Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Retro Review: TRANCERS (1984)

Welcome to another installment of RETRO REVIEW where we take a look at films made before the year 2000. Today, I will be reviewing the 1984 Full Moon Production's top cult favorite film, TRANCERS!

I'm not going to lie, I love the Trancers series of movies from Full Moon Productions. The love affair began with the very first Trancers film back in 1984 and the introduction of the main character, the handsome and sarcastic Jack Deth.  

Trancers starts out in the future year of 2247 with the hero, Jack Deth (Timothy Thomerson) headed into a diner late at night as he ruminates to himself - as a means to set up the basic premise of the plot - “Last January, I finally singed Martin Whistler out on one of the rim planets. Since then, I've been hunting down the last of his murdering cult. We call them Trancers: slaves to Whistler's psychic power. Not really alive, not dead enough. It's July now, and I'm tired. Real tired.”

‘Singing’ a trancer or a person is done with a futuristic weapon that not only kills, but disintegrates the body into nothing but ash. Sort of reminiscent of The Invaders.

After a battle with a little old lady who has been ‘trancerized’ by Whistler, Jack Deth turns in his badge and walks away from it all thinking it’s over. His retirement doesn’t last long as his boss, McNulty (Art La Fleur) tracks Deth down on a beach in Angel City and tells him Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani) is still alive and has gone ‘down the line’ to wipe out the ancestors of the highest government officials. Meanwhile, the last two council members have discovered where Whistler's body was hidden and have brought it back to the official transfer facility.

Going ‘down the line’ means transferring a future person’s consciousness into the body of a direct relative in the past. The past in this case being 1985.

At the transfer facility, the council members, Chairman Spencer (Richard Herd) and Chairman Ashe (Anne Seymour), want to keep Whistler’s body so that he can be turned in to stand trial when he comes back up the line.  Jack Deth disagrees and ‘Singes’ the body of Whistler so that the evil, power hungry man cannot return to the future in his own body.  The beautiful Engineer Raines (Telma Hopkins) gives Jack a 20th century handgun that also contains real ammunition and two doses of transfer serum to bring him and Whistler back (presumably in the body of someone related to him). She also gives him a special watch that can create a ‘long second’.

A ‘long second’ is where the watch makes one second of time to appear as 10 seconds in which Jack Deth moves at normal speed and the rest of the world around him will have appeared to stop.

“Security, we’ve got trouble at the North Pole!”

Yes, in keeping with the theme here at Merc With A Movie Blog, the ‘in the past’ portion of Trancers takes place around Christmas time!  Jack has ‘gone down the line’ and into the body of his ancestor named Phil, a news reporter, and finds himself in Phil’s apartment with the lovely Leena (Helen Hunt in one of her first roles).  

Leena is getting dressed as one of Santa’s elves for her job at the local shopping wall. Jack Deth follows her to where she is taking pictures of kids with a man dressed as Santa Claus (Peter Schrum).  The mall Santa just happens to be the very first triggered ‘trancer’ that Jack meets in 1985. Epic struggle ensues between Deth and the killer Santa.  Santa isn’t Jack’s only problem. Whistler’s ancestor is Detective Weisling and he has a police force at his disposal. Jack is unable to protect Chairman Spencer’s ancestor, so he must focus on saving Chairman Ashes’ ancestor, a once famous and now washed up baseball player name Hap Ashby (Biff Manard).

Trancers was written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo and directed by Charles Band. The special effects are somewhat cheesy, but the plot is well paced and the dialog is well written.

What turned Trancers into one of the most popular cult movies, and helped to establish Charles Band as a figure in the genre is the chemistry between the actors, be it Jack Deth and the future McNulty or the past McNulty. Who, in the form of a ten-year old girl (Alyson Croft) carries on the same essence of the character.  Helen Hunt and Timothy Thomerson have a slick, strong interaction reminiscent of the noir of the thirties and forties. Biff Manard plays the drunken Hap Ashby with realism: mainly because he was actually drunk during filming.

Trancers is a fun, scifi/action movie from the eighties that stands the test of time with its story, its characters and wild ride action sequences.  Tough guy Jack Deth is right up there with the best of the action hero characters of the eighties!

Marla’s Score: 9/10

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