It's rare when a blockbuster film also becomes a critically acclaimed hit, but that's just what happened with 1990's sci-fi action-adventure, Total Recall. Based on a novel by best-selling sci-fi author Philip K. Dick and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, it follows a simple construction worker who buys a vacation package to Mars. His trip is just the beginning of the most exciting and adrenaline-filled adventure of his life, involving a whirlwind of epic shootouts, memory implants, martial arts, and even a three-breasted prostitute named Mary.
At the time that Total Recall was made, many Hollywood blockbusters were making a shift from using practical effects to CGI. The deft mix of the two in the film is a key to its success, along with a lot of the creative input by star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven, who fought to get the film made after years in Hollywood gridlock. Paul Verhoeven's perspective of the 21st century remains one of the most visionary yet and is a major reason why fans continue to enjoy the world that he's created, along with the science fiction filmmakers who have been inspired by it today. Below are 10 hidden details everyone missed in Total Recall.
10 LAST USE OF MINIATURES
Though miniatures were used to great effect in popular blockbusters like the original Star Wars trilogy, by the '90s, they were considered obsolete as CGI got more advanced. This means that by the time Total Recall was made it was one of the last films to utilize miniatures.
The miniatures that show Martian geography were actually based on Martian photographs collected via satellite. In 1990, with its combination of miniatures, practical effects, and early CGI, Total Recall was one of the most expensive films ever made.
9 QUAID WAS LARGE ON PURPOSE
Ever wonder how a man of Arnold Schwarzenegger's dimensions gets roles like a doctor in Junior or a dad in Jingle All The Way when he clearly should always play an artificially modified superhuman? It may be because he successfully convinced the director that his character should and would have rippling biceps and protruding pectorals.
In early drafts of Total Recall, Douglas Quaid was an average-looking accountant, which Schwarzenegger looked anything but. The producer didn't want him cast, but Schwarzenegger explained that having an ordinarily "strong man" have his mind stolen would send a much more powerful message to audiences.
8 IT WAS INSPIRED BY BLADE RUNNER
Director Paul Verhoeven was a big fan of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner but never felt like it captured what it would be like to accurately like to live in 2019. Therefore, Verhoeven decided that he would set his film much further into the future in 2084 AD.
Total Recall still makes references to going Off-World like in Blade Runner, but only to one colony - Mars. Both films also feature memory implants, both films have a purposefully ambiguous ending (Quail doesn't know if he's really a secret agent, the way Deckard may or may not be a replicant) and both films were novels written by Philip K. Dick.
7 IT HAS A CONNECTION TO STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
The three-breasted prostitute that appeared in Total Recall, portrayed by actress Lycia Caff, was originally designed to be incorporated into Star Trek: The Next Generation, which first aired in 1987. Ship's counselor Deanna Troi was originally going to have three breasts, but she protested.
The concept almost incorporated an additional breast, but Caff was already humiliated enough exposing the three (all prosthetic). Her character concept was so popular, it was kept in the Total Recall remake of 2012. The remake was originally going to star Arnold Schwarzenegger again, and Jonathan Frakes, Commander Riker (and Troi's love interest) on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
6 IT HAS A CONNECTION TO THE MATRIX
The Matrix films combined many science fiction tropes, with influences from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and Total Recall. The most notable connection includes when Dr. Edgemer takes a pill which he explains will return him to the real world.
The concept of the "red pill" from Total Recall was later used in The Matrix when Morpheus asks Neo to choose between it and a blue pill. The red pill will make him leave The Matrix, whereas the blue pill would make him see the reality as he knows it (which is in truth the virtually constructed world of The Matrix).
5 OTHER SCHWARZENEGGER MOVIES REFERENCE IT
Arnold Schwarzenegger has publicly stated his love of the science-fiction genre many times, with his role in Total Recall directly related to his love of Paul Verhoeven's work on Robocop. Several of his other films have subtle references to Total Recall worked into their plots.
For instance, in 1994's True Lies, he plays a secret agent whose wife and daughter believe him to be a computer salesman, mimicking in Total Recall when he requests to visit Mars as a secret agent and turned out to be one. In The 6th Day, he plays both roles, woke up in a taxi without knowing who he was, and paid for his cab fare with a fingerprint.
4 SOFT DRINKS FEATURE IN A MAJOR WAY
While some will explain away the constant appearance of soft drinks as nothing more than product placement in the film, there's actually a reason for all the Coca-Cola and Pepsi signs everywhere. Coca-Cola is the only soft drink advertised on Earth, while Pepsi is the only soft drink advertised on Mars.
The drinks mirror each other - Coca Cola's main colors ar red, evoking Mars, while the blue, red, and white of the Pepsi mirror Earth tones. At the end of the film, especially when Quaid is kissing actress Rachel Ticotin, you can see where a Coca-Cola can painted grey and affixed to the Mars colony model by Ian Hunter of the effects team.
3 THE ENDING IS REVEALED Three TIMES
In the age of online spoiler alerts, it's hard to imagine a movie intent on giving itself away. That's exactly what happened in Total Recall, however, where characters imply the ending of the film on three separate occasions. First, Bob McClane gives it away when he's selling the Secret Agent Ego Trip package to Quaid, where he'll "get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the entire planet!"
The second time it happens, Dr. Lull gives Ernie a computer chip, who explains, "That's a new one 'Blue Sky on Mars'". The third features Quaid threatening to shoot Dr. Edgemar, and he explains to Quaid all the events that will happen throughout the rest of the film almost verbatim.
2 MEXICO CITY IS REALLY THAT FUTURISTIC
Though Total Recall was one of the most expensive movies ever made up until 1990, the production team still had to cut corners. For instance, there was no budget to film Arnold Schwarzenegger's character actually going to Mars on a shuttle, so they had to settle for the flashing message, "Get your ass to Mars" to indicate to the audience where he'd gone.
One of the ways they saved money was by filming in Mexico for tax purposes, and also the fact that Mexico City really did look that futuristic. Aside from some silver paint and tv screens, it's public train station already looked from a different time period.
1 MICHAEL IRONSIDE'S MISSING LIMBS
Veteran character actor Michael Ironside has a propensity to be missing limbs in several of his films. He also has an affection for science fiction, having notably starred in the mini-series V. Most notably, his arms get ripped off in Total Recall, and in Starship Troopers, his character already has one arm removed.
Paul Verhoeven, who directed Total Recall also directed Starship Troopers and is known for his use of graphic violence. He suggested at the end of Starship Troopers for Ironside to meet a fate that would be on par with his end in Total Recall. Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers complete Verhoeven's science-fiction trilogy. He considers all the films satires.