Total Recall 4K Blu-Ray Review

Release: 23rd November 2020
Cert: 18
Format: BR / DVD

When a man goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to the planet for real – or is he?

“This film contains views and opinions that are outdated”. It is a disclaimer that plays at the beginning of this disc, and a strange reminder that the films of Schwarzenegger’s heyday are, for the most part, obscenely irreverent and grossly nihilistic. In other words, Paul Verhoeven knew exactly what he was lampooning when he made Total Recall. Creating a world with such nuanced ridicule, holding a mirror up to the ugliness of 80’s capitalist culture (with is segregated societies, priority treatment, and inflammatory rhetoric), that even now, we have to apologise just in case someone doesn’t quite “get it”.

The irony of Total Recall is not that its kitsch bombastic nature has come full circle to being relevant once more, or that its hokey tomfoolery has negotiated a place for itself in the realm of nostalgia. The true irony is that for all intents and purposes, despite its political agenda and goofy antics, distance from the material allows one to transcend these layers only to find a complicated story that is almost impossible to follow. For all of its posturing, Total Recall has feet made of clay. Here lies a puzzle box wrapped in an op-ed doused in sex and claret and dusted with gold spray paint. As far as Arnie movies go, this is possibly the most bi-polar. Ergo, Total Recall is utterly intoxicating.

But let’s not fool ourselves, at its heart, Total Recall really is just an utterly bonkers sci-fi action film. You know this, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my review. The true question is, does the 4K upgrade warrant a new purchase? Truth be told, it probably does. Aside from a few questionable sequences (early breakfast scene, for one), the HDR colour grade is lovely a smooth. Skin tones come to life, and the ever-oppressing red hue of Mars seems to roll off of surfaces rather than seep into them. The 4K remaster retains a lot of grain but breaths new life into the print. There are moments when it is almost easy to forget that the film is 30 years old. As for the audio mix, Studiocanal have done a great job of balancing the soundtrack with dialogue and sound effects. Not once did I have to turn the volume up or down, and this is a film that only operates in extremes of hertz.

Total Recall remains a relic that sadly has become too close of a reminder that society hasn’t actually changed that much. We still treat the poor as second-class citizens. We still pit them in a world of sex and violence to keep them repressed. We still use terms like “freak” for otherness. And, on the odd occasion when one visits the city, due to global warming and pollution, we still have to pull the most evil crap out of our noses….no one else? Just me and Arnie on that one then?

Film Grade: B-

Special Features:
The film comes with a 4K blu-ray, a standard blu-ray and blu-ray special features disc. The features are split between all 3, with the standard and 4K discs sharing the same features. These span from throwaway (Scoring Total Recall), to the entertaining (Making Of Total Recall), to the odd yet informative (How Carolco Changed Hollywood). Nothing stands out as particularly impressive, yet as a whole package it could keep you intermittently entertained for, I don’t know, say….two weeks!

Special Features Grade: C+

In its own unique way, Total Recall is a classic. Next to Predator, it may well be the best non-Terminator film Arnie has ever done. Not because it is perfectly, but because it is perfectly him. This 4K package is a fitting celebration of that.

Overall Grade: B-

Published by Bradley Williams

filmmaker. writer. father. husband. not really looking for vengeance in this life or the next (Follow me @iamBradWilliams)

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