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The Total Recall Scene That Aged Poorly

The Total Recall Scene That Aged Poorly

The original “Total Recall,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a massive hit in 1990. While a largely forgettable reboot came and went in 2012, the original Paul Verhoeven-directed version remains an absolute classic in the sci-fi genre. Barring some of the dated visual effects and a cartoony feel at times (which played perfectly into Schwarzenegger’s larger-than-life movie star persona at the time), the literally mind-bending storytelling of this Philip K. Dick-inspired tale is still fantastic fun. It holds up brilliantly. Well, most of it does.

To be sure, there are things beyond the running dream vs. reality debate to question. Like when the bad guys, led by main meanie Richter (Michael Ironside), are chasing Quaid (Schwarzenegger) through a populated urban area, and Verhoeven seems to go out of his way to add in a shot of an innocent cross-fire victim (already dead) getting stepped on. In an already ultra-violent movie, one might consider that overkill.

Also, with a strong case to be made that most of the film’s events are actually taking place in Quaid’s head due to a possibly botched memory implant, it gets harder to criticize what is essentially just a dream. But don’t forget there is still an argument that Quaid’s wild adventure as a secret agent is real. The best evidence for this theory comes when the man from Rekall confronts Quaid, but an ill-timed bead of sweat convinces Quaid it’s no fantasy.

However, there’s one scene from the film’s first act that just hasn’t aged well.

Quaid gets handsy with Lori in Total Recall

Even though the movie starts with a dream sequence, it’s hard to question reality until Quaid has the memory procedure at Rekall. But when he first wakes up from the opening dream, his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) is upset about his recurring visions. Arnold Schwarzenegger was physically imposing in those days, almost like the Hulk. His aggressive attitude while forcing intimacy with Lori, despite the fact she kicks at him and tries to get away, is alarming to see as a viewer in 2021.” It gets even creepier if, in this reality, she’s not even his wife, but instead an agency plant who has only known Quaid for a few weeks. He might not know it yet, but she does. Maybe. Remember, mind-bendy. 

Unlike their vicious fighting throughout the rest of the film, realistic as it may seem to many married couples, the early scene’s “playful” aggression could feel a bit unwarranted. 

Still, despite any faults — real or imagined, “Total Recall” remains one of the most beloved sci-fi blockbusters of that era, and rightly so. It’s a fun, fast-paced thrill ride of a movie that actually makes you think about the nature of reality — at least until you start questioning your own memory.

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