Total Recall (1990)

total recall poster 1990 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Clever movie, some nice visuals

Too many hints that it could be a dream, Arnold is Arnold

Movie Info

Movie Name: Total Recall

Studio: Carolco

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): June 1, 1990

MPAA Rating: R

total recall two weeks lady mask arnold schwarzenegger

Take a two week trip into Total Recall!

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a dream to escape his boring job on Earth when he learns about Rekall.  Rekall can implant you with the trip you can’t afford and send you on an adventure you can’t believe.  Despite being warned against going, Quaid decides to try his hand at a vacation to Mars.  During the implant process, a deeper programming is discovered, and Quaid is exposed as a secret agent named Hauser.  Now Quaid has to get to Mars, and everyone, including his wife Lori (Sharon Stone), is out to kill him.  Once on Mars, Quaid learns the about the life he has forgotten and the war he was fighting…but could it all just be in his head?

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall is a science-fiction action-adventure film.  It is based on the which was based on the short 1966 Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (April 1966).  The film faced an X-Rating but then was cut to receive an R-Rating.  The film received positive reviews upon its release and won a special achievement Academy Award for Best Visual Effects with nominations for Best Sound and Best Sound Editing.

total recall benny cabbie 5 kids mel johnson jr

I’ve got this crazy hand and 5 kids to feed!

Arnold Schwarzenegger was king in 1990.  His action movies were killing in the box office, but they weren’t always that great (but you had to see them).  I couldn’t wait to see Total Recall and ate it up when it was released…I got the movie on VHS and watched it into the ground.  It still remains one of Schwarzenegger’s stronger outings.

The story is intentionally twisted and smartly written in a way that the real story is never real clear.  You are given red herrings over and over again that paint an obvious set-up…or not.  It is one of those films that never gives you a real answer, and in the long run, you don’t really care.  It just is a fun ride that you can take more than once to see the different layers…plus, it is still loaded with Schwarzenegger one-liners and action.

The movie went through a lot of changes during the production and was in production hell for years.  Richard Dreyfuss, Patrick Swayze, William Hurt, and Matthew Broderick were all considered for Quaid.  Schwarzenegger is still Schwarzenegger in it, and a big, muscular Quaid works with the story, but it also feels like Quaid could be more cerebral.   You have a good supporting cast of Sharon Stone as the wife and Rachel Ticotin as the girlfriend.  Ronny Cox plays the evil villain while the classic bad guy Michael Ironside is the man pursuing Schwarzenegger.  Marshall Bell is a scene-stealer as Kuato (who was allegedly dreamed up by David Cronenburg when he was attached to direct) and Mel Johnson, Jr. is good as the faithful (?) cab driver Benny.

total recall kuato open your mind

Open your mind!!!

The movie excesses in violence and action along the lines of RoboCop, but it has the Mars landscape to play with.  In addition to the sets, you have the mutants like Benny, Kuato, and a certain three-breasted prostitute who was popular.  It is easy to forget how revolutionary some of the effects in the film were when the film was released and scenes like the (“Two Weeks”) mask scene and the X-Ray weapon detector were impressive in 1990.

Total Recall is a fun adventure and has some of my favorite Schwarzenegger moments in it.  The movie holds up relatively well for being high concept sci-fi and the story keeps the movie fresh.  A Canadian TV series called Total Recall 2070 ran for a season in 1999 and was based on the works of Philip K. Dick and a remake featuring Colin Ferrell was released in 2012 to much less favorable reviews…stick to the original and “Open your mind!”

Related Links:

Total Recall (2012)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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