The Film (3/5)
Trancers is Full Moon's epic sci-fi franchise. The first entry in the series follows future police detective Jack Deth, as he goes down the line (travels back in time) 300 years, and takes over his ancestors body in an attempt to arrest master criminal the Whistler, who is attempting to assassinate the ancestors of members of Angel City's Crime Council. In the process he will take weak minded individuals, and transfer them into zombie-minded entities to do his violent bidding, these creatures are known as Trancers. It's up to Jack Deth, and his soon to be girlfriend punk rocker Leena (Helen Hunt) to prevent Whistler from committing the assassinations.
Trancers is technically speaking an Empire Pictures Film whose sequels would be produced early on in the lifecycle of Charles Band's next company Full Moon. The first film is a fairly interesting low budget sci-fi affair with some stand out performances from Thomerson and a young Helen Hunt. However, unlike most film series this is one that improves with subsequent sequels.
That is the interesting thing about many of early Empire/Full Moon endeavors including Subspecies and Puppet Master. The early films in the franchises were quite good, but for the most part were not essential classics, they tended to become truly excellent early on in their sequel lifespan. This is counter to most films whose quality tends to diminish over time. I will say that this did not remain the case, as I will not make the claim that Retro Puppet Master is even close to the quality of Puppet Master 2 or 3.
That is not to say Trancers is a bad film, it is in it's own way a very good film. It has a rough film noir atmosphere coating the whole affair (right down to the main character's Mickey Spillane-esque name). The film is quite dark at times, but also fun, and moves along at a nice brisk pacing never allowing the viewer to get bored. The opening scene in the Angel City diner is one of the great Empire/Full Moon opening sequences, and is still playing through my head days later, and the Trancers and Whistler themselves although slightly on the 2-Dimensional side of villainhood chew quite a bit of scenery, and are fun to watch.
The Blu-ray release courtesy of Full Moon also includes the long lost Trancers 1.5 City of Lost Angels. It is a short piece included with the extras (and is letterboxed widescreen with black bars all around the VHS sourced image), that continues 3 years after the films conclusion with an assassin going back down the line with the sole purpose of assassinating Jack Deth. It also stars Thomerson and Hunt, mostly takes place in one apartment, and has quite a bit more humor to it than the original feature. It was originally going to be part of the Empire Anthology feature Pulse Pounders with Evil Clergyman and Dungeon Master II.
Trancers is presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer preserving the films original aspect ratio. The film certainly looks a bit rough, but is most definitely an upgrade to anyone who purchased the previous DVD (which is considered a notoriously bad DVD release, transferred from a LaserDisc source with an flip notice in the middle). The film has decent detail, nice colors, and and a healthy level of film grain throughout. There is some softness throughout the film, some black crush is noticeable, but overall it's mostly pleasing to the eye.
Aside from the inclusion of Trancers 1.5, we also get a commentary with Tim Thomerson, and Charles Band, archival interviews, a documentary on the making of the film by those cats at Ballyhoo Pictures (they made the Synapse-Hammer docs), and Full Moon Trailers. Seriously, almost anything Trancers you could want is here.
Trancers is a fun first entry in an excellent series of low budget sci-fi films from Empire/Full Moon. The Blu-ray is quite the upgrade from the old DVD, and the extras are quite significant. RECOMMENDED.