The Ten Best Things About Total Recall! (The original 1990 version)
by: -RoG-

Total Recall. To say "they don't make 'em like that anymore!" would be one hell of an understatement. This movie has it all... Schwarzenegger in his prime, plenty of sci-fi action, gobs of blood, mutants, animatronics, one-liners galore, and a great story to top it all off. It's simply one of those movies that everybody loves without question. Well today I'd like to take a look at the ten best things about Total Recall (you know, the one from 1990 that's actually worth paying to see) so you can see exactly what makes it so memorable. So sit back, relax and enjoy your virtual vacation on Mars.

Relax. You'll live longer.
#1: Quaid's Nightmare!

Here's a hell of a way to start off a movie: Have Douglas Quaid (Arnold) walking on the surface of Mars when all of a sudden he slips and falls down onto a rock... breaking his protective glass visor in the process. In an instant, his face starts reacting to the atmospheric pressure as Quaid twitches and groans. Soon enough, his eyes are literally popping out of his skull and just when you think he's gonna burst, the scene ends to reveal that it was only a bad dream. While Arnold's noises are amusing in their own right, the real credit here (and for many of the memorable scenes in the movie) goes to Rob Bottin. He's a true special effects wizard with a unique talent for making just about anything cartoonishly grotesque.

I should note that the main bad guy, Vilos Cohaagen, actually does experience a death just like this at the end of the movie, but I still prefer the Arnold scene. Arnold's face is already cartoony as hell, and with the help of Bottin's special effects, it simply becomes an absolutely perfect scene.

Don't you wanna feel my bones?
#2: Safety Zone Security!

With airport security being a more uncomfortable experience than most flights these days, isn't it about time we see the arrival of the "Safety Zone" security system from Total Recall? It's fast, efficient and it shows everything a person has on them. No, I don't just mean what's inside their coat. I mean, if you want to quickly see whether or not a person is carrying a bomb in their colon, this is the way to go. Look, if you want paranoid airport security to perform a full body cavity search because they suspect you of being a terrorist, that's your prerogative. Me? I'm gonna stick with the "Safety Zone" security system.

An ingenious time-saving idea!
#3: Insta-Color Nails!

Now here's one that men and women can both appreciate. With your electronic palette and stylus pen, you ladies can instantly color your nails until you've found the color that works best for you. No more messes, no nail polish fumes... just perfect nails every time. And for you guys out there, this will surely cut out a good HOUR of waiting for your ladies to finish doing whatever the hell it is they do in the bathroom before you go out, such as putting on their make-up. Everybody wins!

Furthermore, why limit this technology just to nails? What about hair? Say one day you want to be a blonde, the next day you want to be a brunette... wouldn't it be nice to if you didn't need to deal with hair bleaches and dyes?

Actually, it could also make for some great pranks. Imagine the look on your roommate's face when he wakes up to discover that his skin is now bright green. There's just so much potential for fun with this technology. Come on scientists, quit trying to cure cancer and bring us Insta-Color glee!

#4: Quaid Hates His Sessions With Rekall Incorporated!

Forget about Jim "rubber-faced limbo champion" Carrey, for my money there's no better wacky facial expressionist actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger and his "Rekall" sessions are prime examples of this. In his first session with Rekall Incorporated, Quaid apparently wakes up from a memory implant procedure because his memory was already previously erased and he begins to flip out. While holding him down, the doctors inject him about 10 times with a sedative. Clearly they should've kept a horse tranquilizer on hand for a big lug like Quaid.


His next session is by force because his real alter-ego, Hauser, wants his body back. But Hauser is, as Quaid would say, an asshole and Quaid isn't about to go quietly. As they lock him into the Rekall machine, he goes apeshit and literally tears a big chunk of it right off. He then stabs the doctor right in the neck with the exposed jagged edge of his arm lock! Tasty!


I think the lesson learned here is very similar to when man put King Kong in captivity:

Please state the street and number.
#5: JohnnyCab!

Now this is something most people have a love/hate relationship with. JohnnyCab is a robotic cab driver who comes off as an annoying throwback to a chipper gas station attendant from the 50s (his voice is done by Robert Picardo in case you were wondering). Anyway, while JohnnyCab does eliminate the odors and other headaches that come along with a real human cab driver, he doesn't posses the ability to "step on it" when you're in a hurry. You know, like when Quaid is trying to get away from a bunch of bad guys who want to KILL him. So what does Quaid do?

The fare is 18 credits please.

Quaid literally uproots JohnnyCab from the floor and tosses him in the back seat and drives the car himself. I still remember the movie audience CHEERING when Quaid did that. It was obvious they hated JohnnyCab. And to add insult to injury, JohnnyCab asks for the cab fare and Quaid responds "Sue me, dickhead!" JohnnyCab then manages to regain control of the cab somehow and tries to run over Quaid. Instead, he runs into a wall, the cab explodes, and we all get to see JohnnyCab die a fiery robo-death.

Burn, baby, burn!

I'm prettier in real life than I am in my photo ID.
#6: That's No Woman!

The moment I laid eyes on this woman I knew something was wrong with. First off, that smile of hers was downright creepy. So creepy that, even though she wasn't covered in bugs, she still reminded me of one of the equally creepy homeless ladies from John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. And that's saying a lot since I consider PoD to be one of the most nightmarish movies ever created.

Anyway, she's having her photo ID checked out and all is going well, albeit creepy, until she starts twitching and repeating the same phrase over and over. Soon enough she's going bonkers and it turns out that this is no woman after all (shocker)... it's Quaid in a mask!


Where the hell did Quaid even GET this crazy disguise!? That's what I really wanna know. It surely wasn't in the suitcase that was filled with goodies from earlier in the movie, so did he just pick it up at the "Freaky-Assed-Faces-R-Us" shop or what? Also, why did he choose this particular mask? Did he think it wouldn't stick out in a crowd? Call me crazy, but an ultra-creepy smiling lady with a cold stare isn't the way to go if you wanna play things quietly.

You got Punked!

In the end, Quaid chucks the mask over to some of the security guys that are chasing him and it says "Get ready for a big surprise!" then proceeds to explode. Oh Quaid, you're such a prankster!

Which way did he go, George?
#7: Kuato Lives!

So this is George (played by Marshall Bell, who I'll always remember as Coach Schneider, from Elm Street 2, who got killed in the shower) and he's going to lead Quaid to the elusive Kuato - a mutant with psychic abilities who can help him remember things... or at least figure out what he's supposed to be doing on Mars. Ok, so where exactly is this Kuato guy?

Take some Pepto, you'll feel better.

George starts moaning in pain and we quickly realize that Kuato is inside of him! Kuato is a mutant alien twin who emerges from George's stomach at will, and man is he ugly. He honestly looks like some evil devil baby straight out of a horror movie instead of some alien hero. I'd love to see Kuato go head-to-head with Belial from "Basket Case". That'd be an epic battle of nasty looking, slimy conjoined twins if I've ever seen one! I should also note that Kuato was one hell of an impressive display of animatronics, requiring some fifteen people just to control all his movements.

So before he's shot and killed by one of Cohaagen's inside guys, Kuato uses his psychic powers to show Quaid the reactor down in the Martian mines. With his dying breath, he tells Quaid to start the reactor and free Mars. Thanks for the info Kuato, but we're still gonna give you a closed-casket funeral. No good deeds you perform can change our minds about that.

For a good time, call Mary.
#8: One, Two, Three Boobs!

Yes, you knew this scene was going to be on the list. How could it not be? Mary, the triple-boobed prostitute, is probably more famous than Total Recall itself. I can only imagine how many times Lycia Naff (the actress) has been asked about whether or not she really has three boobs.

So Quaid travels to Venusville, the red-light district of Mars more or less, to find Melina in hopes that she can tell him more about what's going on. When he arrives though, he's greeted by Mary, a mutant prostitute who is offering something a little bit more...

The nipples are hidden from your virgin eyes because nipples are oh so risque!

As immature as it may sound, people couldn't stop talking about her three boobs after the movie came out and to do this, if you bring up Total Recall in a conversation, somebody is bound to mention 'em. But in watching this movie, I realized something that most people might've not noticed.

Mary first appears to proposition Quaid. Later on, she appears in another scene propositioning to Benny the cab driver who tells her, "Baby, you make me wish I had three hands!" while groping her. And finally, she appears in the scene where Richter and his men start attacking everybody in sight and he shoots her in the back.

So she has three separate on-screen topless appearances. Three scenes. Three boobs.

Coincidence? I think not.

HAPPY! :) ........ SAD! :(
#9: Adios Richter!

I don't care what anybody says, Richter is the main bad guy in this movie, not Cohaagen. Sure, he works for Cohaagen, but does anybody really care about that profiteer? No. But Richter, played by the almighty Michael Ironside, is everything a bad guy should be. Pissed off and ruthless. A little earlier in the story, they have Quaid capture and they're about to return him to his former evil self. Richter, knowing Quaid won't remember a thing, punches him right in the face and then says "See you at the party."

Unfortunately for him, Quaid had other plans. Quaid manages to escape from the Rekall facility and heads down into the Martian mines to free Mars. But before he can do that, Richter manages to catch up with him on an elevator and the two get into a fight. Now I'll be the first to admit, Michael Ironside, while he may be good at looking extremely pissed off, is not the kind of guy who could realistically stand toe-to-toe with Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fight. Still, in the movie he holds his own for a little while, but then he gets knocked over the side of the elevator and tries to pull Quaid down with him.

Oh no! It's ARMageddon!

Quaid quickly pulls his arms up just enough so they're ripped completely off in between the elevator and the next floor. As Richter falls to his armless death, Quaid throws down his two bloody arms and shouts "See you at the party, Richter!" But since this is Arnold we're talking about, it sounds more like "See yoo at da pahty, Reektah!" It's easily one of the most quoted lines from a movie already filled with all sorts o' fantastic one-liners.

I can play Pac-Man on this thing too!
#10: Bug Removal

Early in the movie, Richter and his crew are trying to track down Quaid. Fortunately for them, they implanted a bug in Quaid's head when he originally went to Rekall. So all they have to do is look on their tracking screen to see exactly where he is. But Quaid also left a message for himself on a little computer explaining how to get rid of said bug.

Don't worry, you won't damage anything up there, Arnold.

First thing he needed to do was wrap a wet towel around his head to distort the signal of the bug so he can buy himself enough time to remove it. Now I'm sure they could've come up with many ways to distort the bug signal, but the writers clearly thought it would be funny to see Arnold with a wet towel wrapped around his head. And you know something? They were absolutely right...  it's 100% awesome.

Anyway, in his message to himself, Quaid is told to jam the self-guiding bug removal mechanism way up into his nose until he hears a "crunch". After that, all he has to do is wait for it to grab onto the bug and then yank it out. Sounds easy enough, but when you have a bug that's larger than your eyeball embedded in your brain, pulling it out through your nasal cavity might prove to be difficult. And whaddaya know, it is!


A killer display of animatronics work combined with Arnold's trademark grunting noises easily makes this the most memorable scene in the entire movie if you ask me. And having seen what Quaid went through to remove it, I can say with absolute certainty that if there was a bug implanted in my brain, I'd just leave it there. Some things just aren't worth the trouble.

And there you have it, the ten best things about the original Total Recall from 1990. In all honesty though, it was really hard narrowing down the movie to just ten moments since so much of it is memorable (Arnold shouting "Scroooo Yooooo!" for example). Do yourself a favor and check it out if you've never seen it before. And if you have seen it before, are you sure you really saw it, or was a memory of the movie implanted in your brain? SEE YOO AT DA PAHTY REEKTAH!

Have any questions or comments about this piece?


Reader Comments

taco loving zombie
Aug 3rd, 2012, 12:23 PM
get your ass to mars
after enough bourbon ...
Aug 3rd, 2012, 12:31 PM
Considah dis a dihvorce!

Great summary, as always.
Forum Virgin
Aug 3rd, 2012, 05:06 PM
Also just as entertaining are those blood thirsty bums that attack Arnie in the 8-bit Nintendo version of "Total Recall"
taco loving zombie
Aug 4th, 2012, 01:25 AM
speaking of the nes game what's up with the glory holes in level 1
Aug 4th, 2012, 06:51 AM
What a great movie. Why do they have to try to remake movies that were perfect the first time around?
I hate this hacker crap!
Aug 4th, 2012, 09:47 PM
The remake... is OK. I mean, they did include the 3 boobed chick so it's not a complete failure.
Forum Virgin
Aug 4th, 2012, 11:52 PM
No "Get your ass to Mars"=Movie failure.
Aug 5th, 2012, 10:44 PM
I won't go to see the new one out of protest. Colin Farrell, in an interview months ago, said something like "yeah they wanted to try a different direction this time and cast an actual actor, with actual talent".

Now Arnie might be a lousy Governor, and a horrible husband... but the guy pretty much invented the action genre and kooky accent or not, when it comes to action films any performance he gives is going to be 1000 times better than that little Irish tool.

He also implied that TR was a bad film and in need of a remake. Anybody who had such a low opinion of the film should have NEVER been involved with it.

Total Recall is a silly film plot-wise, but it turned out great anyway soley because of the great performances and the great practical effects. And in the remake both of those are missing and thus there is no point in seeing it.
Smooth Operator
Aug 6th, 2012, 01:27 AM
Excellent write up of classic cinema Rog!

As far as the remake, why wouldn't they just name the new film after the story if they wanted to distance themselves from the 90 version? I will never understand the hollywood thought process(which is not true, I know they wanted to cash in on the name).
Funky Dynamite
Aug 6th, 2012, 11:06 PM
They want it both ways: they want to remake the move in a different light, but they also want to draw in fans of the original. In short, the same reasoning behind the naming of Troll 2.
Aug 10th, 2012, 10:20 PM

They've only got shitty writers and directors and their disposal but they want to make some money. The solution of course is to trick the audience into thinking the film will be good by adding a popular franchise name to it.

Basically every big budget film released since 2000 has followed this model. There is no need to invest the time and money on a good plot and a good director when you have names like "Transformers" "Batman" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" to throw around.
Forum Virgin
Aug 11th, 2012, 06:01 PM
I'm sure you've seen Red Dawn Rog, because it looks like you're going to need a list for the best things about the original of that movie.
Forum Virgin
Aug 18th, 2012, 10:33 PM
Between Total Recall and Robocop Verhoeven was responsible for two of the biggest grossing si-fi movies of the late 80's. Over $300.000.000 combined.

This new tripe..? I'll give it a pass. Unless you have the magic that 2 great actors like Ironside and Ronnie Cox can bring, just give it up.
Im one good looking Troll
Sep 8th, 2012, 08:29 PM
I live right next To Arnonld's old mansion before he became Governor of Caleefornia.

Click here to return to the Features homepage