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5.0 out of 5 stars First class memories guaranteed, 26 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Total Recall (Triple Play Steelbook Edition) [Blu-ray] [1990] (Blu-ray)
Ah, the perils of reviewing a film on Amazon, with their ever-unhelpful tendency to lump reviews for all different editions and formats of a title together so that the poor reader doesn't know which version he's reading about. This review primarily refers to the US NTSC special edition DVD, but includes details on some of the other editions as well.

Future construction worker Doug Quaid, troubled by dreams of Mars, goes to Recall Inc. ('First class memories guaranteed') to have the memory of a Martian holiday implanted, only to find that he's been there already and that his wife and best friends are now desperate to kill him. Is he who he thinks he is, is he a Martian rebel, a government agent or is it all part of a malfunctioning Recall 'ego trip'?

This is the genuine article, and the one cult sci-fi writer Philip K.Dick's fans had been waiting for. A world away from Blade Runner, and just as far removed from the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale it is nominally based on, it is actually far closer to his novel The Man Who Japed at times. This nonetheless cinematically mirrors the author's style and obsessions - psychic mutants, discompassionate capitalism and different planes of mental and physical existence plus some real stick-in-your-mind weird dialogue ("Look out, he's got a hologram!").

Verhoeven's preoccupations complement the novelist's perfectly, allowing him to explore his favourite theme of duality, most overt in the brainwashed Schwarzenegger's conversations with his former self and the deployment of a holographic mirror image to fool the villains, without ever tipping the balance away from entertainment. As with all his American films, he prefers to make his points through the narrative rather than subjugating the narrative to them.

Toning down his love of violence but not his maniacal black humour, he keeps us guessing with a compelling plot that shows the movie's brains while giving Schwartz plenty of opportunities to show us the extras' brains too, proving that such a thing as an intelligent, edge-of-seat action movie can exist and prosper.

Ironside and Stone offer terrific support, and if the model shots are decidely iffy, the film's intoxicating blend of raw action, satire (the villain sells air!) and alternative realities make it the most impressive sci-fi ride in years. As Arnie says, this is the best mind**** yet.

The multiple releases of the film on multiple formats in multiple territories make it hard to find a definitive version. Best of the DVD releases so far are the US NTSC special edition from Artisan that comes badly packaged in what looks like a tin of shoe polish and includes an audio commentary by Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger (for which Arnie was controversially paid a huge amount of money that his comments never justify), 30-minute documentary Imagining Total Recall, featurette Visions of Mars, 3 storyboard comparisons, stills gallery and concept art gallery, 3 Rekall vacation backgrounds, production notes and filmographies, 6 TV spots and teaser trailer and full theatrical trailer. The UK 2-disc special edition from Momentum offers all those and an additional commentary with cinematographer Jost Vacano and Marko Kregel that's in German but has English subtitles, as well as two additional featurettes.

Blu-ray buyers have thus far not been treated so well, with movie-only versions in the UK and only a brief featurette on the US disc, though Optimum's new 'Ultimate Rekall' edition corrects that somewhat: only the Imagining Total Recall featurette and trailer have been carried over, but it does promise a new interview with Paul Verhoeven, special effects featurette, stills gallery and a trailer for the not-very-impressive-looking 2012 remake.
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Trevor Willsmer
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Location: London, England

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