Total Recall (1990)

Long considered a seminal movie among Schwarzenegger fans and sci-fi action enthusiasts, Total Recall is a very important film in more ways than you might know. Aside from its obvious popularity and importance in the Schwarzenegger catalog, the original Total Recall was one of the last major Hollywood films to use practical special effects rather than computer generated ones. So if you go back and watch a lot of early 90’s sci-fi films and wonder why the ones from the late 80’s look better, that’s pretty much why. It took a long time for computer effects to catch up and, although debatable among some, surpass practical special effects. This was pretty amazing at the time, even winning Total Recall an Oscar on top of two other nominations for sound.

Faring even better among film enthusiasts, Total Recall is now considered a classic of cinema. While that statement might cause some critics to roll over in their graves, whether or not they were dead before I said it, it’s actually true. An entire generation of people love this movie, try saying “Two Weeks” without getting several people repeating it back at you while pulling at the edges of their mouth. Personally I think Total Recall is the best Schwarzenegger film, even beating out Predator for the spot. Hey, don’t shoot the critic, I love Predator but I think Total Recall just brings more to the table. So with the remake out in theaters I felt like some people out there needed to know what kicks off this subjective reality extravaganza.

People like to throw around the fact that Total Recall is ‘based’ on the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”. While it did inspire the basic plot, we need to give proper credit to director Paul Verhoeven (you might remember him from such films as Robocop) and the parade of writers who gave us the memorable scenes and lines that make this movie great. As you’ll see in my upcoming review of the remake, losing that special Verhoeven tongue-in-cheek violence and humor is a major hurdle to greatness. This film gives us some of Arnold’s best one-liners of all time, too many to name and pointless without the accompanying scenes.

The supporting cast is universally excellent as well. Standing out among the crowd are Ronny Cox (also from Robocop) as the bad guy Vilos Cohaagen, Sharon Stone (when she was still smokin’ hot) as Arnold’s wife Lori, and Michael Ironside as Cohaagen’s enforcer Richter. We’ve also got wonderful performances by people who I only know by their characters in the movie, such as Benny the cabbie, Melina, and naturally Three-Breasted-Woman. Who could forget Three-Breasted-Woman? When they announced the remake all people asked about was whether or not there would be a Three-Breasted-Woman in the film. Just a tiny preview of the next review, there is indeed a Three-Breasted-Woman in the remake. Be at ease, my friends.

Great special effects, hilarious lines, memorable performances, and numerous other qualities make Total Recall a classic. Much like Robocop the special effects still look great and the film is watchable next to any computer-generated modern works. If you haven’t seen this movie then go check it out, if you have and are considering watching the new movie then go watch this again just to refresh your memory. Either way, it’s worth watching Total Recall, whether for the first or fiftieth time.

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