Trancers

“Dry hair’s for squids.”

Last week on my Google Plus page, I put up a trivia question and then realized I had neglected to give the answer. Silly me.

Well, if you’re reading this then you know the answer. That’s right….the movie quote was from Trancers. What? you’ve never hear of  Trancers? If you haven’t, you’ve really missed one of the those little sci-fi gems that, sometimes, get lost in the straight to video market.

I was going to post this straight to my G+  stream but, the more I got to typing, the longer it got and I then figured it might make for a good blog post. ‘Good’ being a relative term, I guess.

Trancers came out around 1985 and starred character actor  Tim Thomerson, who I remembered (don’t ask me how) from the old 70’s t.v. Quark, as Jack Deth….yes, you read that right. Deth. Anyway, Jack Deth was a cop (or ‘trooper’) in Angel City (old Los Angeles) in the year 2254. He’s a ‘hunter’ of sorts. He hunts the weak-willed people who have fallen under the sway of futuristic cult leader “Whistler”.  These weak-willed are then turned into ‘Trancers’. Apparently they look ‘normal’ until activated….then they become zombified, homicidal, killing machines willing to do the evil Whistler’s bidding.

Well, it seems that Whistler has found a way to go “down the line” or time travel, as we’d call it. To help ensure his plans to take over the future (his present), he’s decided to kill off the ancestors of  The Council, Angel City’s ruling body responsible for helping rebuild after some sort of terrible disaster that we’re never really told about or I just don’t remember if they mentioned it. My guess is that it had something to do with part of California falling into the sea. The Council thinks that the best way to bring Whistler back to their time period is to send the man who’s been hunting his minions and ‘singeing’ them….Jack Deth.

Now for the big twist! O.k, it wasn’t that big…but still…

It seems that, in 2254, the only way to time travel (at least in the first film) was to send your consciousness back to inhabit the body of a blood ancestor by injecting special drugs (those barbarians!). The problem comes in when it’s revealed that Whistler’s relative, in 1985, is the chief of police and well-respected. Deth’s relative, on the other hand, is a writer named Phil. Jack is sent back to make sure that The Council’s remaining ancestors aren’t killed and to bring Whistler back to stand trial.

I won’t go into the plot but, I will say, it’s surprisingly good for a movie with a budget of only around $400,000.00 and they had some neat ideas about the future and time travel.

Without giving away too much, here are a few interesting tidbits about this flick:

  • Besides Thomerson, a few of the other stars of this little movie were Helen Hunt (before hitting it big on Mad About You) , Telma Hopkins (of Tony Orlando and Dawn as well as Family Matters fame), as well as great character actors Richard Herd and Art LaFleur.
  • While I don’t really follow fashion in my own time period, I always though it was interesting that the year 2254’s fashion sense was a strange meld of the 1940s and the 1980. Hats were back for the menfolk

  • The fact that part of California had fallen into the sea was reflected in the slang of the day. Weak people were “squids” and, upon finding out the his ancestor, Phil, had more than one woman ‘on the hook’, Jack calls Phil a “shark”. He also mentions, as they drive by Mann’s Chinese Theater, that he used to swim by there.
  • Supposedly, the only relative in 1985 that Jack’s boss from the future, McNulty had, was an annoying little girl. She mentions having to sneak past her parents to get out, so I always wondered why McNulty couldn’t jump into one of the parents….unless she was adopted, or something.  The same actress reprised her role for Trancer’s II.
  • This was the first of six Trancers films. All were direct to video.
  • Renown sci-fi/comic book writer Peter David wrote Trancers 4: Deth of Swords.
  • In later Trancers installments, they figured out how to send actual bodies ‘down the line’…probably for easier plotting.
  • Trancers was the debut screenplay for Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo who later went on to write the The Rocketeer and then The Flash, for t.v.

I think next to the Dr. Strange inspired, cult classic, Dr. Mordid, Trancers ranks up there as one of my all time favorite “B” movie. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s a very fun movie to grab a bag of popcorn and a Coke, kick your feet up, and watch. You can catch it on Netflix Streaming as well as on YouTube (for free!)

And, always remember Trooper, dry hair’s for squids.

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