Total Recall (Blu-ray) (1990)

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Released 4-Nov-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 113:33
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Paul Verhoeven

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Michael Ironside
Rachel Ticotin
Sharon Stone
Ronny Cox
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Jerry Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master 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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, moderately
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The fifteen-year saga of Total Recall's journey from concept to finished product was very elegantly summarised in the original Region 4 DVD's slick notes. The basic point of the story is that around the time A-list star Arnold Schwarzenegger was championing the project, Paul Verhoeven had just come off a massive success with RoboCop, and had attained a reputation for making intelligent science fiction epics with more bloodshed than your average video nasty. In 1990, Total Recall was a massive success for both Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger, who sadly never got around to making the other ultra-violent epic they had in development, a medieval piece that was going by the title of Crusade when a little piece called Cutthroat Island killed Carolco, and then the economics of Hollywood changed drastically (and not for the better).

    Total Recall is based on the concept of Philip K. Dick's story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. I say concept because aside from the use of memory implants for vacations, the film and the story go onto divergent paths very early on, never to meet again. Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a regular guy with a regular job and an amazingly gorgeous wife, Lori (Sharon Stone). There is just one problem - he is persistently haunted by dreams of another life on Mars with another woman. On his way to work one day, he gets a look at an advertisement for a service called Recall, Inc., where he can go to buy the memory of his ideal vacation. During the procedure to implant the memory, however, things go horribly wrong. Erasing any record they have of Quaid's visit, the staff at Recall put him in a taxi and send him on his way home. A series of violent incidents later, Quaid finds himself pursued by a government agent called Richter (Michael Ironside), and mixed up in a plot involving Martian Administrator Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox).

    As a follow-up to RoboCop, Total Recall has almost everything to satisfy Paul Verhoeven fans. The original DVD release in this country had a censor rating that said it all - an R certificate and an advisory plainly stating "very frequent violence". Arnold Schwarzenegger is much better than his usual self, but it is the performances from Cox, Stone, and Ironside that really seal the deal here. The last of that august group has a reputation for being able to discuss the weather in a fashion that resembles throwing insults at a piece of dog s*** lying at the base of a stop sign, and although previous efforts like Scanners are more responsible for that rep, Total Recall cranked it up to about thirteen. And that is what distinguishes Total Recall from the farcical attempts to make an action film of this current decade. The producers, writers, stars, and especially the director knew that a bored audience who had seen just about everything would want creatively-executed action, and more of it.

    Total Recall's sole disappointment compared to its august predecessor is that it peters out somewhat in the final reel, offering a relatively sedate, even clichéd ending compared to the other hundred-odd minutes. And as a list of faults goes, that really isn't even vaguely bad. If you already own RoboCop on BD and want more violence in high definition, this is a good place to look.

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Transfer Quality


    Total Recall was previously released in two different forms in the midst of the HD format war. The local Region B version was a HD-DVD where some moron got the idea into their head to pitch-shift the audio up a semitone in order to simulate the experience of watching the film in PAL SD. The Region A version was a (notably poor) MPEG-2 encode. This version of Total Recall is an improvement on those two, and on the collector's DVD released in America, but it is still not quite optimal.

    Total Recall is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

    The transfer is very sharp. Far more so than any equivalent DVD, and enough that the most important details in each shot are resolved even better than before. It is not nearly up to the standards of recent films of this genre on BD, but it is very good. Shadow detail is also very good by 1990 standards, and there is no low-level noise. Grain is mildly present, but usually within acceptable limits. Quaid's fight with Lori and her cohorts at 66:00 was a little grainier than I would have liked, but this can be put down to deterioration of the film elements.

    The colours of the transfer are fairly accurate to the filmmakers' intentions. Greys, steel, and reds dominate the palette. Some bleeding occurs with the reds of the Martian environment, but this appears inherent in the effects that were used to composite the shots. Flesh tones and the abundant blood are rendered accurately.

    Compression artefacts did not appear to be a significant issue in the transfer. Unlike the original Region A disc, this release features a transfer encoded in VC-1 that varies between 10.0 and 34.0 Mbps for the most part. The amount of grain evident in the image occasionally peaks with lowerings in the bitrate, but this is difficult to blame solely on the compression. Film-to-video artefacts are only present in the videotaped sequences used to comprise the video phone conversations or messages Quaid receives. The rest of the transfer makes me weep about the fulfillment of a boyhood fantasy of seeing the film without any interlacing artefacts. In contrast to some releases of the film that I could also name, I failed to notice any significant telecine wobble. Film artefacts are present in mild amounts, usually in the form of black and white marks that ramp up in frequency during the effects shots.

    The cover art claims subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired. Attempts to access these from the Top Menu proved fruitless, and attempts to access them on the fly resulted in the Operation Prohibited message.

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


    Total Recall was originally released with Dolby Stereo and other such matrixed audio formats. Many attempts have been made to make a discrete 5.1 channel remix, with varying degrees of success.

    As with the subtitles, attempts to access any other options in terms of audio proved utterly fruitless. The one option I was able to access was the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, which I listened to.

    As with all soundtracks encoded in DTS Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD, the separation between effects, dialogue, and music is far more pronounced than has been the case on previous formats. The dialogue is therefore much clearer and easier to understand than I ever remember before. Even Schwarzenegger sounds clearer than I ever remember.

    Audio sync occasionally wanders. When Mel Johnson Jr. yells "eat this" at 53:07, his mouth moves a little before one actually hears the words. This is only occasionally a problem, and has to be sought out before one really notices it.

    The music consists of a score by Jerry Goldsmith. Easily one of Goldsmith's best scores, the music adds a certain pace to the proceedings without becoming intrusive. The horns in one cue around 75:25 threaten to clip, but just barely escape doing so.

    The surround channels are (barely) used to separate music and environmental effects from the rest of the soundstage. I really had to put my ear to a speaker in order to confirm that there were sounds coming out of the surrounds. Fundamentally, this is a stereo soundtrack.

    The subwoofer, on the other hand, is frequently utilised to support gunfire, explosions, hand to hand combat, and the music. It is conspicuous due to the blunt, impolite nature of its use, but that suits the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The packaging makes references to numberous things that have proven either inaccessible or non-existent. Making matters worse is the menu.


    A fully-featured Top Menu and a Pop-Up Menu are present on this disc. Neither offer any clear option for Audio Setup or Subtitles. Video and audio calibration tests are provided under the misleadingly-labelled Bonus submenu. An inadequate sixteen Chapter Stops are provided.


    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.

    According to the labelling on the disc, this disc is dual-coded for Regions A and B. Universal and Studio Canal are the current holders of the copyright to this film in both Regions. There is therefore little reason to assume the Region A disc will provide any better bang for the buck. In fact, from reports regarding the earlier Region A release, there is presently good reason to believe the opposite.


    Total Recall, like just about everything with Paul Verhoeven's name on it, is more awesome than most people can handle in two hours. If you want to know why adults turned up in droves to action films in the days before everything had to be rated PG-13, this is the place to look.

    The video transfer is good, but not great.

    The audio transfer is a reasonable conversion of source materials nearing twenty years old.

    No real extras are provided.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Great film - but wait for a better BR release? -
Re: Great Film but... -
Cliched? -
Re: Cliched - REPLY POSTED
re: Wounded Dog - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Re Wounded dog -
re Neil and the Wounded Dog - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
"And another thing!" -
re "And another thing!" - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
re "And another thing" -
re "And another thing!" - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
new release in stores -