Today in Sci-Fi History: June 1

Today, June 1, in 1990, the film Total Recall was released in theatres.

Total Recall is a film adaptation of Philp K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, originally published in 1966 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. At the time of its release, Total Recall, was one of the most expensive movies ever made. The film was directed by Paul Verhoeven, the director of RoboCop and Starship Troopers. Total Recall features a melding of reality, false memory, and real memory.

In the film, the protagonist’s name in the original PKD story is changed from Douglas Quail to Douglas Quaid, and is portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Year is 2084. Tired of his mundane life, construction worker Douglas Quaid, plagued with troubling dreams of Mars, visits Total Rekall to get a vacation-memory implanted in his mind. This is promised to give the illusion of a much needed vacation without having to actually go on vacation. During the treatment, Quaid opts for a “secret agent” identity while on his trip to Mars. While this is going on, the governor, Vilos Cohaagen, is fighting rebels while searching for a rumored alien artifact located in the mines.

Before they can implant the memory, Quaid reacts violently and leaves Rekall. On his way home, he’s attacked by coworkers, then his wife, and while on the run, he finds a briefcase that contains a message and some tools to aid in his journey/escape. The message is a recording of Douglas Quaid speaking to himself, telling himself that he is indeed a secret agent named Hauser and that he has gone under a memory wipe in order to protect himself. He tells himself that there is an artifact on Mars and so he travels there.

The Mars colony is a slum of fully sealed enclosures on the surface of the red planet. There is no breathable air on Mars and thus the colony must be enclosed. Here he meets Melina, an exact duplicate of the love interest he requested for his memory implant. While on Mars, Quaid/Hauser is intermittently reminded by his assailants that he is just living out the memory implant and that they can help him wake up, instead of listening, he kills them and continues on his mission.

Quaid/Hauser manages to gain access to the underground rebellion on Mars, led by Kuato. Kuato reads Quaid’s mind and learns that the artifact is a turbinium reactor that will create a breathable atmosphere for Mars when activated, eliminating Cohaagen’s abusive monopoly on breathable air.

Quaid manages to fight his way into the control room of the turbinium reactor. While battling Cohaagen, a whole is blown in one of the walls and Melina, Quaid and Cohaagen are subjected to the low atmospheric pressure of Mars. Cohaagen dies and while Quaid and Melina are about to pop open and boil out, Quaid manages to activate the turbinium reactor. Just in time, the atmosphere of Mars if converted into breathable air and Quaid and Melina are saved. As the colonists walk onto the surface of the planet in its new atmosphere, Quaid takes a moment to wonder whether he is still living the memory before turning to kiss Melina. Then, the screen flashes white and the credits roll.

Personally, I think the white flash at the end is to imply that it all was the memory implant he asked for. What do you think?



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