Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Film Appreciation - Deth Lives, a Muthuh of a Sequel

Cody Hamman's Film Appreciation for 1992's Trancers III is a level ten high.

It was Christmas season 1985 when Trooper Jack Deth travelled back "down the line" from the future in pursuit of Trancer-creating cult leader Martin Whistler in the first Trancers film. Now it's 1992, 'tis the season again but Deth isn't in a celebratory mood for his eighth Christmas in the past. He has started his own private investigation company since we last saw him, a dirty job dealing with sleazeballs, and his marriage  has disintegrated to the brink of divorce.

Deth makes a desperate plea to his wife Lena over the phone to give him another chance, and she agrees to meet him for dinner. But it's a dinner he'll never make it to.

A hulking, fin-headed android called Shark arrives from the future in a time machine called a TCL Chamber, an upgraded version from the one we saw in Trancers II. Shark finds Deth, knocks him out, and drags him back to the future... And there's a continuity problem here, because in the first movie we were told that Deth was from the year 2247. Six years passed before the events of part 2, so then he was in contact with cohorts from 2253. Now we're told that Deth is from around 2360, Shark takes him to 2352, but despite this 99 year jump Deth's former wife Alice Stillwell and his techie pal Raines are much the same as they were in the previous sequel when he joins them in the future. It's a flub no one caught or cared about apparently.

Alice and Raines may look the same, but their situation is dire. A full-on Trancer war is being waged in 2352, and Deth's fellow Trooper McNulty, a character from the previous two movies, is among the casualties. Alice and a man named Harris, McNulty's replacement, give Deth his new mission: the only way to wipe out the Trancers once and for all is to go back in time and stop them at their original source. Despite what the first movie may have led us to believe, Martin Whistler was not the creator of the Trancers. The records on where they truly originated from have long been lost, but Deth has an in with the journalist who first reported on them: Lena.

As it turns out, Trancers were first uncovered in 2005. They're the result of a secret military program, an attempt to chemically create the perfect soldiers and form an elite fighting group, based out of a bunker hidden below a strip club and headed up by a slimy creep called Colonel "Daddy" Muthuh. Young men and women who volunteer to take part go through a multiple level series of injections that enhance their strength, pain threshold, and aggression. When they get really amped up, they trance out and go on a rampage.

With the aid of a soldier who escaped from the program and Lena, who has moved on, gotten married and had a daughter in the thirteen years since Deth disappeared from her life (and since Jack originally travelled back in time by having his consciousness sent into the body of an ancestor named Phillip Deth, whose body he was eventually stuck in, it does raise the question of how the Deth name carried on for a couple hundred more years if Jack and Lena didn't have a kid together... but that issue will be dealt with in a different sequel), Deth does his best to destroy Muthuh's set-up and stop the future from becoming a Trancer-ruled wasteland.

Trancers III was written and directed by C. Courtney Joyner, popular among Full Moon fans for his screenwriting work on Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. Joyner might have played fast and loose with the Trancers continuity and timeline, but in doing so he also delivered an excellent sequel that makes the question of which do I like better, part 1 or part 3, a hard one to answer.

Part 3 was my first exposure to the series, when I caught the final minutes on cable one night in the early '90s. It looked awesome to me - Deth was fighting the Trancer forces in the underground bunker, Tim Thomerson seemed cool in the role, and his android sidekick Shark (that's Texas Chainsaw Massacre III's Leatherface R.A. Mihailoff under the makeup) seemed like a fun character. That brief glimpse into the series ensured that one day I would be watching all of these movies. When I finally did get to watch the full movie, I found out for sure: Trancers III is pretty great.

As with part 2, all of the actors whose characters return in this sequel came back to reprise their roles. Thomerson, Megan Ward, Telma Hopkins. Most impressive is that Helen Hunt returned to play Lena for a couple scenes. She was already working on the sitcom Mad About You at this point, a show that became a hit, ran for seven seasons, and put her firmly in the mainstream. As far as she knew, Trancers III was going to cap the franchise off as a trilogy, and she wanted to be there for the end, a nice show of loyalty to her humble roots. The series would continue on, but Hunt being in 3 allows her character to be properly written out with a nice goodbye moment.

Actor Don Dowe (Evil Toons) also returns, but I'd say that the out-of-control Trancer soldier he plays in this film is a different character than the orderly he played in part 2.

Among the newcomers are Stephen Macht (the father in The Monster Squad) as Harris, Melanie Smith as the helpful R.J., Halloween II (1981)'s Hunter von Leer as a Senator, Dawn Ann Billings and Tony Pierce as Muthuh lackeys Jana and Mister Jason, and Andrew Robinson, whose credits include Dirty Harry, Cobra, and Child's Play 3, as Colonel Muthuh himself.

Robinson gives the sort of fantastic scumbag villain performance that is expected from him, and since his character has his followers call him "Daddy", at one point, the skeeziest moment possible, he even gets to repeat his famous line from Hellraiser: "Come to Daddy." Viewers proceed to grimace, shudder, and/or vomit.

No comments:

Post a Comment