Trading Card Set of the Week – Total Recall (1990, Pacific)
No one is ever going to confuse Arnold Schwarzenegger with a brilliant thespian. The legacies of Sirs John Gielgud and Laurence Oliver have no reason to fear challenge from this quarter. Yet, conversely, the box office potency of 1980s-1990s Ahnuld takes the likes of those two acting titans, picks them up by the ankles and juggles them like bowling pins, laughing at them all the while for the girly men they are. Arnold, now aging, philandering and often embarrassing, was once a colossus, a guaranteed big opening, a license to print money cast in human form. He was the cornerstone of multiple treasured franchises — Predators, Conans and Terminators — that had legs beyond their two-hour run-times. Who else in the acting ranks could have stepped into those shoes? Tom Hanks? Denzel? Nic Cage? Chile, please.
It wasn’t one of Schwarzenegger’s franchise films that was his most fun picture, which retains a rip-rollicking watchability two decades on. No, not Kindergarten Cop. Total Recall. And wait until you see the stupid, enormously fun crap (literally?) that came with the factory set of trading cards that went along with it.
One could go on for days on the merits of Paul Verhoeven’s cartoonishly bloody science-fictiony masterpiece (based on a Philip K. Dick short story), with memorable characters — the three-bewbed prostitute, the Rekall used-car salesman, etc. — and outlandish turns galore. Who can forget the X-Ray scanner, which was a great effect then and remains a great one now (conjuring cinematic racial memories of Ray Harryhausen’s ambulatory skeletons), as well as being prescient in a TSA kind of way of the modern surveillance state? The movie’s hyper-violence almost seems quaint at this remove of years, a callback to a time when we weren’t so immune to a man killing a woman who days before had been as wife, then quipping in a thick Austrian accent that she should “Considuh dat a divowace.” And when Arnold screams “SCREWWWWW YOOOOUUUUU!!!!!” at the top of his lungs and kills mutant taxi-driving turncoat Benny with a hand-held mining drill, well, it might be the crowning moment of his career — and this isn’t stated ironically. Seriously, it’s ludicrously awesome.
The Total Recall cards were produced by Pacific, a smaller company that turned out some other movie sets, as well as bizarre niche sports sets, like one for the Senior Professional Baseball Association. (Remember that? It tried to replicate the modest success of the Senior Tour in pro golf, neglecting to note that old geezers can play golf because it’s not a great physical challenge, hence why fat slobs head out to muni courses and play 18 on a regular basis. Baseball, with running, sudden stops and occasional collisions merged with aging, brittle bones — not so much. Granted, the “seniors” weren’t that old, but they were oldish.) Most of their products were dumped onto the collecting public in the traditional way, with 36 count boxes and doubles and checklists and blah blah blah. Instead this one came all complete in a neat little box, one that fits in the palm of your hand in Alas Poor Yorick fashion — even if you’re a small-handed carnie (which I am not, despite what my enemies claim):
Let’s gander at some of the cards.
Here’s in-his-prime Arnold as Hauser/Quaid, the man who’s either a brainwashed secret agent or a construction-working schmuck lobotomized at the Rekall offices:
Recall was young me’s earliest exposure to Michael Ironside, and since that first VHS viewing, a constant refrain rattling around this largely vacant head has been “WHY THE F**K ISN’T THIS GUY IN EVERY MOVIE?!?!” That voice, that glare. Even with a combover he’s a man not to be trifled with:
Hey — Total Recall! That’s the title!
Until recently I didn’t realize that Dean Norris, now most famous for his portrayal of doomed DEA agent/Walter White brother-in law Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad, was in the movie. In fairness, you don’t recognize him, since he played Tony, the mutant at The Last Resort bar with a face that looks like he has a skin beret — or that he’s half-man, half-calzone. Or Golobulus from G.I. Joe: The Movie. You know, the guy who sets up one of Arnie’s one-liners with a convenient “You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face around here” line. Right here (with sleazy and demure Melina!):
And, of course, Sharon Stone. Pre-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone. In later days, after she’d spread her vag wide open for all the world to see in Verhoeven’s erotic thriller, it would be hard to think of her as being in anything else, or, for that matter, being anything but a cooter delivery device. BI spoiled a snatch, as it were. But she was a stunningly attractive babe back then, and her hot and sweaty and evil in workout gear was an adolescent dream come to celluloid life:
It’s not flying cars that we’re lacking twenty years after this movie’s release, or colonies on Mars. It’s the Johnnycab taxi service, with Robert Picardo’s voice coming out of an odd animatronic driver. Granted, they go all evil and hellish when you stiff them on a fare, but still:
And who can forget the mutant leader Kuato, a slimy Chucky doll that lives inside a character actor’s stomach:
It’s surprising that some of the more outlandish gore works its way into the cards — maybe that’s why they came in a factory set, not packs. It’s not often you see your star holding up bloody arm stumps like two flanks of raw meat (which they are, come to think of it), but here you go:
And, of course, there’s the decompression sequence, when Martian despot Cohaagen and our hero and his girl are sucked out into the unoxygenated Mars atmosphere and turn into Fangoria freaks (I don’t think the eyes ever bugged this far out in the movie, only in publicity stills):
The card backs were rather bland summarizations of the action appearing on the front and in that part of the movie, like a scrubbed, sanitized, heavily medicated version of the screenplay:
Now we come the extras included in this boxed set. You got multiple denominations of Martian cash, with Cohaagen’s smiling face in the place of honor. Don’t spend this Monopoly money all in one (fictional) place:
You also get a shuttle ticket for your Martian vacation:
The oddest inclusion is a plastic bag containing an “Official Mars Rock.” No, it’s not real. Mine is still sealed in its plastic, so I haven’t closely examined what it actually is. It could be a fecalith for all I know, so it shall stay sealed:
There was a remake of the film last year, another product of Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy. It fell flat as a board. There was a short-lived television series in the late nineties, Total Recall 2070, with events that predated the film’s time period. It was dreadful. They both pale in comparison to the 1990 original. They even pale beside this set of cards. Considuh dat a ruhview.