Total Recall

Total Recall (1990)
Studio Canal
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Ronny Cox
Extras: Theatrical Trailer Montage, Audio / Video Calibration Featurette

What would you do if someone stole your mind? I remember hearing that line as if it were only yesterday. Sitting in a dark theater as the teaser for "Total Recall" began to play on the big screen. I can still picture that vast shot of deep space and a close-up profile shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger's head, rotating ever-so-slowly in the appearance of a revolving planet. Simple, yet effective. It sure didn't take much back then to give theatergoers that burst of excitement, especially when another big budgeted action vehicle starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the immediate horizon.

I won't deny the fact that "Total Recall" borders more on the farcical side of cinema when watching it today, but to me, this will always be a timeless Arnold Schwarzenegger action packed science fiction extravaganza.

So, you want a little gratuitous violence and gore courtesy of Oscar-winning special effects with none other than director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers) at the helm? Well, one only needs to look as far as the infamous subway shootout scene where Schwarzenegger's character uses an innocent commuter as a human shield during an all out gun battle, to then realize that "Total Recall" features some of Paul Verhoeven's maniacal filmmaking at it's finest!

Based on the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", this 1990 blockbuster stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, your not so typical, hard working adult that has dreams of living on the now colonized planet of Mars. Realizing that his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) wants nothing to do with his Mars fantasy, Quaid decides to take a chance on an agency that specializes in implanted memory "vacations". These so-called virtual vacations allow clients to experience far off places, without ever having to physically go to the chosen locale. During the process of the implant, things quickly turn awry as Quaid violently emerges from the partial procedure with a completely different personality, one of a secret agent from Mars named Hauser, who is rebelling against evil dictator Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox). Now left with a multitude of questions about his own existence, Quaid/Hauser, decides to venture to Mars for answers as he learns that his entire reality has actually been invented to conceal the ambitious plot of planetary domination.

Remember, HD DVD movies and players are NOT affected by region encoding like Blu-ray and Standard-Definition DVD. So now you can enjoy titles from around the world, no matter where you live.

Presented on HD DVD from French distributor Studio Canal, "Total Recall" comes available in a glorious 1080p High-Definition presentation, displayed in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. An extravagant color level exhibits naturally appearing flesh tones, while producing rich deep reds that soak up all of the Mars exterior shots, without ever over-saturating surrounding details. A deep, almost "inky" black level, provides excellent shadow delineation and works at balancing the brilliant contrast level. "Total Recall" also appears to harbor no harsh video enhancements or annoying dust or dirt elements, just a great transition from the source material to the HD DVD format. There is the presence of some minor grain in some scenes, but if memory serves me correctly, this was also noted during the theatrical exhibition and therefore comes from the choice of film stock, as opposed to being a fault of the video transfer.

Those of you familiar with Studio Canal HD DVD releases are now probably aware of the supposed audio deficiency that arrives in the form of a slight pitch problem that has been noted on a few of their HD DVD releases, including "Total Recall" and "Basic Instinct". (For my full description and impressions on this, please take the time to read my full HD DVD review of "Basic Instinct" available here).

Given my responsibility as a HD DVD reviewer, I have a full obligation to bring anything and everything that is discovered to light. But, aside from the handful of rabid fans that are spreading their paranoid opinions around Internet forums involving this truly minor issue, and short of you being a practicing musician with perfect pitch, you would hardly notice anything overly irregular in the sound track presentation.

Studio Canal delivers "Total Recall" on HD DVD paired with a DTS-HD Master Audio (English 5.1) and DTS-HD High-Resolution French 4.0 / German 5.1 sound track. To tap into the full lossless English track, you will have to have a fully equipped HDMI 1.3 home theater set-up, otherwise you will be treated to the higher bit-rate DTS track that falls somewhere in-between standard DTS presentations and the full blown lossless sound track. For a disc that apparently suffers from a slight pitch problem, I still found this HD DVD to produce good vocals as well as offering a fine reproduction of the films charging musical score (chalk yet another plus for Jerry Goldsmith). The LFE (or Low Frequency Effects) pumped into the .1 channel offered a smooth, deep bass level without being too overactive. This is one of those times when I had hoped for a little more "juice" to fuel the sub-woofer as "Total Recall" is a film that has enough action to deliver it. Overall a decent rendering in the audio presentation, minus the rather trivial PAL speedup / pitch issue.

If you are looking to be wooed by a busting special features section, sadly you will be disappointed. I don't know if this is the result of licensing agreement restrictions acquired by Studio Canal, but unfortunately most, if not all, of their recent titles on HD DVD only come available with a simple theatrical trailer montage and an audio / video calibration feature.

With Studio Canal set to release the HD DVD of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" this coming March, I would hope that the disc is produced with the best possible sound track master available on the planet! Otherwise, there is going to be further unrest among fans of these films. With Studio Canal's willingness to produce top quality, visually superior HD DVD releases, I can at least take comfort in the fact that the visual presentation of "Terminator 2" will no doubt surpass the dreadful Blu-ray disc release that was dumped on us here in the North American marketplace.

This HD DVD of "Total Recall" does manage to provide some spectacular High-Definition images that effortlessly surpass any previous Standard-Definition DVD presentations of this title. Quite simply, this is the best that the mutants of Venusville's "Last Resort" have ever looked!