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Total Recall (1990 film)


Total Recall is a 1990 American science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. The film is loosely based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”. The film tells the story of a construction worker who suddenly finds himself embroiled in espionage on Mars and unable to determine if the experiences are real or the result of memory implants. It was written by Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Jon Povill, and Gary Goldman, and won a Special Achievement Academy Award for its visual effects. The original score, composed by Jerry Goldsmith, won the BMI Film Music Award. With a budget of $50–60 million, Total Recall was one of the most expensive films made at the time of its release, although estimates of its production budget vary and whether it ever actually held the record is not certain. The film grossed $261 million worldwide.


In 2084, construction worker Douglas Quaid is having troubling dreams about Mars and a mysterious woman there. His wife Lori is dismissive of Mars, where the governor, Vilos Cohaagen, is fighting a rebellion. Quaid visits Rekall, a company that implants false memories of vacations, and chooses a “trip” to Mars as a secret agent. However, the procedure goes wrong because Quaid has suppressed memories of actually being a secret agent on Mars. The Rekall employees sedate him, wipe his memory of the visit, and send him home. On the way, Quaid is attacked by his work colleague Harry and other men, and is forced to kill them. At home, Lori attacks him, stating that their marriage is a false memory implant, and “the Agency” sent her to monitor Quaid. Quaid incapacitates Lori and runs off, pursued by armed men led by Richter, Cohaagen's operative and Lori's real husband. After evading his attackers, Quaid is given a suitcase containing money, gadgets, fake IDs, and a video recording in which Quaid identifies himself as Hauser and explains that he used to work for Cohaagen, but switched sides after learning about an alien artifact on Mars, undergoing the memory wipe to protect himself. Hauser instructs Quaid to remove a tracking device located inside his skull and orders him to go to Mars. On arrival, Quaid finds a note from Hauser directing him to Venusville, a red light district populated by people mutated as a result of poor radiation shielding. He meets Benny, a taxi driver, and Melina, the woman from his dreams, but she spurns him, believing that he is still working for Cohaagen. Quaid later encounters Rekall's Dr. Edgemar and Lori. Edgemar states that due to a “schizoid embolism”, Quaid is trapped in a fantasy from the implanted memories: he had himself and Lori inserted into the fantasy and offers a “pill” that will signal Quaid to wake up. Seeing Edgemar sweating, Quaid realizes he is real and kills him. Richter's men burst into the room and capture Quaid, but Melina arrives and attacks the men. Quaid kills Lori and escapes with Melina. They flee to Venusville with Benny, and are ushered into a secret tunnel. Unable to locate Quaid, Cohaagen shuts down the area's ventilation, slowly asphyxiating everyone. Quaid, Melina, and Benny are taken to a rebel base where Quaid is introduced to their leader, the mutant Kuato who is conjoined to his brother George. Kuato reads Quaid's mind, recalling a discussion with Cohaagen and Richter about the Martian artifact and its purpose. Cohaagen's forces burst in and kill most of the rebels. Quaid, George/Kuato, Melina, and Benny escape to an airlock, but shockingly, Benny kills George and reveals his alliance with Cohaagen. Before dying, Kuato implores Quaid to activate the alien reactor. Quaid and Melina are taken to Cohaagen, who plays another video, in which Hauser explains that the Quaid persona was a ploy to fool the mutants' psychic abilities, infiltrate the mutants, and expose Kuato, thereby wiping out the rebellion. Cohaagen orders Quaid reprogrammed with Hauser's memories and Melina reprogrammed as his obedient “babe”, but they escape into the mines where the reactor is located. Benny attacks them in an excavation machine, but Quaid kills him. Quaid and Melina then outwit and kill Richter and his men lying in ambush for them. Quaid reaches the reactor control room, where Cohaagen is waiting with a bomb, claiming that starting the reactor will destroy them all. Melina arrives and shoots Cohaagen, but he starts the bomb timer. Quaid throws the bomb down a tunnel, leading to an explosive decompression. Quaid pushes Cohaagen aside, blowing him out onto the Martian surface, where he suffocates and dies. Quaid manages to activate the reactor before he and Melina are also blown out. The reactor rods deploy, sublimating the turbinium glacier underneath and releasing gas, which bursts to the surface and forms a breathable planetary atmosphere. Quaid and Melina manage to survive their brief decompression. With the new breathable atmosphere, Venusville and the rest of Mars' population are saved. As everyone beholds the newly blue sky, Quaid momentarily pauses to wonder whether he is dreaming or not, before turning to kiss Melina.


