Starring: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt
Director: Charles Band
One of the most beloved of Charles Band’s movies, Trancers (1984) concerns a tough cop from the future, name of Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), who has to go back “down the line” in time to ’80s LA to track down a cult leader and mass murderer who has the power to bend people to his will and turn them into zombies. The time travel process involves having your mind inserted into the body of an ancestor. As it so happens, the ancestor in question has just had a one night stand with a girl named Lena (Helen Hunt), who quickly finds herself deputized to help.
There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s an extremely low budget affair, but if you can roll with that, then Trancers is a real charmer, with a smart, taut script and an engagingly long-suffering hero. The dialogue and look of the film have a knowingly hardboiled, neo noir quality and there’s an easy interplay between the craggy Thomerson and the fresh-faced Hunt. This transfer is just a little soft but very clean, with no dirt or grain, and the neon hues of the future scenes come up very nicely, as does the rather lovely early beach scene, with its matte of an LA three-quarters submerged underwater.
Turning to the extras, there’s a 14-minute “making of” with some very lively contributions from the scriptwriters, who talk about the origins of the screenplay and the casting. There are also 2 minutes’ worth of contemporary interviews, worth looking at to see Thomerson acting all hyper (was his slightly manic personality on set one of the reasons why his career as a leading man never quite progressed as it should have?).
You also get a very nice bonus in the form of City of Lost Angels, a 24-minute two-reeler intended to be one third of an anthology movie called Pulse Pounders. This was never completed and now only exists in a rough cut on VHS tape, the original negative having been lost. It’s a fun, semi-farcical story about an assassin who goes back in time to kill Jack, who is slacking off in LA. Packing a lot into its short running time, it features plenty of good lines and a welcome return for Baby McNulty, Jack’s pint-sized boss. Inevitably, the picture is only standard def, but most fans will be absolutely delighted to have it in any shape or form. In addition, there’s a 7-minute piece in which Charles Band explains the background to the Pulse Pounders project. All in all, a lovely release for fans of this low budget classic.