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Total Recall (1990)

by on 2011/11/21

“Baby, you make me wish I had three hands.”

* * *

Classy and restrained.

Those are the words that best describe Total Recall.


Also subtle. Subtle is another good word.

Cough, cough.

From the hairstyles to the eyeshadow to the slick, slimy conjoined mutant twin attached to a freedom fighter’s middle-aged abs, it is a water-coloured masterpiece of reserved, quiet lyricism.

Cough, cough, cough.

Cough. Cough.

Did this movie at any point seem any more than a flapping, flailing, put-a-walnut-sized-tracer-in-your-nostril bit of craziness?

During this latest screening, my most overwhelming thought – when I wasn’t laughing – was that it looked cheap. Really, really cheap. Wobbly Rubbermaid sets, bad clothes, teased, over-processed hairdos, make-up troweled on.

Did it just age horribly or did it always look this bad?

I do remember liking it. Now that the 90’s scales have fallen from my eyes (apparently), I saw Total Recall for what it was – a baroque spectacle of 90’s excess, shoved into a tight spandex jumpsuit and topped with a peroxide blonde wig.

In fact, watching it again, I felt a little bad through the laughter. I felt an overwhelming sense of shameful joy. Schwarzenegger-freude, I think it is called.

I felt sort of like I did when I was a kid watching the The Gong Show – sitting in my flannel pajamas on the shag carpet, cringing:

  • Look …there’s a big middle-aged lady, in a red wig and house dress. Turns out Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hiding inside of her. Cough. Then her bald head falls off and explodes. <gong>
  • There’s a vamped-up little person, in a corset and fishnets, standing on a bar firing a machine gun.
  • Now Arnold’s eyes are popping out while he does that Conan the Barbarian yelling thing. Wow, that guy really can’t hold a tune. <gong, gong>
  • Over there is a man with a lobster tail for a head. <gong>
  • Then someone says, “Take this out of the case, and stick it up your nose. Don’t worry, it’s self-guiding. Just shove real hard.” <gong, gong, gong>
  • Now there’s a lady with big crimped hair and three (naked) bosoms. <gong, gong, gong, gong, gong, gong, gong, gong>

The gong in my mind didn’t stop sounding but the awful just kept on a-coming. Then the awful grew a psychic conjoined twin covered in a viscous substance.

Gong, gong, gong. Whimper.


For a more thoughtful, less post-traumatic-stress-disordered account of this movie, check out Hacker Renders’ Total Recall review.

* * *

113 minutes

Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, sexuality and nudity.

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