total recall – quaaaaaaaaid…

Total Recall is a sci-fi action adventure film. It was released in 1990 by Carolco Pictures and StudioCanal, directed by Paul Verhoeven, written by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povil and Gary Goldman. It’s loosely based on the story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick. It won a Special Achievement Academy Award for the visual effects, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith won the BMI Film Music Award. It stars; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox.

Before I get carried away, go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film and what we did for Starship Troopers, here, here and here.

Buckle up… cause there’s a lot going on in this movie. We’re in the year 2084, Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker on Earth, who dreams about a mystery woman on Mars. His wife Lori, played by Stone, dismisses these dreams and tells him to stop thinking about the red planet, cause there’s some social unrest there. Cohaagen, played by Cox, is fighting off mutant rebels while he searches for a rumored alien artifact located in the mines where the mutants work and live.

Quaid can’t shake this Mars fascination, so he goes to Rekall, a company that provides vacation/fantasies through memory implants. Quaid chooses a trip to Mars as a secret agent, but the procedure goes horribly wrong as Arnold’s muscles flex and he’s got to be heavily sedated. Rekall wipes his memory then sends him in a Johnny-Cab back home, on the way there he’s attacked by his co-workers, well ex-co-workers, cause he kills them all. But it doesn’t stop there, he gets home only to be attacked by Lori, then by a gang of thugs led by Richter, played by Ironside.

Quaid miraculously evades capture and his attackers/pursuers, gets a message from himself letting him know that his name is actually Hauser, and that he used to work for Cohaagen, but turned… the message ends with him telling himself to get to Mars.

Once Quaid gets to Mars he heads for the red-light district where all the mutants congregate. Here he’s got to find the fabled Kuato. On his search he meets a taxi driver named Benny and Melina, played by Ticotin, she’s the literal girl from his dreams, and surprise surprise… she knows him and is mad believing that Quaid is still working for Cohaagen. They all disappear in to the caves where the resistance is hiding. Cohaagen can’t locate them so he shuts down the air flow, slowly the mutant residence suffocate.

Back in the caves, Quaid is introduced to Kuato, a conjoined twin living off of his twin’s stomach. Kuato reads Quaid’s mind and reveals that the artifact is a reactor that will create breathable air and an atmosphere for Mars, once it’s turned on of course. The bad guys burst in, they’re led by Benny, and kill everyone but our heroes.

The Captured Quaid and Melina are taken to Cohaagen who reveals that the Quaid persona was just what he wanted all along to flush out Kuato. Hauswer’s memory is ordered to be reinserted in to Quaid and Melina to be programmed to be Hauser’s slave, but they’re having none of it and escape in to the mines where the reactor is located. After a massive shoot out and killing Benny, Richter and the other baddies that stand in their way they make it to the control room. Cohaagen confronts them with a bomb, Quaid accidentally sets it off blowing up a wall to the outside, causing the air to be sucked out. They grab on for dear life, but Quaid accidentally sets of the reactor setting in motion the ancient machines that give air to Mars, but Quaid and Melina are on their way out in the Mars desert. They get all bug-eyed but breathable air makes it to the whole planet just in time, not only for them but for the mutants back home. Fade to white…

The good; there’s a grandness to this movie. A quality that doesn’t seem to happen nowadays. It starts off with a Marswalk dream, then Arnold showing off his muscles as an everyday joe punching the clock, going home to his wife, and dreaming for more. After he visits Rekall the movie then becomes a sort of sci-fi/violent version of North By Northwest. From there it just keeps escalating, he goes to Mars, is he or isn’t he a double agent, he meets the mutants and then brings air to Mars. There’s a whole lot going on in this film.

I love the special effects in this movie, they’re brought to us by Rob Bottin. They’re practical and amazing, I’ll take them over CGI any day. You just have to watch this film to know what I’m talking about, a couple scenes worth noting are;

The removal of the tracker

The Mars disguise

The setting, they use real locations with matte paintings. A lot of this film was shot in Mexico City, so they really utilized the actual locations, from the Subway station to the Military Academy.

The violence has to be mentioned. This is one of the most violent movies ever the body count is 77, with two miscellaneous kills, 1 Johnny Cab and 1 mouse. It’s not the high body count but rather the brutality by which characters meet their demise. There are entry and exit wounds, take notice… take notice.

The bad; the remake… why? Why!

Then there’s the ending, in the same vein as a previous Philip K. Dick adaption (Blade Runner) the overall film could be interpreted differently. For Total Recall the fade to white suggests that it’s all been an implanted fantasy and that Quaid is still in the chair at the Rekall center.
Or did he really give breathable air to the masses becoming the savior of Mars?
It’s not as ambiguous as it should be.

Overall, how did this movie get made? This movie was the epitome of violent films that we had in the 80s, well, cause came out in 1990, closing off that decade. It was violent then, and it’s violent today, but oh what a fun ride.

I would pair a viewing of this film with that of Ruby Red Squirt.

Squirt was created in 1938 by Herb Bishop. After experimenting with  citrus drinks he created a new carbonated one that required less fruit juice and sugar. Squirt as a brand name came about because it was advertised as a freshly squeezed grapefruit. The Ruby Red coloring will keep you quenched and make you feel like you’re there on Mars with all the blood and guts.

So sit back relax, pop in the (most recent) bluray and enjoy the special effects. Total Recall might be the first film to show us flat screen tv’s mounted on walls, or video phones, where today flat screens are just the standard and facetime is on every phone. Life imitating art…
This film is also far superior than the remake, not just for all the reasons I gushed about, but for the simple reason that the world they were in made sense and worked, it wasn’t just there for being there, those of you who saw the remake know what I’m talking about.

Fade out-
Eugene

 

 

 

 

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