Total Recall (HD DVD) (1990)

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Released 6-Feb-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Animation & Audio
Trailer-Studio Canal HD DVD promo
Calibration Signals
On-Screen Information Track-(not reviewed)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 113:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Paul Verhoeven
Carolco Pictures
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Sharon Stone
Rachel Ticotin
Ronny Cox
Michael Ironside
Marshall Bell
Mel Johnson Jr.
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French DTS HD High Resolution Audio 2.0
German DTS HD High Resolution Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, beverages, electronics brands & hotel chains.
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Paul Verhoeven's classic sci-fi action extravaganza is an amazing journey, albeit with a huge body count, that still manages to impress seventeen years after it was made.

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is new in town. Despite his loving wife, Lori (Sharon Stone), and a new job as a construction worker, he feels compelled to do something more with his life. Regular nightmares have been troubling him; visions of Mars, a planet he has never visited, coupled with a beautiful brunette that he finds familiar somehow. He longs to go to Mars for a holiday to satisfy his curiosity, but his wife won't be a part of it, so he approaches Rekall, a company that specializes in memory implants. It's even better than the real thing! Quaid takes them up on their 'Ego Trip' package, a holiday with a twist that allows you to act out a secret agent fantasy while sunning your melon. However, the memory implant procedure goes horribly wrong, disturbing what appears to be repressed memories of his experience as a real secret agent. In a whirlwind of action and sci-fi special effects, we follow Doug to Mars, where he hooks up with his brunette sweetheart, Melina (Rachel Ticotin), and uncovers a conspiracy to rob long-suffering Mars colonists of the potential to create their own breathable atmosphere using ancient alien technology. With the Mars rebel underground to help him and Richter (Michael Ironside) of Mars' secret agency trying to kill him at every turn, the race is on to liberate Mars!

Based on Phillip K. Dick's classic short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, this is the kind of tale that would give David Lynch heart palpitations of joy. Everything on screen is questionable and open to interpretation. As viewers, we're repeatedly called upon to question what we are seeing. Is the majority of the film a dream, taking place inside the comatose mind of a deadbeat construction worker? Or, could it be possible that Doug is in fact an elite secret agent from Mars, robbed of his memory and dumped on Earth to eke out his days as a laborer?

See it, open your mind, and enjoy.

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Transfer Quality


Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

Total Recall is one of my all-time favourite films, and I have experienced it on just about every format available. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best, most impressive video transfer this film has received to date. This disc even puts the North American Blu-ray disc to shame but more on that later!

This transfer is presented in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in a native 16x9 frame, with thin black bars on the top and bottom of the image. The thin black bars won't be an issue to viewers with displays that overscan the image. The 1080p, 24fps transfer has been encoded using the VC1 video codec. 3:2 pulldown drawbacks such as judder were not overly annoying in this transfer, I found.

My version of choice until recently was the Region 1 NTSC Limited Edition by Artisan, with which I am very familiar. In comparing these two transfers, the Studio Canal HD image appears to be slightly cropped on the left hand side. This is most recognisable during the opening credit sequence, as the titles hang quite a bit to the right. On the old Artisan transfer, the titles are perfectly centered.

Obviously, in terms of picture quality this HD DVD is a giant leap forward in comparison to the NTSC Artisan disc. The Artisan transfer suffered from telecine wobble and persistent artefacting on the source print, not to mention a distinct orange tint to what should be a film with dominant reds. All of these shortcomings are corrected in the Studio Canal transfer, so if you're looking for justification to upgrade you needn't think twice.

Putting this disc in for the first time, I was struck by details I'd never noticed before, even in theatrical sittings. The last time I saw Total Recall at the theatre, the print was in terrible condition, so it's not a very big task to outdo that experience. On past DVD's I've owned, the two figures walking on the distant Mars landscape during the opening scene have been a barely distinguishable blur at best, but here, on HD DVD, it's all there to see. The depth of the image in that opening shot is fantastic, despite it being a matte painting composite. The film's production design also struck me this time around, as I noticed props and furnishings that were indistinguishable in other transfers. Check out some of the crazy art on the walls of Quaid's apartment, particularly behind Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone during their bedroom scene.