The original screenplay was written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the writers of Alien, who wrote the initial script before their collaboration on Alien. They had bought the rights to Philip K. Dick's short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” while Dick was still alive. Unable to find a backer for the project, it drifted into development hell, passing from studio to studio for several years, during which time approximately forty drafts of the script were written.In the mid-1980s, producer Dino De Laurentiis took on the project with Richard Dreyfuss attached to star. Patrick Swayze, who had recently starred in Dirty Dancing, was also considered for the role. In 1987, it was announced that De Laurentiis would make the film as the first production for his DEG company at the new De Laurentiis film studios on the Gold Coast, with Bruce Beresford to direct from a screenplay by O'Bannon and Shusett. This version of the film was never made.David Cronenberg was given the script by De Laurentiis, which in his opinion had a great start, but as it went on he felt that O'Bannon and Shusett did not know what to do with the story. Cronenberg described his work on the project as constantly fighting and eventually falling out with Shusett: “I worked on it for a year and did about 12 drafts. Eventually, we got to a point where Ron Shusett said, 'You know what you've done? You've done the Philip K. Dick version.' I said, 'Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing?' He said, 'No, no, we want to do Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars.” Cronenberg intended to cast William Hurt in the role and envisioned the film as “Spider goes to Mars”. Shusett claimed that another reason why Cronenberg quit the film was because around the time Dreyfuss was involved, the director wanted to go on a different approach and in Shusett's words, was “suddenly […] against his own ideas” after some disagreements. Although he went uncredited in the final version of the film, Cronenberg originated the idea of mutants on Mars, including the character of Kuato (spelled Quato in his screenplay). When the adaptation of Dune flopped at the box office, De Laurentiis similarly lost enthusiasm for the project.The collapse of De Laurentiis' company provided an opening for Schwarzenegger, who had unsuccessfully approached the producer about starring in the film. Schwarzenegger had first become aware of the project while filming Raw Deal, which had been distributed by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. He initially discussed doing the film with Predator producer Joel Silver while working on that film, but this project would never come to fruition. He persuaded Carolco to buy the rights to the film for a comparatively cheap $3 million and negotiated a salary of $10–11 million (plus 15% of the profits) to star, with an unusually broad degree of control over the production. He obtained veto power over the producer, director, screenplay, co-stars, and promotion. Schwarzenegger first personally recruited Paul Verhoeven to direct the film, having been impressed by the Dutch director's RoboCop (for which Schwarzenegger was considered for the title role). By this time, the script had been through 42 drafts, but it still lacked a third act. Gary Goldman was then brought in by Schwarzenegger to work with Ronald Shusett to develop the final draft of the screenplay. The director also brought in many of his collaborators on RoboCop, including actor Ronny Cox, cinematographer Jost Vacano, production designer William Sandell, editor Frank J. Urioste, and special-effects designer Rob Bottin.


Much of the filming took place from 20 March 1989 to 23 August 1989 on location in Mexico City and at Estudios Churubusco. The futuristic subway station and vehicles are actually part of the Mexico City Metro, with the subway cars painted gray and television monitors added. The interior of the metro stations Chabacano and Universidad and the exterior of the metro station Insurgentes were shot.


The score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, and 40 minutes of it were released by the Varèse Sarabande label in 1990. Ten years later, the same label released a “Deluxe Edition”, in chronological order with additional cues that were left out, totaling 74 minutes. As with several Goldsmith scores, the music was performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. The score has been hailed as one of Goldsmith's best, especially as heard in the Deluxe Edition, and commended for its blend of electronic and orchestral elements.



The initial marketing of the film was done by TriStar Pictures, which presented the film in a vague, dramatic fashion with none of the action sequences. The trailer did not score well with test audiences. When Schwarzenegger saw the trailer, he felt it cheapened the film, and made contact with Peter Guber, his friend who was the head of Sony Pictures which owned TriStar, to work out how to improve the film's marketing. Guber brought in the firm of Cimarron-Bacon-O’Brien, which had done trailers for The Empire Strikes Back and The Terminator, to produce a new trailer, focusing more on the action-oriented parts of Total Recall with heavy emphasis on Schwarzenegger's role. The new trailer was much more successful with test audiences, and translated to a US$25.5 million box office on its first three days of opening.The film was initially given an X rating, one of the last films to be given such. As with Verhoeven's Robocop before, violence was trimmed and different camera angles were used in the over-the-top scenes for an R rating. The number of on-screen deaths in Total Recall was considered extremely high at the time, and this fact was later spoofed in the film Hot Shots! Part Deux.


Box office

Total Recall debuted at number one at the box office, with a weekend take that surpassed that of the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. The film ultimately grossed $261,299,840 worldwide.

