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Blu-ray Review: Total Recall – Get your ass to Mars and buy it!

Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi action movie, Total Recall, has been restored in 4K from a scan of the original 35mm negative. It was made at Technicolor LA in tiff 16 bits format and supervised by the Verhoeven.

Can you believe it has been 30 years since it was released? Where has the time gone? We do not talk about the 2012 version!

Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s short novel, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, the film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox and I was lucky enough to be sent a Blu-ray of the film.

It had been years since I last saw the film, but I watched with glee at the scenes that had sunk into my subconscious over the years – Arnie’s goofy grin, Michael Ironside and his goons running around waving guns in the air, Johnny Cabs, the tracker in the chocolate, wrapping a wet towel around the head to block signals, “Get your ass to Mars,” Sharon Stone in that exercise ensemble, “Two Weeks,” the Rekall dude explaining the rest of the film before being shot in the head, the bar in Venusville, the extra breast, “Open your mind,” the alien machinery, the hologram bracelet, “see you at the party, Richter” and so many more.

Hopefully, that last paragraph took you back to those moments.

For those of you who have no idea what any of that was about, the film is set in 2084 and follows Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) a construction worker who dreams of the colony on Mars. He can’t afford to go there, but he goes for the next best thing – a memory implant of a trip to Mars at a company called Rekall. Things don’t go as planned as they find Quaid already had repressed memories of being a Special Agent from Mars. They wipe his memory of visiting Rekall and we then follow Quaid to Mars as he tries to uncover what is going on and what is real.

It is funny, but one of the scenes that always stuck with me is from early in the film when Quaid is confronted by his work buddy and some guys with guns. Quaid makes short work of them and that shot of Arnie standing over the bodies with the gun is just so well framed.

Having watched it over and over as a kid I had forgotten how well the story and mystery unfolds and Arnie does do some of his best work in this film. Throw in Michael Ironside chewing up every scene he is in and you cannot go wrong.

Colour-grading was supervised by Jérome Bigleur at Hiventy. According to the press release “restoration crew paid particularly high attention to preserve special effect continuity. TOTAL RECALL was one of the earliest films to use computer-generated images for special effects, winning the Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects, Academy Awards® 1991, which have impressively stood the test of time.”

The film does look so much better with the restoration. Every scene is clearer and sharper with none of the muddiness that older films sometimes get as time goes by. All the actors look great and there is none of the waxiness that sometimes happens in lesser restorations. You can tell that a lot of time and love has been spent getting everything looking just right. Even with that, some of the visual effects do look dated (especially the greenscreen scenes) but that’s part of the charm I suppose and it is a 30-year-oldfilm. The X-Ray Security Scene still looks great and I expect to see them become reality at some point.

There are also the impressive special make-up effects and prosthetics by Rob Bottin (who did amazing things on The Thing) with the mutated humans on Mars. However, I always felt the way the Mars scenes were lit took away some of the magic. The new restoration does not alleviate that but it does show the incredible detail that went into that make-up work.

It also reminded me that Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris played Tony, the dude with the weird brain/skull mutation that covered one of his eyes. Actually, that brings me to something else I always loved about the film. The feeling that many of the people had a life and a history outside of the scenes we see them. When we see the crew at Venusville you can see they are a rebel cell working against the villainous Cohaagen and you get the feeling Tony has been out there kicking ass and taking names even if we don’t actually see that. Minor characters feel slightly more fleshed compared to those in many films from that era. Even the people working at Rekall seem more…lived in is probably the best way to describe. They are in the film for a brief moment but you know little bits about them and it just lifts things and makes the whole thing that little more believable.

The original soundtrack, composed by Jerry Goldsmith, also greatly benefited from digital restoration and it all sounds fantastic. The extras are all worth watching and I did enjoy listening to the commentary with Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If you are a fan of the film then this is a must buy.

STUDIOCANAL release the 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and Steelbook from 23rd November.

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The 5-disc 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition includes:

  • The UHD disc and 2 Blu-ray discs
  • 2 CD Soundtrack
  • Double-sided poster
  • 6 Artcards
  • 48 Page Booklet with exclusive essay by Kim Newman


The 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition disc, Steelbook, Blu-Ray and DVD includes;

  • Open your mind: Scoring Total Recall
  • Total Excess: How Carolco changed Hollywood
  • Dreamers Within the Dream: Developing Total Recall
  • Audio commentary by Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • New Trailer
  • Making of Documentary
  • Imagining Total Recall featurette
  • The Special Effects of Total Recall featurette

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