2084. Doug Quaid is a construction worker, married to the beautiful and seemingly devoted Lori, but every night he has terrifying dreams about Mars, where he has never been, but the nightly news reports are of uprisings and violence in the mining communities which have been established there. Increasingly obsessed by thoughts of Mars, Doug secretly goes to Rekall Inc., a company which implants false memories of trips and vacations which the recipient then believes are genuine, wanting a false memory of a trip to the red planet, but during the procedure Doug suddenly becomes violent, seeming to have something reawoken in his brain, and as he tries to get back to his apartment is attacked by a trio of assassins, responding with instant defence reflexes and killing the three with ruthless efficiency, skills which he never knew he possessed. When he gets back to Lori she seems strange, wanting to know what has happened to him, but more killers, led by the vicious Richter descend, sending Quaid running for his life, he realising that the memory procedure revealed something hidden deep inside his mind. He is stunned to find that his life is a fake, and that he is not ‘Doug Quaid’ but Hauser, a former agent for the Mars Intelligence service. Now knowing the answers to his identity, and why so many people want him dead, lie on Mars, Quaid / Hauser travels there, meeting a woman, Melina, who is working for the rebels who are trying to overthrow the autocratic rule of the despotic colony head Vilos Cohagen, who has set his assassins on his trail. He knows that somewhere in his mind are secrets which Cohagen and his killers are desperate to get hold of, but what are they. Why is he such a threat, and why have some people going to such lengths to set up a false identity as ‘Doug Quaid’? But is this violent, brutal nightmare just a twisted dream?....
Perhaps the most purely enjoyable film from both star Arnold Schwarznegger and director Paul Verhoven (Basic Instinct / Hollow Man
), even though it has actually little to do with the source material. Philip K. Dick’s original short story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale
, first published in 1966, and other Dick adaptations such as Blade Runner, Screamers, Paycheck
, are often so radically different from the print versions is that the actual stories are either extremely short, often only running a few pages, or are extraordinarily difficult to film convincingly, and read the original Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep
for incontrovertible proof of that. A version of this was due to go into production in 1987, with Bruce Beresford at the helm and Patrick Swayze in the lead, being closer to the story and with a more mystery / suspense approach, until with only two weeks until filming commenced and sets already constructed, the film was cancelled when the producers, Dino De Laurentiis Productions, effectively went bankrupt and shut down everything. Although Beresford tried to get the film revived through other financiers, he was sadly unsuccessful, but opened the door for Carolco’s eventual big-budget action pic, David Cronenberg being set to direct and writing a couple of drafts of the script before dropping out. As regular fans of the author will know, it plays with his regular topic of identity, as covered in stories from Electric Sheep
(written in 1953 and filmed in 2001), and while the story is indeed difficult to adapt, Verhoven keeps the pace rapid and the impetus relentless, glazing over some of the more ridiculous turns in the script, such as Quaid’s in-disguise arrival on Mars, and a complete disregard of the laws of all physics come the final reel, with almost gleeful abandon, turning the pic into a mixture of lavish sci-fi, the sort which $55 million bought you at 1990 prices, especially shooting at the infamous Churubusco Studios in Mexico, and some truly thumping and often brutal violence, with Schwarznegger showing how he was a powerful action screen presence in his heyday and in the right project. Oddly this was the last major Hollywood sci-fi pic to be made virtually without CGI, relying on models, miniatures and complex special make-up effects, courtesy of the enormously talented Rob Bottin, who appears to have dropped off the radar entirely, rather than feeding everything into a computer. The script is clever and keeps just this side of ridiculous, although some touches, such as Quaid trying to deduce whether or not he is in fact living in a dream are ingenuous, the sets and effects are excellent and there is terrific support from a fine cast including Sharon Stone in her first big-budget role, and perennial villain Michael Ironside, here at his nastiest, as is Robocop
returnee Ronny Cox. An excellent score too, from Jerry Goldsmith. A big, bold, and loud sci-fi blockbuster, the pic goes utterly wild at the end, completely breaking most laws of physics, but perhaps that’s the whole point, which the audience has to deduce as they will. Enormous fun, and now a fascinating throwback to Carolco Pictures and their habit of hosing down their tentpole pictures with money. A 2012 remake cast Colin Farrell in the Arnie role but considerably altered the plot, keeping it on Earth and revolving around an espionage plot between two superpower conglomerates.