Cult science-fiction author Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale is impressively translated onto the screen with numerous jaw-dropping special effects and lashings of violence by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who had previously scored a similar sci-fi hit with the 1987 blockbuster Robocop.
Set in 2084, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Doug Quaid, an everyday Joe construction worker (albeit one built like Hercules) who has recurring dreams about living on Mars.
Colonised by humans, Mars is beset by political unrest: The crazed governor of Mars, Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) has imposed martial law and keeps raising the price of fresh air.
Quaid’s sexy blonde wife, Lori (Sharon Stone,) dismisses his fantasies, so Doug pays a visit to Rekall Inc – a virtual reality vacation company – and gets hooked up to a machine that will simulate a trip to the red planet.
Unfortunately, it also gives his brain a good zapping, and Doug wakes up from his virtual vacation believing that he is a secret agent operating on Mars, and soon finds himself pursued by various human and mutant heavies while he tries to work out in his head what is fact and what is fiction.
Quaid joins the revolution of freedom fighters on Mars, led by Kuato (Marshall Bell), and activates an alien generator that will provide free air to everyone on the planet.
Many of Dick’s favourite themes (also explored in Do Android’s Dream Of Electric Sheep? which became Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film Blade Runner in 1982) are explored in Total Recall – Identity, perception, memories real and manufactured – but never at the expense of the action.
And action there certainly is in Total Recall – from a fun fight between Stone and Schwarzenegger – their sparring dialogue an added bonus – to the final gruesome but gripping showdown.
A 2012 “reimagining” of Total Recall was directed by Len Wiseman. Nobody seemed very interested in the science fiction element of the new film and were clearly intent on packing the movie to the rafters with action and adventure. It also starred Colin Farrell, which is reason enough to give it a wide berth.
Mel Johnson Jr