Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition

| July 31, 2012

Total Recall will always hold a special place in my cinephilic heart, as the film’s mixture of science fiction, nonstop action, and gratuitous violence captured my imagination at an important stage in my personal cinematic growth. And yet, as an adult who has somehow become fairly well-read in the history of the film’s development and the numerous failed productions prior to the completed version of 1990, I can’t help but lament the film that might have been. What would Total Recall have looked like had David Cronenberg directed it with William Hurt in the lead, or (admittedly less appealingly) Bruce Beresford with Patrick Swayze? We’ll never know, of course, and if the trailers for the upcoming Colin Farrell version are any indication, the 2012 Total Recall won’t be deviating too far from what we’ve already seen. At the very least, with action star Colin Farrell playing the role of a factory-working Douglas Quaid, we aren’t likely to get the same sense that Quaid is as out of his depth in spy matters as we would have had Hurt played Quaid as an accountant.

Still, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Quaid comes across as a far more capable action hero than Farrell no doubt will even, and in that, I contend that the 1990 Total Recall doesn’t quite live up to its potential, especially since Schwarzenegger, for all his cinematic charm, was never much of an actor. What’s more, revisiting the film as an adult as I have three times in the last year, I feel that, to some extent, Schwarzenegger’s mere presence hinders the philosophical elements that ultimately drew director Paul Verhoeven to the picture in the first place. And yet, I’ll be damned if the film doesn’t still work! The perfect combination of Schwarzenegger’s charm, Verhoeven’s European approaches to sex and violence, and incredible visual effects by Rob Bottin and MetroLight Studios allows the film to overcome the obstacles it faced, and thus it remains a stimulating and thoroughly-enjoyable staple of action cinema.

The Mind-Bending Edition of Total Recall on Blu-ray represents a significant improvement over the 2006 Blu-ray release of the film, which boasted an all-around piss-poor transfer and an absurd lack of special features– absurd in that that Blu-ray followed the release of the features-packed Special Edition DVD by more than a year. The transfer this time around is crisp, clear, and vibrant with the film’s grain structure highlighted consistently throughout, and surpassing the often soft, inconsistent, and murky visuals of its BD predecessor by a damn sight. The audio too makes a significant leap forward with renewed clarity in an appropriately dynamic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix.

As should have been the case with the previous release, some of the more prominent special features included on the Mind-Bending Edition have been recycled from previous home video releases of Total Recall, specifically the audio commentary with Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven recorded in 2001 and the “Imagining Total Recall “ featurette, which previously appeared on the Special Edition DVD. The commentary on Total Recall receives a lot of praise, and not unjustly, because the feature-length conversation between these two eccentric, heavily-accented individuals is equal parts informational and entertaining. Other special features on the disc include a lengthy interview with Verhoeven, a lengthy featurette exploring the film’s special effects, a making-of featurette, a restoration comparison, a trailer, and a photo gallery.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: Film, Video and DVD

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