Espionage, The Red Planet, and Ah-nold

Welcome to Wednesday’s Blue Light Special. Today’s post is another installment of Original vs. Remake.

This month’s movie is Total Recall. As usual, I will do the 1990 original, and Tiffany A. White will follow on Friday with her comments on the 2012 remake.

Ready, set, go!

The Movie

Total Recall was released June 1, 1990. Paul Verhoeven directed, and Arnold Schwarznegger and Sharon Stone starred.

At the time, this was a winning team. Verhoeven was already well known for the films Turkish Delight and Robocop. Schwarznegger was famous for acting in action films such as Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, and Predator. Sharon Stone was a rising star who had played roles in TJ Hooker (TV), Police Academy 4, and Above the Law. She would go on to be an iconic sex symbol in the 1990s.

The movie score was conducted and composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was known for popular film scores from films such as Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, The Omen, and Poltergeist. The original score for Total Recall won the BMI Film Music Award.


Set in a dystopian future (2084), a construction worker named Douglas Quaid is haunted by dreams of Mars. Against his wife’s wishes, he purchases artificial memory implants so he’ll “remember” visiting the red planet. The memory implants reveal that Quaid is actually a secret agent from Mars.

Watch the trailer:

About the Movie

Total Recall was loosely based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick titled “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

While the movie was in development, other stars considered for the role of Douglas Quaid included Richard Dreyfuss and Patrick Swayze.

Total Recall was one of the last big blockbusters to use miniature effects rather than computer generated imagery. The only sequence in the film that used CGI was the subway scene where the x-rayed skeletons are shown.  (This is in the preview I linked to.)

Much of the movie was filmed on location in Mexico City. The subway scenes were filmed in the Mexican Transport System using some of their subway cars painted gold and outfitted with television monitors.

A movie novelization was written by Piers Anthony. The novelization deviates from the movie script. One notable difference is the ending, which clarifies the movies ambiguous ending.

A sequel, based on another Phillip K. Dick story titled “Minority Report,” was written, but it never came to be. In 2002, the script was heavily revised and used for Minority Report, which starred Tom Cruise.

[Fun Factoid: Quite a few movies have been based on Phillip K. Dick’s fiction. One notable example is Blade Runner. For a more complete list and more about Phillip K. Dick’s fiction, click here.]

Blue Light Special?

In monetary terms, yes. Right now, the original version of Total Recall can be purchased on Amazon Instant Video for $4.99.

Do you need to see this? I don’t really know. Total Recall was a huge hit when I was in my late teens. At the time, it was very high tech. The ambiguity of the movie’s ending stuck with me for years after I watched it.

However, while entertaining, it is a typical blockbuster action movie. If you’ve never seen the movie at all, the remake, with it’s up-to-date special effects, might be more entertaining.

Don’t forget to check out Tiffany’s review of the 2012 remake on Friday!

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