Saturday, 14 July 2012

Getcho Ass to Maahs...Total Recall - Ultimate Rekall Edition Review

Yesterday I wrote for The Quietus about the pinnacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger's action film career and one of the best and most thoughtful adaptations of a Philip K Dick story ever committed to screen. All in one article. About the same film. I know right... who'd a thunk it? But it's true.

When Manish (The Films Man at TQ) asked me to write about Total Recall I was very happy, after all I spent the 80s watching cheesy action films starring the muscle-bound, wooden Arnie and his cheaper colleagues both on video and in cinemas. Total Recall was the pinnacle, not only of the Arnie train (which was derailed for me by the child friendly approach of Terminator 2 and his following output), but of the entire 80s action movement. Naturally I was very excited to get my hands on a review copy of the brand new UK blu-ray release courtesy of Studio Canal, unfortunately I only received the DVD so was unable to comment on the quality of the apparently new and director approved transfer. It wasn't the end of the world though, after all TQ is hardly the place where people expect to read technical critiques of digital media and, even if it were, I am probably not the best person to dispense them. Plus the fine folks at Studio Canal also sent me review discs of the super-funky Amicus Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations from the 1970s; The Land That Time Forgot and At The Earth's Core, as well as Warlords of Atlantis and They Came From Beyond Space. Pure, unadulterated joy was experienced.

Youtube wouldn't let me embed Total Recall the Musical so here is a Sean Connery musical instead.

Still, I remained curious about the new blu-ray edition of Total Recall so I asked and by golly I received and this morning I laid my hands on a review copy of the blu-ray disc.
The film is great, that's a given, but what about the transfer and extras and, most importantly, if you already own the previous Optimum release (as I do) is it worth parting with the extra cash to upgrade?

The extras are excellent and include previous material from the DVD and US blu-ray releases but have an additional brand new interview with director Paul Verhoeven and a featurette on the Academy Award winning SFX. The PV interview is terrific, highlighting both his idiosyncratic but fiercely driven approach to movie making and particularly the subject material but also his relaxed attitude to taking on the A-List behemoth that Schwarzenegger was becoming at the time. The SFX featurette is similarly informative but sadly lacks any input from the mighty Rob Bottin who appears to have vanished off the face of the planet. Bottin's last listed job on IMDB was as make-up artist on the Adam Sandler comedy Mr Deeds in 2002. It's a tragedy that CGI appears to have driven one of the most creative and talented practical effects geniuses the industry has seen out of the business.
The disc also includes the Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger commentary track from the DVD and, if you select the German menu on loading, their is an additional commentary track by the cinematographer Jost Vacano (in German but English subtitles are available). For French speakers there are also a couple of extra featurettes under the French menu (non-subtitled). So, on the whole, a great package for extras.
The film transfer on the other hand failed to display any significant improvement over the previous release on my set up (Sony Bravia KDL-40W5500 and Sony BDP-s350), in fact if I hadn't read the press release claiming a brand new restoration I would assume that they are one in the same. For those however who may have the US release then both UK versions are streets ahead in terms of quality.

So, is it worth the upgrade? If you already have the Optimum release then I would say definitely not, unless you're an extras freak in which case I would say wait until the inevitable price drop. But then of course if you're a steelbook freak then yes, it is. I should point out however that for half the price you can pick up the triple set of Total Recall/Red Heat/Raw Deal on blu-ray. Whilst Raw Deal and Red Heat aren't the greatest Arnie flicks, for the price I reckon that pack is way better value for those who have previously only owned Total Recall on DVD or seen it on the telly.

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