Total Recall was one of the first DVDs I bought more than a decade ago, and has sat proudly on my shelf since. In the early days of the format, collector sets were insanely expensive – especially for a kid in high school – and Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi/action spectacle was one of the first that was introduced at a reasonable price point (and in a Mars tin no less!). The transfer was great at the time and the DVD was packed with special features, including an unintentionally hilarious commentary that ranks as one of my all-time favorites.
Studios are closely following their DVD release patterns for the jump to HD, and Total Recall was among the first films Lionsgate “remastered” and put out on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst transfers out there. There was a lot of controversy surrounding Fox and Lionsgate’s output in the early days of the format, with many picture purists claiming their back catalogues were being upscaled instead of remastered. Both studios eventually began putting out good transfers and embracing the HD format, and have even begun rereleasing some of their titles with not-so-great specs. While Fox keeps trying to get a handle on Predator (both Blu-rays are awful for completely different reasons), Lionsgate is double dipping Total Recall with a director approved transfer and more special features.
Loosely based on a thirty-five page short story by Philip K. Dick, Verhoeven’s film stands the test of time thanks to his direction (seriously, one of the greatest sci-fi/action directors ever), Arnold’s charisma and comedy chops, Rob Bottin’s special effects, a woman with three boobs, and a fun script that manages to be equally smart and action-packed. But, should you over some dough for Lionsgate’s Mind-Bending Edition?
Struck from the original negative and director approved, the 1080p transfer on Lionsgate’s Mind-Bending Edition is LIGHT YEARS ahead of its counterpart. There are zero issues with the new transfer, which boasts better clarity and color saturation, and cleans up all of the dirt and debris without using excessive amounts of DNR. The new transfer fixes every single problem that plagued the first release, which looked like a washed-out VHS tape (the DVD looked better!). The transfer really shines during scenes on Mars’ surface; even though everything is red, there’s a lot of detail in the shots and you can actually make out rocks and mountains in the picture instead of everything looking like a giant blob.
The DTS-HD 5.1 track on the Mind-Bending Edition bests the DTS-HD 5.1 track on the original release, which lacked any sort of ‘oomph’ for the first half of the film. Until things really got going on Mars, Jerry Goldsmith’s score was subdued and there was a severe lack of bass, which made sound effects and dialogue sound like they were being whispered. The new track, like the transfer, is a complete 180 from the original release. Every shoot-out sounds like an opera of bullets, the score is given room to breathe, and the one-liners have never had such clarity.
Mind-Bending Edition Special Features
Commentary – Director Paul Verhoeven and star Arnold Schwarzenegger give one of the greatest commentaries known to man. It’s not particularly informative, but Schwarzenegger hilariously rambles about what’s going on on-screen while Verhoeven continually corrects him about technical aspects of the film. It’s so bad, it’s good!
Interview with Director Paul Verhoeven (34:47) – The cool thing about Verhoeven is that he’s not afraid to discuss the problems his films have and the hurdles he had to jump while making them – his interview on the Starship Troopers Blu-ray is further proof (and a great watch). He talks about his fear of not being able to fix the third act of the film after the script had gone through over forty rewrites, the pros and cons of working with Arnold (mostly pros), and the technology in front of and behind the camera. It’s a real shame he hasn’t done much in the last ten years.
Making-Of Featurette (8:23) – An archival EPK that focuses on the scope of the production and special effects. Not worth watching considering Models and Skeletons is much more in-depth.
Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall (23:15) – Miniature Effects Co-supervisor Mark Stetson chats about the miniatures and landscapes used for the film, such as the Martian canyons and the various vehicles, and shares a few tricks of the trade. CGI Director Tim McGovern also jumps in and talks about the rotoscoping techniques used in the x-ray scene. If you’re fond of miniatures and practical effects, it’s a must watch.
Imagining Total Recall (31:29) – Things get going with screenwriters Ron Shusett and Gary Goldman discussing Philip K. Dick’s ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’ and the many hands the screenplay passed through before Paul Verhoeven signed on at the behest of Schwarzenegger. The rest of the documentary covers the production and post-release response to the violence. There are interviews with almost everyone involved, whether it’s archival or not, but Michael Ironside is mysteriously absent.
Restoration Comparison (5:13) – A compilation of scenes demonstrating the improved color and contrast the new director-approved transfer offers.
Original Special Features
The first Lionsgate Blu-ray release had only one featurette, which was surprisingly not ported over to the Mind-Bending Edition.
Vision of Mars (5:28) – Mars Program scientist Dan McCleese explains his fascination with Mars and the numerous theories about the planet. There’s also some information given about the then current explorations taking place.
The Mind Bending Edition has said label along the top of the cover, along with Schwarzenegger’s name in red and a small picture of Mars. Other than that, the package looks similar to the first release.
The Mind-Bending Edition wins in every department, making the original release look like more of a piece of junk than it already is. The loss of one special feature is a non-issue, considering it’s extremely outdated and was originally produced for the DVD in 2001, though it is a bit odd that it isn’t included; there’s definitely enough room for it on the 50 GB disc. With a price point under $10 at most retailers, there’s never been a better time to get your ass to Mars.