sadistic, but it still cannot compete with the Snuff cycle of would-be Horror garbage we have seen lately that seems sort of hell bent on a kind of death worship.


Another reason it does not fall in that category is that the brutality extends to the environment of Mars.  In continuing parallels to the films of Stanley Kubrick, more of the budget that one might think is to building mars extensively itself.  Sure, it is not Mars, but the sets and designs are more extensive than the junky digital visuals we get today and as compared to Kubrick’s 2001, exposure to the elements is far more dangerous, corporations junk up this new land even worse and The Cold War may be gone, but vicious secret plotting in that tradition continues unabated.  Though not the best film by Schwarzenegger and/or Verhoeven, Total Recall remains a favorite simply for do so many things well and is the reason why it is an early Blu-ray release. 


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 (miscredited as 2.35 X 1 on the package) digital High Definition image has some detail issues, but looks good for its age and was shot vividly and memorably by Verhoeven’s ace cinematographer of the time, Jost Vacano.  A huge chunk of money was spent on big sets, interesting production design detail, interesting costumes and state-of-the-art visual effects that hold up well in part (ironically) because they are not digital.  This film was shot for the big screen and made available at the time in 70mm prints, so it will look good on the larger HD screens and other presentations on a visual level.  Video Red is the toughest color, even in HD, but the constant Video Orange here resolves itself much better than even DVD could ever do.


The sound is here in standard Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and superior DTS HD ES 6.1, though the film’s original best theatrical soundtrack was from its 70mm blow-up prints, which was a 6-track 4.1 Dolby Magnetic mix.  Though sometimes identified for 35mm prints as Dolby analog A-type, this was actually a more advanced Dolby SR release like Verhoeven’s previous film, Robocop.  That was the first-ever SR release.  The sound can show its age, but when the action and Jerry Goldsmith’s truly powerful score kick in, this one is a real winner.  The soundtrack had the same quality consistence when we retested it a few years later on updated audio equipment.


With only 25GB, we only get the Vision Of Mars featurette, but this is a solid Blu-ray edition and one of the better back catalog titles (prior to the digital sound era in 1992) that we have seen in either HD format to date.  It is like seeing it for the first time all over again in many ways or for the first time since 1990 on film for those who caught it in its original run.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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