Saturday, 15 November 2014

Trancers (1985)

Jack Deth is back and he's never been here before! 
Quite possibly the epitome of all that was good about the direct-to-video revolution of the mid 1980s, Charles Band's quasi TERMINATOR/BACK TO THE FUTURE ripoff is as evocative of that decade as the movies of Cameron & Zemeckis. But on a lower budget. Much, much lower. Coming out on UK VHS on the classic Entertainment In Video label (a mark of not so much quality as quirkiness it has to be said) TRANCERS was one of a series of Band epics that kept teenagers of that era enthralled and entertained with their comic-book storylines, fun character acting, decent Richard Band music scores and (ahem) brief running time. 

       Charles Band, Empire Pictures, and Entertainment In Video were an important part of the exploitation scene back then, and for many of us SF & horror-hungry fans of the era, films like TRANCERS, ELIMINATORS and ROBOT HOLOCAUST helped while away many a dull Sunday afternoon when the only alternatives in the video shop were versions of VIDEODROME where you didn't even get to see Barry Convex explode or HALLOWEEN III with all the best bits cut out. Of all of them, TRANCERS was probably the best, and now 88 Films, the natural successor to Entertainment in Video if there ever was one, is about to bring it out on Blu-ray.

In the year 2247 Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson doing his Chandleresque best) is a cop pursuing a villain called Whistler (Michael Stefani), who has the ability to ‘trance’ weak-willed humans and turn them into crazed zombies who do his bidding. When Whistler travels in time back to 1985 and starts bumping off the relatives of the future High Council, Deth follows in an attempt to stop him and bring him back to his own time. 

TRANCERS is a lot of time-travelling fun, benefiting from good performances (especially Thomerson, who gives it his all, and Helen Hunt in an early role as his girfriend), a crisp and witty script from Danny Bilson and Paul de Meo, and a minimalist but bouncy action music score from British composers Mark Ryder and Phil Davies. Some of the set pieces are inspired (“There’s trouble at the North Pole!”) and everything moves along at a fine clip. It’s probably Charles Band’s best film as a director, even if, like so many of his pictures, it barely qualifies as a feature, having a running time near the 75 minute mark.

But the fun doesn’t end there. One of the extras on the disc is TRANCERS: CITY OF LOST ANGELS, aka TRANCERS 1.5. A previously ‘lost’ 25 minutes segment of the aborted anthology movie PULSE POUNDERS, TRANCERS 1.5 is also included, with pretty much all the same team back on board. Watch them back to back for 100 minutes of superb low-budget 1980s SF fun.
As well as the short, 88 Films’ Blu-ray includes a commentary track from Tim Thomerson, who remembers everything, and Charles Bans, who’s rather sweary. There’s also a short making of with Thomerson, Band, and the screenwriters; some brief archival interviews, a bit of rough footage from one of the DUNGEONMASTER movies, trailers for all five / six TRANCERS films, a rough-looking trailer for the original PULSE POUNDER films, and the ever-fun 88 Trailer Park. There’s a reversible sleeve and booklet notes as well. Overall it’s a hugely entertaining package that, with a fine 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer, TRANCERS 1.5, and all the extras represents excellent value for money.
TRANCERS is one of the best films of its kind, and 88 Films’ Blu-ray release is THE very best release ever of TRANCERS. Jack Deth is back - and he’s never looked so good. 

88 Films are releasing Charles Band's TRANCERS on Blu-ray on 24th November 2014. If you're reading this from the future you'll already know how good it looks. 

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