VIDEO: Total Recall: Book vs. Movie

Presenting the first-ever video review from Dr. Winston O’Boogie, the oldest rookie in the business! Just in time for the remake of Total Recall, the doctor goes back to the original. No, not the 1990 movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone—he’s going really old school, with a review of the 1966 short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. Watch the video to find out how much of the story made it into the movie (and its remake)!

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  • MichaelANovelli

    And on the cool checkin’, center stage on the mic!

  • So many Arnold pictures :D

    I just saw a trailer for the remake, it looks: MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH

  • edharris1178

    Good stuff, I’ll probably catch the remake on DVD.  I’m saving my money for Expendables 2.

  • I love the original Total Recall… HATE minority Report. 

  • Jill Bearup

    I also welcome our fieldmouse overlords. 
    Minority Report is very, very meh. But though I don’t really like graphic violence (at all) I remember quite liking Total Recall, just on the strength of the cool ideas.

    I’ve read ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’ It’s weird. But cool. 

    • Cristiona

      I liked Minority Report well enough as I was watching it, but have never, ever felt the slightest desire to see it again.

      I’d also like to give a shout-out to Screamers, which was actually pretty faithful to “The Second Variety,” which seems a rarity in the Dick Canon.  (snicker)

      • MXH

        Screamers is much overlooked.  It’s a solid B-movie, and one of the most faithful adaptations of PKD’s original.  (I actually think Impostor was pretty faithful, too.  But it sort of sucked.)

        Minority Report was a crushing disappointment, given how awesome the original story was.  Likewise Paycheck.

        Just looked up PKD on IMDB.  Damn but his stuff is bait for H’wood.  Pity it all happened a little too late for him.

        I still don’t know how Abre los Ojos / Vanilla Sky got away w/o crediting Ubik.

  • Zero_miles_per_hour

    “Everything they changed to justify the remake was for the worse”
    – Jay Bauman

  • sunrise089

    Winston/Albert – You were so great! Funny, understated, no mugging for the camera or trying to fill the video with meta-references. It’s like a more evenhanded version of Good Bad Flicks, which is just about perfect for more mainstream films. Awesome debut!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully, I’ll be able to post another video soon.

  • bastardjackyll

    Nicely done, any chance of a “Book vs. Movie: The Running Man”???

    • edharris1178

       I did a minor version of that in my Running Man recap from a few years ago.

  • Well-done review.
    I really like the 1990 movie. I’ll probably check out the remake, too, though, just to see what they did with it.

    But I have to admit, as much as I usually love Philip K. Dick scifi stories, some years back I googled for a web version of “”We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” to compare short story and movie, and I was NOT impressed. The set-up is interesting, but I feel Dick took this single, basic “what if” idea and ran it into the ground, adding yet another and another layer of “plot twists” until the whole thing became ridiculous.

    When the story came to the final part with the revelation about the mice aliens, a plot twist which turned the character into a massive Marty-Stu boy savior character on top of everything else revealed about him, I mouthed “WTF?” and gave up on it. There’s coincidences, and then there’s… that. In the movie, you can accept that Douglas Quaid is an exceptional individuum who might well have been a secret agent assassin. In the short story, Douglas Quail is described as a minor clerk with a moist handshake who would never be able to meet the criteria to become an Interplan agent… so it’s even more incongruous that we’re asked to accept the idea that he really was an agent.

    Not to mention that if you did a faithful adaption of the short story, 95% of the movie would be people talking inside the labs and offices of “Rekal, Incorporated”.

    But the biggest disappointment:
    The movie manages to keep the suspense of “Is this real or is this all just a fantasy drug trip in Quaid’s head?” until the final second and actually never resolves the question, by showing us the story from the point of view of Quaid, with Mr. McClane from Rekall popping up in odd places (including Mars) trying to convince Quaid he is dreaming.

    The short story on the other hand kills its own base concept by coming right out and making it crystal clear that, yes, all of Douglas Quail’s recovered memories are real, even the “grandiose childhood fantasy” at the end, because we’re witnessing discussions between Mr. McClane and lab techs of Rekal while Quail isn’t even in the room, and later between McClane and an Interplan officer, and it ends with McClane accepting that Quail by his continued existance is the savior of mankind. The question “How on Earth could anyone forget that he is the savior of mankind?” is hand-waved away; no-one erased boy-Quail’s memories, he just forgot. Apparently no-one ever noticed the fleet of alien ships either. So we’re left with just a “Gee, really?” reaction.

    My opinion? I think the movie massively improved on the original story it was “inspired by”.

    Just as the brilliant Blade Runner has next to nothing to do with the original novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, except for a few names and concepts that it lifted from the novel. And yes, I have read the novel (I even owned a copy with the original title) but I utterly dislike it, for reason too complicated to go into here. 

