TV Movie of the Week 15th Feb – Total Recall (1990)


Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films and one of my personal favourites. Total Recall is a classic science fiction piece based on Phillip K. Dick’s classic short story We Can Remember For It You Wholesale, a film about memory and dreams, and how the two can become one. The premise of the film is so original and engaging: Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who dreams of a fantastical life on Mars decides to purchase the memory of a trip to Mars but the procedure goes wrong and he wakes up believing he’s a double agent? As viewers, we can’t tell if Quaid is living his dream or is there something more sinister at play?

In the wrong hands, Total Recall could have been a total ham-fisted farce, but auteur Verhoeven has given the story a curious, dream-like allure that keeps you hooked throughout. Amongst the strong science fiction elements is a sense of mysticism which is strengthened by the eerie score by Jerry Goldsmith. Schwarzenegger is surprisingly versatile in the film, he embodies the ordinary construction worker with great confidence and he’s on top form as the cheesy, quip-spewing spy Hauser. We are also treated to not one but two excellent villains in the form of Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox.

Total Recall is a classic science fiction film that has a wide, long lasting appeal and is fun to watch too. See it for the spectacle and for the amazing practical effects and model work alone.Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger really worked well together and the film really holds up to repeat viewings, a wondrous and wildly original film.

“Get your ass to Mars!”

Total Recall is on ITV 4 at 10pm on Wednesday 17th February.