To be fair, I must say that this overall transfer is still a little on the soft side in comparison to HD DVD transfers of more recent productions that I have seen. There is a mild amount of film grain present, and it is possible the HD transfer was softened a little to reduce the appearance of grain. Having said that, and considering the film's age, this is still a fantastic experience. There is plenty of clarity and depth throughout the film, with subtle textures visible in hair and clothing.

There are a quite a few dark scenes in the film, which are handled very well. Black levels are deep and inky when need be, while shadow detail is similarly excellent.

The stunning detail in this new transfer is equaled by vivid colour reproduction, as I noted above in the reproduction of the film's strong reds. Skin tones are rich and lifelike, while the striking, bold blue sky in the closing scenes washes over the screen beautifully.

There are no compression issues that I could discern, which is as this transfer should be, given there are virtually no extras included. The usual culprits such as dust and smoke are perfectly presented, without any noise or loss of smoothness. Mild film artefacts can be seen, from the very slight telecine wobble of the opening studio logos, to the slight wash of grain in some scenes, the source is otherwise very clean and in great condition. There is no visible edge enhancement, however some dark outlines can be seen on foreground figures at times due to the limited green-screen techniques of the day. Having said that, the special effects still appear pretty cool by any standard.

An optional English subtitle stream is provided, which condenses the spoken dialogue somewhat. The font is thin, white, well paced and easy to read.

This HD DVD disc is the dual layered, HD-30 type. There was no noticeable layer-break on my system.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


There are three soundtracks available. The default of these is decided by your selection from the initial Language Select menu, which is memorised for future playback. The film's original English soundtrack is presented in glorious dts HD Master Audio, while additional foreign language dubs in French (2.0 stereo) and German (5.1) are encoded in dts HD High Resolution Audio.

The cover mistakenly lists the French soundtrack as containing 4.0 channels. The cover slick also lists Dolby Digital Plus audio, but there is no such audio format on any Studio Canal HD DVD releases to my knowledge.

As with the video transfer, I naturally compared this HD audio transfer to my old Region 1, Artisan Limited Edition NTSC disc. As soon as the opening theme began pounding away, I had the feeling that something was not quite right. After some quick A/B comparisons, I realised that the Studio Canal transfer has been raised in pitch, presumably to replicate a PAL transfer. Rest assured that the runtimes are the same- both the HD and NTSC transfers I have on hand run for 113 minutes, so there is no speedup involved, only manipulation of the overall pitch.

I didn't come across any pitch manipulation artefacts or dropouts akin to those that were found on the PAL releases of the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions.

Pitch manipulation is a strange issue, and this got me thinking. Perhaps this adjustment was made to bring the English audio into line with the other dubs, which may have been originally made for PAL video releases? We may never know the real reason behind this, but the issue has certainly upset audiophiles, who are understandably screaming sacrilege. Even though I do find this unfortunate, unnecessary manipulation quite noticeable, the improvements in video and audio quality in this HD transfer far outweigh such shortcomings, in my opinion. You should also remember that the average viewer might not find this pitch adjustment a problem at all, particularly if they have been viewing the film in PAL for years. I noticed it because I'm a bit more sensitive to the audio side than most, so you shouldn't let this issue put you off experiencing this film in HD. Unless a superior HD DVD release comes along, I'll be content to stick with this disc.

The English dialogue is crisp, realistic and never overpowered by effects or score. The film's ADR is a little obvious at times, but that's no fault of the transfer. Audio sync is perfect.

