I always thought this was a movie I had previously seen, but upon watching it last night, nothing about it looked familiar, so either I was mistaken and never saw it or I saw it and have no recall of it whatsoever.
At any rate this feels like Charles Band’s riff on The Terminator (1984) and Blade Runner (1982). You got the time travel elements of the former and the tech-noir elements of the latter as Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), lawman of the 22nd century in future Los Angeles, has been on the trail of an evildoer by the name of Whistler. This Whistler has got a psychic power that enables him to brainwash weak willed people and turn them into what Deth calls, trancers. These trancers look normal, but once they are found out their skin and general appearance turn funky and they turn decidedly homicidal. I’m reticent to call them zombies, because in some instances they communicate intelligently and don’t eat people, though they do bite. Technically they simply minions, and as far as Jack knows Whistler has been killed. His only job at the moment is to find his remaining trancers and put them out of their misery, where upon they disintegrate after being killed.
Jack is eventually told Whistler is still alive and has concocted the insidious plan of time traveling back to 1985 so he can kill the ancestors of this council so he can ultimately implement his own rule. Jack is now tasked with going back to the 20th century to find him and protect a remaining ancestor of the counsel from being snuffed out.
Time travel in this movie involves the mind only, as tech in 2247 can transport you consciousness into one of your ancestors, forcing the original mind forced to take a “back seat” so to speak. Jack is shoved back into Phil, who has just met this new, hot chick named, Leena (before-she-was-famous Helen Hunt). He awakens the morning after they had sex and quickly goes about adjusting his appearance to something he’s more comfortable with. This includes slicking his hair back, because “dry hair is for squids,” and putting on a trench coat.
After he offs his first trancer at the mall (it was a dude playing Santa, it’s Christmas time in L.A.) he and Leena are off and running. Whistler is hiding in an ancestor who just so happens to be a detective, making it a little bit harder to stay hidden and still able to do his job.
The youngest I have ever seen Helen Hunt was in an episode of this anthology horror show called, Darkroom (1981-1982). It was an episode about a werewolf, I think. Band mentions in the commentary she was 20 when she did this movie.
I was surprised how Charles Band was able to keep the dated elements very low key when Deth arrives in 1985 L.A. There are no 80s mainstay songs that would end up doing that and most of the fashion, when it’s not noir-ish, is pretty neutral. Most of the music is instrumental and what music there is comes from a punk rock band featured in a scene. The rotary phones and television, of course, date it and rightfully so since it’s 1985.
As part of Charles Band’s plans to transfer a lot of his movies to blu-ray he’s finally gotten around to this one and I thought the 1080p high definition region free transfer was pretty good. It didn’t suffer from any frame jumping and the colors and clarity were fine as well. There was no mention of its aspect ratio on the back of the case, so it’s either a 1.85:1 or a 1.78:1 ratio.
You get two audio options: a stereo 2.0 one and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround one.
No subtitles were included.
Band included a decent amount of extras on this release too. For starters you get an audio commentary with director Band and Jack Deth himself, Tim Thomerson. Band admits he remembers very little about filming it, while Thomerson remembers a hell of a lot. Thomerson also gets on Band’s case every time he swears, saying, “You can’t say that,” apparently under the impression all commentaries have to be “clean.” He even asks at the end if Band is going to edit it and Band says, ‘no.’
Next up is the mini-doc, ‘Cybercrime: The Making Of Trancers (14:27)’ that talks up the movie from inception to release, like all good docs should do. Writers, actors (only Thomerson) and director are interviewed and no one can recall how they came up with Trancers title. You also get some ‘Rare Interviews (1:59)’ conducted during the sequel, Trancers II: The Return Of Jack Death (1991), since Megan Ward is on hand to lend her two cents, along with Thomerson and Helen Hunt.
And finally you get the long lost but recently discovered actual first sequel to the movie, Trancers: City Of Lost Angels (24:39). This was initially part of Charles Band’s Pulsepounders anthology, which had 3 shorts making it up: two sequels, one to The Dungeonmaster and Trancers and the Lovecraft inspired, The Evil Clergyman. Band recently discovered a VHS tape of it a couple of years ago (apparently all 35mm elements are gone) and decided to remaster them for DVD.
In City Of Lost Angels Jack Deth is still in the mid-80s with his girlfriend, Leena (Helen Hunt) and they’ve opened up a detective agency but relationship-wise things are in the crapper. Leena dumps him. Back in Deth’s home timeframe a trained assassin with revenge on her mind escapes and heads to the 20th century to exact revenge upon Deth. All the main characters from the movie reprise their roles. The short film is widescreen but not formatted for widescreen televisions. It looks a little rough, but it’s definitely watchable.
Rounding out this package is a ‘Still Gallery’ of PR shots, behind-the-scenes photos, posters and comic book covers. This was a pretty good blu-ray with all the right amount of features to satisfy most Trancers fans. The only thing it was missing was Helen Hunt. I wish they could have gotten her for the commentary or even an interview.
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