Director Paul Verhoeven celebrates the 30th anniversary of his sci-fi spy thriller masterpiece with a new ultra-high definition digital restoration allowing fans to get a fresh look at Total Recall (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 114 minutes, $29.99).
Based on a short story by author Philip K. Dick, the 1990 film takes viewers on the roller coaster, mind-bending adventure of Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He’s either an awoken sleeper-cell secret agent for a Mars-based corporation or just a bored construction worker taking a bad trip at the local virtual vacation shop.
No matter the case, the action is often fierce and bloody as he gets in the middle of a worker rebellion on Mars to find the mysterious leader Kuato while seeking the truth to his existence.
The movie never stops being wildly fun as Mr. Schwarzenegger delivers the action hero star power within the clever plot twists and is joined by a young Sharon Stone as his wife Lori, Rachel Ticotin as Quaid’s Mars partner Melina, Ronny Cox as the deliciously evil head of the corrupt corporation Vilos Cohaggen and Michael Ironside as Cohaggen’s grumpy enforcer Richter.
4K in action: An opening scene bathed in saturated reds, revealing a pair of humans in space suits set on the detailed cliffs of Mars, never looks washed out or shows the slightest hint of pixelization or banding as it sets the stage for a visual powerhouse resurrection delivered in a screen-filling presentation.
Clarity and color abound, for example in Lori’s neon-pink tube top, the bright red blood staining Quaid’s teeth after taking a punch, the crisp florescent light illuminating a yellow-and-green construction elevator, Quaid and Melina climbing down a ladder glowing in red from the Martian sky or the rich blue skies of a planet imbued by a new atmosphere.
The darkest blacks complement and push the color forward and even pulling the best of clarity to some of Jost Vacano’s gritty cinematography. For example, examine a scene with Cohaggen in harsh red light hash on one side of his face and warm skin tones on the other or a slowly turning fan blade highlighted with orange light looking real enough to touch.
Viewers should focus on the cutting-edge, computer-generated special effects, impressive enough to earn an Academy Award, to see how well the digital maestros handled their seamless integration into the restoration.
The restoration was created from the digital scan of the 35mm camera negatives with Mr. Verhoeven’s supervision and approval.
Especially impressive is watching Quaid dressed up as obese passenger attempting to enter Mars as his animatronic mask malfunctions and breaks away from his body with the head becoming an explosive; or a scene in a subway X-ray scanner as security guard skeletons confront the skeletal version of Quad before he jumps through the device.
Equally fun is admiring the old school effect of using a fake, puppet head of Quaid as he uses a glowing red pincer to extract a tracking device from his brain (you can actually see the glow internally around his orbital socket).
All maintains a clarity and color with just pinch of film grain paying reverence to the source film stock and delivering by far the best version of the movie that may ever be released.
Best extras: The 4K disc offers a selection of new as well as vintage content from the 2012 Mind Bending Edition Blu-ray release starting with an optional commentary track with Mr. Verhoeven and Mr. Schwarzenegger (first released back in 2001) that is certainly a nostalgia trip as the pair chat about many specific scenes.
More interesting is the brand new, 60 minute documentary on the meteoric rise and fall of the Hollywood outsider studio Carolco Pictures that produced “Total Recall.”
Viewers learn how the brain trust of founders Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna delivered some incredible movie projects including the first trio of “Rambo” film, the second “Terminator” and “Basic Instinct. Their demise was the release of such stinkers as “Cutthroat Island” and “Showgirls.”
Also new is a 21-minute retrospective on the “Total Recall” musical score from composer Jerry Goldsmith with multiple historians offer perspective on Goldsmith’s work.
Next, a pair of Blu-ray discs offer more, but not all, from the Mind Bending edition including a very worthwhile, 23-minute look at the special effects and a 30-minute vintage segment on the production.
For purist looking for all of the Mind Bending features look to a code unlocking the iTunes online package that includes the coveted 34-minute solo interview with Mr. Verhoeven from 2012. I’m not sure why it was just not included on any of the discs.