Total Recall

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1990 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 108:19 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (54:32)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Paul Verhoeven

Columbia Tristar
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Rachel Ticotin
Sharon Stone
Michael Ironside
Ronny Cox
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG 2.0 
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages French (MPEG 2.0 )
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English (MPEG 2.0 )
Spanish (MPEG 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes
Subtitles French
Smoking No 

Plot Synopsis

    Total Recall is a science fiction action extravaganza directed by the usually gratuitously ultraviolent Paul Verhoeven. Paul doesn't let us down here, with plenty of excessive gore and extremely graphic violence.

    Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a happily married construction worker on Earth. Or is he? He has nightmares about the planet Mars. He decides to go on a virtual holiday to Mars, which is where things go awry. It seems that his previous memories have been erased, and new ones implanted. But what is real, and what is imaginary?

    Plenty of spectacular action, and a very decent storyline to boot elevate this movie above the average. Even Arnie seems better than his usual self.

Transfer Quality


    This master is from France, rather than from the usual U.S. source. Nonetheless, this is a very decent transfer.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was sharp and clear throughout, though there was some graininess to the image early on during the movie. The opening titles are less than razor sharp, but I suspect that this is can be attributed to the vintage of the movie rather than to any deficiency with the transfer. Shadow detail was acceptable, though there was considerably less detail than that found in contemporary transfers. No low level noise was apparent.

    The colours were generally well rendered, though they tended to be a little on the muted site at times.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some mild aliasing here and there, with venetian blinds being the chief culprits, but nothing that was at all problematic. Film artefacts were surprisingly rare given the age of the movie.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change reasonably placed at 54:32, between Chapters 12 and 13.


    There are four audio tracks on this DVD - French MPEG 2.0, surround-encoded, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English MPEG 2.0, surround-encoded and Spanish MPEG 2.0, surround-encoded. This is at variance with the packaging that incorrectly credits all four soundtracks as being Dolby Digital soundtracks. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. My DVD player defaulted to the French MPEG 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, with English subtitles ON.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.

[Addendum 5th August 1999: There have been numerous reports of distortion in the rear channels between 41:07 and 41:13 on the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (Chapter 9 - spaceship landing on Mars). Reports vary enormously, from normal sound effect to "speaker-damaging". I have rechecked this section of the DVD, and noted some very minor distortion at this point which could be mistaken for a sound effect, but it appears that this problem is somewhat variable between players and Dolby Digital decoders. There has been one report that both the PAL VHS version and the NTSC Laserdisc have the same problem at the same place, and one report that the Region 1 version of this DVD does not have this problem. At this stage, it is not entirely clear whether or not this is a bona fide glitch, an error on the master audio, or a player-specific issue.]

VHS & LD - same (one report). R1 - not present (one report). Status: unclear.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The score by Jerry Goldsmith was in his typical style, with frequent use of percussion to accent the on-screen action. Whilst not being a particularly remarkable score, it was certainly effective in creating the appropriate mood.

    The surround channels were used reasonably aggressively for special effects, particularly during the second half of the movie. However, there were no split surround effects. The overall effect was of a good, enveloping soundtrack.

    The .1 channel received lots of signal, and was excellently integrated into the overall soundtrack.


    This disc has little in the way of special features.

What's Missing / What's Extra

    We miss out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;


    The menu design is better than the usual French-originated menus, and looks very similar to the U.S. originated menus.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented in a 4:3 windowboxed aspect ratio with odd-sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.


    Total Recall is a very impressive movie, presented on a pretty good DVD. If you have even the slightest interest in this movie, you will not be disappointed in this disc, particularly since it is 16x9 enhanced, unlike the Region 1 version.

    The video quality is pretty good considering the age of the movie.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
30th June 1999
Amended 5th August 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer