Summaries

Total Recall (1990) Movie Synopsis

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total-recall-movie-poster-1990Total Recall is a sci-fi film about spies, true love, and following one’s dreams of nearly dying a horrible death on the barren surface of a godforsaken planet run by crooks. Still better than Detroit though.  The movie begins with Douglas Quaid, a veritable everyman played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s just a regular blue-collar guy, married to Sharon Stone, and made of about 300 pounds of perfectly-sculpted muscle, with that central-north-western Iowa accent that drives the ladies wild.  Incidentally, Collin Farrell will be playing Arnold’s character in the upcoming remake, as the producers wanted to keep the theme of unusually large male anatomy, but take it in a fresh direction for the new film.

In the future, mankind has mastered space travel and colonized Mars. However digital photography turns out to have been just a fad since we see a nice Fuji Film ad early on in the movie.  Quaid is obsessed with Mars. He is haunted by nightmares where he takes a mystery woman on a romantic hike of the red planet’s barren surface and falls down a cliff only to suffocate and explode in the vacuum. Still beats my prom. Quaid decides there must be more to life than working a jackhammer and schtupping Sharon Stone, so he concludes that moving to Mars is the thing to do, even while a separatist group of mutants wages open war on the corrupt Martian government. For some mysterious reason, Quaid’s wife is opposed to the move and suggests that it might interfere with her overpowering and maniacal libido.

Quaid comes up with the perfect solution. He visits Rekall, a company that takes your money in exchange for planting phony memories of great times in your head. In the present we call this college, but in the future it costs a lot less and doesn’t take so damn long. Quaid goes to Rekall and picks the Mars package with some sassy, athletic brunet on the side. But their attempt to implant the memories leads to disaster, as Quaid flips out and becomes another “Schizoid Ambulism,” which apparently is latin for “refund.” For some reason, this displeases Quaid, and Rekall does the right thing. They sedate him, erase his memory, and dump him in the back of a cab, or, as they call it at Arizona State, Thursday.

All hell breaks loose, and everyone that Quaid knows decides to kill him. Even his wife manages to pull her legs out of the air for just long enough to try to shoot him and to tell her boss that Quaid has gone rogue. But when he bests her too, she tells him that he’s had his memories erased, that she’s a sham wife, and that all of this is so secret that she must relate every last detail to him.

The villain Richter, played by Starship Troopers’’ Lieutenant Rasczak, shows up to kill Quaid and hook back up with Sharon Stone. Quaid escapes Richter with a little help from an old, mysterious friend with impeccable timing, and with a little help from himself from the past. Quaid learns from a recording he made before his memory was erased that his real name is Hauser. His past self tells Quaid there’s only one thing he can do to fix all of this, “Get to Mahs,” and exact revenge on Ronny Cox, the evil Martian dictator behind the whole dastardly plot to make him bang Sharon Stone.

Things aren’t much better on Mars. Violence and repression are everywhere. And Quaid must infiltrate the small but plucky army of mutants resisting occupation, the future’s version of the IRA. Quaid’s past self leaves him one very important instruction, to go find a two-boobed hooker named Melina at a brothel called the Last Resort.



Melina tells Quaid that he was part of the resistance back in the days when he was Hauser and that she would rather not do business with him anymore and sends him packing. At his hotel room, Quaid is confronted by a mysterious man that tells him he’s trapped in a bad trip at Rekall and that he needs to be guided out of it with expert help. Quaid’s wife, Lori, enters the dream to try to persuade Quaid it’s all just a bad dream. Quaid responds in his typical, idiosyncratic way, with the help of Melina, by shooting every last person in his path, including his wife, on his way back to the best little whorehouse on Mars, where the mysterious leader of the rebel group, Kuato, awaits him.

The mutant rebels take Quaid, Melina, and their cabby, Benny, to Kuato, and in the process a tiny but mighty hooker named Thumbelina starts a riot which leads to Ronny Cox ordering all oxygen withdrawn from the mutant district. As the mutants slowly suffocate, Quaid meets Kuato, a talking, psychic beer gut and leader of the terrorist army. Kuato looks into Quaid’s mind and sees that Quaid knows of an ancient alien devise that stores air and can create a breathable atmosphere for humans. Cox’s men, however, interrupt Quaid’s psychotherapy and storm the rebel stronghold, having been tipped off by Benny the cabbie. Cox’s men kill Kuato and gather to celebrate over champagne and corn flakes…. Seriously, Corn flakes.

In between bouts of gloating and evil mirth, Cox tells Quaid the truth about himself. It turns out Quaid was not being hunted for his knowledge of the alien air machine. Quaid had his memory erased in order to get close to the resistance and expose and kill Kuato. Apparently, porking one of the resistance’s key call girls was not close enough, so they erased Hauser’s memory, planted some stuff about the alien air machine in his brain, and inserted him on Earth as Quaid so he could one day wake up, head off to Mars, pick back up where he left off with Melina, and get deeper into the resistance, because, you know, they’ll trust him more the second time, since he claims he’s gone insane and developed an alternate personality. I guess they never thought about checking for a secret passageway in the whorehouse.

Now that Kuato has been eliminated, Hauser wants his body back from Quaid so he can attend the corn flakes party with Cox and Melina. This displeases Quaid, and an orgy of violence ensues as Quaid escapes and fights his way to the alien air machine, leaving a mass of gore and quips in his wake. Quaid fight his way to the air machine, but Cox awaits him and accidentally breaks the 1/8 inch glass barrier separating them from the harsh Martian wilderness. As the air leaves the room, Quaid manages to turn on the air machine before he and Melina are sucked outside to choke in the sand. The air machine works, savings their lives along with all of the suffocating mutants.

In the end, Quaid and Melina ascend a hill to watch the blue sky emerge over Mars. Quaid is unsure though. Was it all a dream implanted from Rekall? Will he really get to spend his days as a bouncer in a filthy mutant brothel as various factions fight to fill the power vacuum left by the death of Cox, or will he be disappointed and wake up safe next to Sharon Stone, the woman he just fantasized about shooting, for more midnight therapy sex on Earth? The viewer is left to decide.

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