Given that "Total Recall" is about memories, this new special edition DVD (as well as several other recent Schwartzenegger DVD special editions) is quite fitting, allowing viewers to remember a time when Schwartzenegger could be counted on to find action projects that were at least slightly inventive and mildly entertaining. Although not his best work, this 1990 Sci-Fi pic at least throws some interesting ideas into the mixture of fights and explosions.
Directed by the always mildly controversial Paul Verhoven ("Basic Instinct", "Hollow Man"), Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who is generally pleased with his current life, where he lives with a stunning looking wife (Sharon Stone). Yet, he keeps having visions of Mars, feeling as if he'd had a former life there. He goes to "Rekall", a service where memories can be implanted for a person, if they so desire. The implainting goes terribly wrong, though, as the proceedure sets off memories about who Quaid really was in the past.
This also turns nearly everyone in his life against him. Even his wife is apparently a member of a secretive agency that Quaid may or may not have been a part of. He finds himself journeying to Mars, where the leader of the outfit, Richter (Michael Ironside) still gives chase. He also finds an ally in Melina (Rachel Ticotin), a woman from his past. The majority of the picture is simply focused on giving the audience scenes with incredible amounts of violence (I didn't remember this picture being quite so violent) and some good gadgets and techno-babble. For an early 90's picture, the effects are actually very enjoyable, yet the violence (as with many Verhoven pictures) does get a bit too much, even for an action picture. It may have been interesting to see what the original directors who were on the project (Bruce Beresford and David Cronenberg) and original star (Richard Dreyfuss) would have done.
The performances are quite good. Schwartzenegger has never been the most remarkable actor, but he does provide an energetic performance here. Stone and Ticotin are also decent in supporting roles. Although some of the violence is, again, a bit much, I will give Verhoven credit for at least moving the picture along quickly. Verhoven's usual cinematographer Jost Vacano gives the picture a slick look and Frank J. Urioste, who has edited Verhoven's "Basic Instinct" as well as Richard Donner's "Conspiracy Theory" and "Lethal Weapon 4", does a fine job, as well.
"Total Recall" may not be the star's best work, but after his dismal comedic period ("Jingle All The Way", anyone?) and some recent flops ("End of Days"), "Total Recall" recalls a time period when Schwartzenegger stood atop the box office as one of the most popular action heros.
VIDEO: Originally, "Total Recall" was presented early on in the DVD format as a non-anamorphic edition that many were generally rather displeased with. Years later, Artisan has wisely chosen to create a new anamorphic transfer for this special edition release. The results are generally pleasing, but not entirely without some noticable, minor flaws here and there. Sharpness and detail are usually solid, but occasionally some minor softness was detected. A couple of dark scenes also appeared slightly murky.
There were also a few problems here and there beyond the few traces of softness. I did see a few traces of pixelation here and there, but very little in the way of edge enhancement. Print flaws did also appear, although inconsistently and in varying amounts. Some scenes displayed minor speckles, the occasional mark and a scratch or two. Yet, some stretches seemed free of such concerns. The slightest bit of grain was also visible now and then.
The film has a rather subdued color scheme for much of the picture, except for the Mars sequences, where the main color is...as one might expect...red. The reds seemed a bit heavy during a few scenes in the picture, but I didn't find this that much of a concern. Overall, this was a fine presentation, but not without some problems that took away from the overall experience.
The layer change was seen at 1:24:12.
SOUND: The newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is reasonably successful, but not the all-out action fest that I would expect, even from a remixed presentation of a nine-year old picture. The main element that benefited from the new surround-sound presentation of the picture was Jerry Goldsmith's score. Schwartzenegger's 1984 "Terminator" is also coming soon as a special edition with a new 5.1 soundtrack, which, although it doesn't have quite the same sound quality, the new 5.1 mix for that filmed seemed noticably more thrilling as a wealth of sound effects were distributed to the surrounds for that picture, while the action scenes here seemed less interesting sound-wise in comparison. A few moments here and there though, actually sounded quite impressive - it just didn't deliver a completely consistent "action"-sound experience that was expected from it.
Audio quality seemed generally fine. Although I generally like Goldsmith's work in many pictures, the score here seemed a bit too heavy at times and things weren't helped by the fact that the score often gets such a major presence in this new 5.1 presentation. Effects sounded clear and crisp, as did dialogue. This is definitely a respectable sound presentation, but didn't really impress or suprise me as much as I'd hoped.
MENUS:: Artisan has provided wonderful animated menus for the picture, complete with terrific transitions between the main and sub-menus. I suppose it's best that I discuss the packaging here, which is rather odd. As you can see from the image included in this review, there is an orange circular tin that's supposed to look like Mars sitting atop a cardboard carrier. This is an interesting idea for the packaging, but the problem is that the quality of the carrier is a bit weak; it would have been nice if there was some sort of "slip-case" that's a bit stronger, instead. Retailers, on the other hand, might have a bit of trouble finding space for the differently shaped package and consumers might find it a bit problematic on their shelves.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Paul Verhoven and actor Arnold Schwartzenegger. The box states that this is a "rare" commentary from the star - I thought this was a little strange, given that he's also particpated in a commentary for "Conan the Barbarian" as well as various supplemental features for other discs. Yet, the commentary here is unfortunately not too insightful. The director is able to recall some interesting elements about the film's production and early "special effects", but otherwise, the commentary mainly discusses the film's story. Schwartzenegger is especially problematic in this regard - much of his discussion revolves around simply discussing what's going on on-screen. Many will find this worthy of one listen through to get a few occasional tidbits, I actually found the documentary included to be more informative.
Imagining "Total Recall": The new 30 minute documentary included about the making of the picture is quite good. Verhoven, Schwartzenegger and many of the film's crew members discuss their experiences working on the picture as well as some stories about working on the Mexico City locations. There's a lot of in-depth information about the film's visual effects and production history. Some additional participants (such as Stone) are only included via some footage from around the time of production.
Rekall Virtual Vacation: A rather oddly enjoyable section, this provides the viewer with the choice of three situations. We then see an animated scene of a beach (or one of two other choices), which is paired with a very good Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Rather relaxing, and some may even choose to leave one on in the background while they work.
Visions of Mars: This is an additional five minute featurette where a scientist who is one of the leaders of the Mars program discusses the history behind the planet and its possible role in our future. A very nice additional feature that many will likely find informative.
Also: Storyboard comparisons of three sequences, theatrical trailer and TV spots, production photo gallery, production notes, cast/crew bios.
also: The only other extra is a trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Total Recall" isn't without flaws, but it still holds up nicely as a mix of sci-fi and all-out action. Artisan's DVD doesn't quite reach expectations in terms of presentation, but the supplements are fine and overall, this is an edition that fans will likely enjoy.
The Film ***
Video 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Audio: 88/B = (352/400 possible points)
Extras: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
Menus: 90/A- = (180/200 possible points)
Value: 84/B = (252/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ***
DVD GRADE: B