Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DVD REVIEW: Trancers (1985)

"His name is Deth. He hunts Trancers. Even in the 20th Century"

DIRECTOR: Charles Band

CAST: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Michael Stefani, Art LaFleur, Biff Manard, Telma Hopkins, Megan Ward, Martine Beswick, Jeffrey Combs, Alyson Croft, Barbara Crampton, Melanie Smith, Andrew Robinson, Tony Pierce, Dawn Ann Billings, Ed Beecher

SUMMARY: Angel City, 2247. Trooper Jack Deth is battling the last disciples of Whistler, who used his psychic powers to trance and control his army. Though he'd been thought dead, he's very much alive…in the year 1985. Whistler's master plan—kill the ancestors of the City Council. With the Council disbanded, nothing can stop him from controlling the city. Jack Deth is sent back in time to inhabit his ancestor's body and dismantle Whistler's mission.

FILM: Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson, DOLLMAN) is a grizzled, chain-smoking Trooper from the year 2247. Troopers are a specialized police force tasked with tracking down Trancers who are weak willed people that have been "tranced" by master-criminal Martin Whister (Michael Stefani) who "trances" victims into zombie-like slaves to his will. It is assumed that Whistler has died. Trancers appear normal until they are triggered and then they become violent killers. Deth has encounters a Trancer at the start of the film in a greasy spoon diner and his loose cannon tactics have angered his superiors. He quits only to be summonsed back into service after it is discovered that Whistler has traveled through time to the year 1985. It's a pretty unique idea of how time travel is achieved. A serum is ingested that allows the conscious mind to travel back through one's own bloodline and inhabit the body of an ancestor. In Whistler's case he has traveled "down the line" and into the body of Weisling a Lt. in the LAPD circa 1985. Whistler plans to systematically eliminate the blood relatives of the 2247 City Council members and he's succeeding as only one Council member survives, Chairman Ash. The Chairman gives Deth a baseball card of their 1985 ancestor Hap Ashby (Biff Manard) - a down on his luck former baseball player living on skid row. Deth agrees to also travel "down the line" and into the body of ancestor Phil Denton, a journalist but only after he destroys the body of Whistler in the year 2247 so he has no body to return to.

Deth arrives in 1985 and meets Lena (Helen Hunt) a woman Phil has just had a one night stand with. I've never thought of Hunt as a very attractive woman but she's not without her charm here. While at the Mall with Lena is attacked by the Mall Santa who just happens to be a Trancer ("What's wrong with Murray?"). Jack kills the trancer and he and Lena flee the scene. Whistler as Lt. Weisler arrives on the scene and sends out an APB on Jack for the murder of the store Santa. Definitely a film that will forevermore be on my Christmas to-watch list, great stuff. "Security, we've got trouble at the North Pole."

Trancers is definitely more a sci-fi action film than horror and while the budget is low I admired the films futuristic elements. When jack is sent to 1985 he brings with him vials of the serum that will enable him to return Whistler and himself to the future as well as a "long second" wrist watch which enables him to slow down time for a very brief period. Let me just say the scenes of slow-mo are definitely not MATRIX-style "bullet-time". It's decidedly more low-budget but effective in that peculiar late-80's Full Moon way.

Trancers has a great cast that is topped off by the awesome Tim Thomerson who comes off as a funnier Tom Atkins, he just so likable and his one-liner puns are great. The effects are dated, this is a super-80's movie for sure, like totally, and I loved it. A bit of trivia - apparently this is a Empire Pictures production and pre-dates Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainment.

DVD: The TRANCERS - THE CULT CLASSIC TRILOGY collects Trancers 1-3 on a dual sided flipper-disc. The films are presented in 1.33:1 fullframe transfers with 2.0 stereo audio. Pretty typical for the early Full Moon releases the transfers are pretty soft and lacking  fine detail but are sufficient.

VERDICT: TRANCERS (1985) is an entertaining film that is pure-80's awesome. It combines the bounty hunter aspect of BLADERUNNER with the time-travel action of the  TERMINATOR but on a budget of that wouldn't cover the catering cost of either. Echo Bridge Home Entertainment has collected the 1st three installments of the series on a single flipper disc in the TRANCERS - THE CULT CLASSIC TRILOGY DVD. 
*** (3 out of 5 stars)