Critical response

Total Recall received an 82% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 73 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The site's critical consensus states “Under Paul Verhoeven's frenetic direction, Total Recall is a fast-paced rush of violence, gore, and humor that never slacks.” Metacritic rated it 57 out of 100 based on 17 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A−” on an A+ to F scale.Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half stars (out of four), calling it “one of the most complex and visually interesting science-fiction movies in a long time,” and arguing Total Recall demonstrated Schwarzenegger's talent as an actor by his showing more confusion and vulnerability than earlier roles. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it a score of “B+” and said that it “starts out as mind-bending futuristic satire and then turns relentless [and] becomes a violent, post-punk version of an Indiana Jones cliff-hanger.” Film scholar William Buckland considers it one of the more “sublime” Philip K. Dick adaptations, contrasting it with films like Impostor and Paycheck, which he considered “ridiculous”.Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said the film is not a classic, “but it's still solid and entertaining.” James Berardinelli gave the film two and a half stars (out of four), saying that “neither Schwarzenegger nor Verhoeven [has] stretched [his] talents here,” but added, “with a script that's occasionally as smart as it is energetic, Total Recall offers a little more than wholesale carnage.”Some critics, such as Janet Maslin of The New York Times, considered the film excessively violent. Rita Kempley of The Washington Post gave it a negative review, saying that director Paul Verhoeven “disappoints with this appalling onslaught of blood and boredom.” Feminist cultural critic Susan Faludi called it one of “an endless stream of war and action movies” in which “women are reduced to mute and incidental characters or banished altogether.”


Other media


The film was novelized by Piers Anthony. The novel and film correspond fairly well, although Anthony was evidently working from an earlier script than the one used for the film, with the main character named Douglas Quail instead of Douglas Quaid. Anthony was criticized for the ending of his book which removed the ambiguity about whether the events of Total Recall are real or a dream. In addition, the novel had a subplot wherein the aliens planted a fail-safe device within their Mars technology, so that if it were misused or destroyed, the local star would go nova and therefore prevent the species from entering the galactic community. It coincided with a comment earlier in the novel that astronomers were noticing an abnormal number of recent supernovae, giving an indication that the aliens seeded their tech as part of a galactic experiment in technological maturity. Instead of mentioning that he dreamt of her earlier in the film, Melina mentions she was once a model, explaining how Quaid could have seen her on the screen at Rekall.

Video game

A Total Recall video game based on the film was developed and released by Ocean Software in 1990, featuring 2D action, platformer scenes and top-down racing scenes; a version for popular 8-bit home computers (Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, NES, and Amstrad CPC) and popular 16-bit home computers (Amiga and Atari ST) was also released the following year.

Television series

A television series called Total Recall 2070 went into production in 1999. The series was meant to be a sequel; however, it had far more similarities with the Blade Runner film (also inspired by a Philip K. Dick story) than Verhoeven's film. The two-hour series pilot, released on VHS and DVD for the North American market, borrowed footage from the film, such as the space cruiser arriving on Mars.

Comic books

DC Comics: Total Recall (1990) In 2011, a four-issue comic book adaptation was released by Dynamite Entertainment, continuing the story from the film.


Due to the film's success, a sequel was written with the script title Total Recall 2, and with Schwarzenegger's character still Douglas Quaid, now working as a reformed law enforcer. The sequel was based on another Philip K. Dick short story, “The Minority Report”, which hypothesizes about a future where a crime can be solved before it is committed—in the movie, the clairvoyants would be Martian mutants. In 1994, producer Mario Kassar spoke with director Ronny Yu about possibly helming the sequel. In 1998, actor-director Jonathan Frakes was also attached to the follow-up. The sequel ultimately was not filmed, but the script survived and it was changed drastically and contained greater elements from the original short story. The story was eventually adapted into the Steven Spielberg sci-fi thriller Minority Report, which opened in 2002 to commercial success.


In 1997 Dimension Films acquired sequel, prequel and remake rights to Total Recall from Carolco Pictures' bankruptcy auction.In February 2009, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Neal H. Moritz and Original Film were in negotiations for developing a contemporary version of Total Recall for Columbia. In June 2009, it was announced that Columbia Pictures had hired Kurt Wimmer to write the script for the remake. Over a year later, Len Wiseman was hired to direct.On January 9, 2011, it was confirmed that Colin Farrell would be starring in the remake and Bryan Cranston would play the villain, with production starting in Toronto on May 15. According to Moritz, this version of the film would be closer to Dick's original story. Moritz also stated that the film would not be shot in 3D, saying “we decided that it would be too much.” Kate Beckinsale was cast in the role of agent Lori, while John Cho was cast as McClane, the smooth-talking rep for the memory company. The film was released on August 3, 2012, and received mixed reviews.

See also

List of American films of 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger filmography List of films set on Mars



Buckland, Warren (2006). Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-1691-8.

Total Recall at IMDb Total Recall at AllMovie Total Recall at the TCM Movie Database Total Recall at Box Office Mojo Total Recall at Rotten Tomatoes Total Recall at Metacritic Total Recall at MobyGames


Please note that this information has been retrieved from Wikipedia on 03/31/2021

total_recall.txt · Last modified: 2021/03/31 23:44 (external edit)