    • In all fairness, the “plot twist which turned the character into a massive Marty-Stu boy savior character” happens on the last page of the story, so I’m not sure why you would give up on it at that point :)

      And I don’t have the story in front of me, but I’m pretty sure the implication is that the aliens used their technology to induce Quail to forget about them… he didn’t just forget.

      But I agree that the movie is a major improvement over the short story. Though I’m pretty ambivalent when it comes to both Blade Runner and DADOES.

      • Well, with “I gave up on the story” I meant “I gave up on taking it seriously” or “had no intention to ever read it again except for review reasons”. Which I did last night. It’s well written, interesting concept…

        But when the characters started talking about Quail’s “childhood fantasy” they want to implant the story still had three pages to go… but you could see where it was heading. You could so see the twist coming.

  • People back in 1990 complained about the violence in a Verhoeven movie? Really? What did they expect?

    The ironic thing is, the original movie in 1990 received an “X” rating in the USA for violence, gore, sexual themes, and profanity. It received an “FSK 18” rating (meaning for adults only*) in Germany because of the violence and gore… although most movie theaters and TV stations showed a heavily cut version which edited out all the gory bits out of the death scenes and thus got an “FSK 16” rating.

    But according to IMDB, the UNCUT version was re-rated in Germany in 2011 and received an “FSK 16” clearing! Not sure if the 1990 movie was ever re-rated in the USA, too.

    Compare Total Recall, or RoboCop and similar movies from a quarter of a century ago to modern action/horror/scifi movies, most of which receive a “PG-13” rating these days, but would probably have earned an “R” rating back then (and an “FSK 16” or even “FSK 18” rating in Germany).

    Conclusion: We as a society have become a lot more jaded to violence on screen.

    [* And in Germany, movie theaters do check if a child is old enough. If a movie is rated 18, no, you can’t take your children with you, not even if the parents say, “oh it’s fine, he watches slasher movies at home all the time”. No morons taking six-year-olds into screenings of Watchmen and then complaining about how they want their money back.]

    • Liam Barrett

      I still think Robocop would have received near the rating it did on it’s first release, because that IS a fairly relentless movie as far as violence is concerned, especially Murphy’s execution, which is still quite shocking today. 

      • Russell Brin (Facebook sux)

        Robocop is still a great movie, even though it has a lot of violence and swearing, but in the end was a good story about Murphy not betraying his humanity despite his condition.  Robocop 2 and 3 however…

        • RoboCop, like Blade Runner, is a defining movie of the 1980s Cyberpunk genre, and both movies started a whole wave of other movies cribbing ideas and scenery from them.

          I think RoboCop is perfect the way it is and doesn’t need a remake, but I can understand why they want to make one. For the same reasons as Shadowrun RPG gets a new edition and “update” to its future-now setting. Because tech has moved on in ways filmmakers couldn’t anticipate. Internet, augmented reality, armed robot drones, artificial limbs, personal computers you carry around in your pocket, camera surveillance, corporations owning soldiers and dictating government policy… we’re living in a Cyberpunk world now, except for things like full-body cyborgs and nanotech. It will be hard to sell the RoboCop remake as “scifi”, but no problem on the “social satire” front.

          • Liam Barrett

            I wasn’t too keen on watching the Robocop remake until I got a look at the cast. Sam Jackson? Gary Oldman? Jackie Earle Haley? Hugh Laurie in negotiations? Okay, I’ll give it a chance…

    • You can see some of the original reviews of the movie on Metacritic, and most of the negative/mixed reviews have some sort of complaint about the violence. I kind of agree that they went overboard with the blood and gore in a few places, but it obviously doesn’t ruin the movie for me.

      I’m pretty sure this movie would get an R rating today. The violence is still pretty graphic by current standards, and the ratings board has gotten more strict about what they’ll allow in a PG-13 movie. I mean, just look at the dumb reason Prometheus got an R rating.

  • TheCrazyFish

    Having seen the new Total Recall, I have to say, it’s miles better than the Schwarzenegger version. The only problems were:

    A. It didn’t really live up to its promises of “staying truer to the
    source material” at all. It’s pretty much the same as the Schwarzenegger
    version, but entirely on Earth.

    B. Having seen the Schwarzenegger movie, I pretty much saw all the plot
    twists coming before they happened. That said, the new movie did a good
    job of reversing some of what you expected in order to throw you for a

  • Kids today!

    The new movie was alright. But a bad release date and some bad publicity for it didn’t help it much. Otherwise I believe it would have had a decent run.

  • doc

    You didn’t touch on whether the Mars stuff even happened to Quade at all. The movie ends with a fade to white. The last line is even “Then you better kiss me quick before you wake up” (I’m paraphrasing, can’t remember the exact line).