Although my system is only capable of processing the core stream of the dts HD Master Audio soundtrack (equivalent to a common 1536Kb/s dts soundtrack), the detail and depth of this soundtrack is excellent. The score is rich and bombastic, while gunshots and explosions are crisp and full of depth. The scenes involving earthmoving equipment at 54:00 are very well represented indeed, as the clanking machinery sweeps around the soundstage. I also noted the shrill, rasping alarm at 90:35 was produced convincingly and without any noticeable distortion.

The use of the surround channels are generally subtle, blending the score and atmospherics to good effect. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from the old Region 1 disc I have on hand is weighted a great deal more to the rear channels, which is surprising. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.

Out of curiosity I switched over to the other language options, which sound pretty flat, lifeless and even a bit dated in comparison to the English audio. Still, it's a good inclusion for non-English speakers who don't want to read subtitles.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is a highly memorable effort, with sweeping, dream-like orchestral passages and some futuristic, electronic elements that give good grounding to the melodic, somewhat traditional themes. It's impossible for me to imagine Total Recall without its amazing score.

The subwoofer is very well utilised, despite the pitch manipulation that would have certainly detracted from this element of the soundtrack. At 37:44 a huge explosion rattles your chair, and a passing space ship at 43:30 provides a very exciting moment. The LFE channel is also used to provide some tense rumbling in the appropriate moments, as well as giving nice bottom end to mechanical equipment and the like.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


This is essentially a bare-boned effort.


A Studio Canal promo reel plays first, detailed below. The menu page is decidedly conventional, animated with scenes from the film, accompanied by a clip from the score. The menu loops until a selection is made. On the first insertion of the disc, a language select menu loads first, and this selection is memorised by the player. From then on, when the disc is inserted the player will default to the selected language. This can be changed by back tracking to the language menu. When enter is pressed during playback of the feature, a progress bar appears in the top left of the screen, displaying the current audio track, subtitles, etc. Very handy.

Trailer- Studio Canal HD DVD trailer (3:52)

A promo reel, spruiking films from the massive Studio Canal catalogue (the third largest in the world) Some great titles are here, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Akira Kurosawa's Ran, Alain Delon in Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle- a personal favourite!), The Elephant Man and Polanski's The Pianist to name but a few. This trailer had me salivating! Here's hoping we get more of these fantastic Studio Canal discs in Australia.

System Calibration Tools

A simple guide for brightness and contrast adjustment of your display, as well as pink noise to check each channel of your 5.1 setup.

On Screen Info

When this feature is activated, a blue box appears in the top left of the screen every time a button on the remote is pressed. The box contains a progress bar, showing how far you have progressed in the film, time code, language and audio mix.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

HD DVD discs are, at the time of writing, not region coded. This title has only been released in Australia and France, in fact, it is the first HD DVD title I have seen with an Australian ratings logo printed on the label side of the disc. Not that I was missing them at all, mind you.

Total Recall has been released on Blu-ray in North America by Lions Gate. The transfer is largely inferior, with lowly MPEG-2 video compression and dts HD High Resolution audio (not the lossless variety). There is an additional making-of featurette, taken from the Artisan disc, Visions of Mars (5:28).

For those with the necessary hardware, a Windows Media HD disc is also available, but I have no idea of the disc's contents or transfer quality.

If it's just the film you're after, and you don't mind the pitch issues, HD DVD is the winner hands down.


Total Recall is the ultimate in sci-fi action. It is one of those films that seemed to click together at the time; a great star, a talented director, a superb story and amazing special effects that combine to make this a classic. This film will still be highly regarded in years to come. The HD DVD transfer is still not perfect, but it is acres ahead of any SD version I have owned.

The video transfer has fantastic detail, but appears to be slightly cropped.

The audio transfer is broad and deep, however, noticeable pitch adjustments have been made. One star has been deducted for this.

No extras to speak of.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Monday, March 26, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR3806
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Studio Canal and their substandard soundtracks -
I hope Blu-Ray offers a better deal than this - UberAspie REPLY POSTED
Blu-Ray in North America - UberAspie