Friday, March 21, 2014

Worth Mentioning - Put Your Trust In Deth

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody sees what may have never been seen.


In the late '80s, Full Moon Features head Charles Band had the idea to produce a series of anthology films called Pulse Pounders. Each entry in the Pulse Pounders series would consist of three 30 minute short film follow-ups to a feature his film company had previously had success with. The first edition of Pulse Pounders was set to feature The Evil Clergyman, a spiritual successor to Re-Animator given that both were H.P. Lovecraft adaptations starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, and David Gale; a segment that would act as a sequel to the 1984 sci-fi fantasy The Dungeonmaster, a.k.a. Ragewar; and a segment starring cop from the future Jack Deth, the hero of the Trancers series.

Unfortunately, Band's Empire company shut down before Pulse Pounders could be completed. The entire film had been shot, but there was still a lot of post-production work left to be done. Worse, the negative was lost. For many years, it seemed like fans of the people and franchises involved would never get to see any of these stories... But then, a VHS copy of the Pulse Pounders workprint rough cut was unearthed. After going through a painstaking completion and restoration process, both The Evil Clergyman and the Trancers segments have been released on DVD individually, with the Dungeonmaster segment to follow.

Trancers: City of Lost Angels - also referred to as "Trancers 1.5" these days - picks up three years after the events of the first Trancers film. In the year 2250 (presumably), Angel City Trooper McNulty is overseeing the routine transfer of an incarcerated prisoner from an earthbound prison to an eighty year sentence of solitary confinement orbiting in an asteroid belt. Generally this job would be beneath an officer of McNulty's standing, but it's believed he's the only man qualified to handle this prisoner - trained assassin Edlin Shock, a woman who is still so dangerous that she managed to kill thirteen fellow prisoners and injure two guards in a fight over a pack of cigarettes.

It's no surprise, then, that Shock escapes during her transfer. She doesn't go far physically - just to the facility's medical bay - but she makes it very far in mind. In the world of Trancers, there's a sort of time travel called going "down the line", in which a person's consciousness can be sent into the past to inhabit the body of an ancestor. Angel City Trooper Jack Deth travelled back to 1985 in this way in the first movie, and has remained in the past ever since. With the threat of violence, Shock forces technician Ruthie Raines to send her back down the line as well...

In five years of imprisonment, Shock has only said two words. The name of the cop who put her away. Jack Deth. McNulty knows that she's out for revenge, so he follows her down the line to 1988, where the tough guy cop must inhabit the mind of a thirteen-year-old female ancestor as he attempts to save Deth from death.

Three years into life in the past, Deth has set himself up as a private detective (as he would in Trancers III) and is still with Leena, the punk rocker turned responsible adult that he hooked up with when he arrived in 1985. Things aren't going well for Deth in the relationship or business departments, and now he has to deal with the arrival of McNulty and the fact that they have no idea who Shock may be in 1988. She destroyed the records before going down the line... anyone who shows up at Deth's apartment could be his killer...

Directed by Band from a screenplay by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, the writers of Trancers, and with Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Art LaFleur, Alyson Croft, and Thelma Hopkins all reprising their roles from the 1985 feature, City of Lost Angels is a very entertaining short.

As in each of the films, the actors all do well in their roles. Thomerson was always awesome as Jack Deth, LaFleur had some of his best moments as McNulty in this, and Croft was always impressive, especially given her age, as the little girl version of the trooper.

It's been twelve years since the release of Trancers 6 and Tim Thomerson hasn't been in the role of Jack Deth since 1994's Trancers 5, so it's great to see another entry in the Trancers series after all this time, and particularly great that this short was unearthed after being presumed lost forever.

The age of the short adds to its charm. This was made in the '80s heyday, shot on film, with some wonderful, colorful cinematography by the late, great Mac Ahlberg. It's a fantastic blast from the past to see these actors and characters as they were, Thomerson as Deth at his prime, in a short that looks like this. More than any of the other Trancers sequels, it truly feels like a return to the same world of the original movie. Even the long second watch is brought back, and is put to a much different use than ever before.

The picture is a little grainy and dirty, but when you take into account that it's sourced from a VHS copy of a workprint, it really looks good.

The story is a great set-up, and something like this could have even sustained a full feature, which I would have loved to have seen suddenly appear out of 1988, but as it is, it makes for a breezy and fun 25 minute extension of the Trancers franchise.

Now, back to the wait for Trancers 7...

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