Here are some highlights from the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Paul Verhoeven commentary included with the Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition Blu-ray. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven made the move to Hollywood with RoboCop, a hyperviolent sci-fi action movie about a slain cop resurrected as a cyborg. What could have been a junky b-movie was greatly elevated by a smart script and Verhoeven’s direction, which combined great action with satire and thoughtful themes. This saw Verhoeven have a legendary run in Hollywood, with his follow-up being 1990’s Total Recall.
Adapted from the Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall had a twisted development to reach screens. Various actors and directors came and went on the project, including Patrick Swayze and David Cronenberg. Schwarzenegger was passionate about the concept and eventually convinced production company Caralco to purchase the rights. Verhoeven was handpicked for the movie by the star, and it became a blockbuster in 1990. In addition to a twist-filled story, it’s full of gory action, incredible effects for its era and memorable characters.
Total Recall was remade – to much lesser effect – in 2012 by director Len Wiseman. The popularity of DVD in the late 1990s led to a rise of bonus material being added to releases and special editions of classic movies. For a time DVDs became a reliable second stream of revenue for studios, and a feature-packed disc often encouraged fans to double-dip. Commentaries became a popular inclusion, with the best – often from filmmakers like John Carpenter or Ridley Scott – being both entertaining and educational. One famous track is between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven for the Total Recall DVD, which later made its way to the Mind-Bending Edition Blu-ray.
This Total Recall Blu-ray included great featurettes like a Paul Verhoeven interview or the “Restoration Comparison,” but the commentary remains the star. The first thing to know about this track is that Arnie made waves when he received a $70,000 fee to record it, which was unheard of at the time. This is made all the funnier by the fact most of his comments are narrating events that are happening onscreen and how “wild” they are, like the human shield on the escalator to the look of the Total Recall mutants.
For some indefinable reason, this never fails to be charming, such as hilariously blunt observations like “Here’s my job, I’m a construction worker.” If Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition’s commentary was just made up of Arnold giving audio description it would be worth listening to, but with Verhoeven involved there’s a lot of talk about themes and how the movie was made too. He pays particular attention to the dual realities of the story, with one reality being that everything that’s happening is real and the other being it’s all a psychotic episode the lead character is having.
Particularly fascinating is Verhoeven’s description of the scene where the Rekall doctor tries to convince Doug it’s all a dream, who claims if he rejects that argument, “The walls of reality will come crashing down around you.” After Doug shoots him, the walls explode then around him as more goons enter. The director also talks about how Total Recall had 30 script drafts when he joined, and how the mutants subplot was meant to lead into a sequel based on Dick’s Minority Report. Total Recall 2 would have seen Doug in charge of the pre-crime program, but the follow-up didn’t happen.
Sharon Stone’s Total Recall performance receives praise from Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven, with the latter pointing out her final scene made him hire her for Basic Instinct. It the little details Verhoeven points out that shows how much thought went into the movie, like Stone’s Lori blasting the wedding photo of her and Doug during a gunfight – literally destroying their fake marriage – or the fact characters spoil the plot of the movie twice. The Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition Blu-ray is a great package for the movie, and the commentary is definitely worth a listen for fans.