Trancers II: The Return of Jack Deth Blu-ray Review
Directed by Charles Band
Written by Jackson Barr
1991, Region A, 85 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on December 15th, 2014
Tim Thomerson as Jack Deth
Helen Hunt as Lena Deth
Megan Ward as Alice
Biff Manard as Hap Ashby
Richard Lynch as Dr. Wardo
Martine Beswick as Nurse Trotter
Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Pyle
Barbara Crampton as Sadie Branch
Art La Fleur as McNulty
Alyson Croft as (Young) McNulty
For anyone unfamiliar with the Trancers franchise, the premise is pretty cool but requires a bit of explaining. Jack Deth is a twenty-third century cop on a mission to stop an army of bizarre zombie-like creatures called Trancers. When criminal mastermind and Trancer leader Whistler figures out a way to travel back in time using the consciousness of his ancestors, Jack follows him to 1985 to prevent the murder of a man named Hap Ashby, a crime that will radically alter the future. Our hero teams with a twentieth-century fox named Lena, and together they defeat Whistler and save the world. Jack opts to stay in the past with Lena and live happily ever after. Unfortunately for our fictional hero, the film was a success that spawned four sequels, so his ability to simply enjoy a relaxing afternoon is frequently compromised.
Los Angeles, 1991: It has been six years since Jack Deth defeated the Trancers and my man is restless. Life has been good for the semi-retired future cop as he settles into married life with his sweetheart Lena. They are currently living at Ashby's estate, so Jack can watch over his old friend, whose survival is still vital in the order of future events. When the grounds come under attack it is discovered that Whistler had a brother named E.D. Wardo, who has returned to the twentieth century to assemble a new army of Trancers from the ranks of California's homeless population. Complicating matters further is the arrival of Alice, a fellow Trancer hunter... and Jack's twenty-third century wife! Mayhem ensues as the Deth family battles domestic issues and monsters from the future.
Charles Band (The Gingerdead Man) returns to the director's chair and it feels like he never left. It had been six years since he made the original Trancers, but the look and feel of this sequel perfectly meshes and fans of the series will appreciate the continuity. Not as strong as the first movie, but still entertaining, Band successfully navigates the weaker elements of the script by Jackson Barr (Body Chemistry), while stumbling only during some of the larger action set-pieces. The low-budget workarounds are frequently charming, particularly in the clumsy blocking of fights that play as if staged in slow motion but not always filmed that way - a case in point coming in the finale during an awkwardly-paced shootout that includes a bathtub tractor pull where urgency is expressed more through walking than running.
Trancers II reunites many names from the original film and all are welcome. Quintessential tough guy Tim Thomerson (Uncommon Valor) owns the role of Jack Deth and dares viewers to take their eyes off of him. Every scene is improved by his presence and it is a shame he doesn't get more mainstream work. The always likeable Helen Hunt (Next of Kin) returns as Lena, who keeps Jack grounded as a symbol of what is most important to him, but also gets to show off her comic timing in a few scenes. Also returning in smaller roles are Art La Fleur (The Blob) as McNulty and Biff Manard as Ashby. In a particularly nice touch, young McNulty is again played by Alyson Croft, now a teenager.
New to the team is Megan Ward (Freaked) as Jack's once and future wife Alice. She brings a lot of energy to the picture and is given much to do working with both our heroes and the intimidating villain. E.D Wardo is played by the inimitable Richard Lynch (Bad Dreams) with a quiet malice that builds to the action-packed finale. Along for the ride but with less to do are genre favorites Jeffrey Combs (Doctor Mordrid) and Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) as an evil henchman and media personality respectively. Martine Beswick (Thunderball) strikes an imposing figure as Nurse Trotter, but Lynch does all of the heavy lifting for the villains.
Oddly, this is not the first sequel to feature Jack and Lena Deth, as the 1987 anthology Pulse Pounders featured the short film Trancers: City of Lost Angels (included on the Trancers Blu-ray release), but due to behind-the-scenes squabbles involving issues with copyright, the companion piece/sequel remained mostly unseen for twenty-five years. The events of Lost Angels occur before Trancers II, giving its recent appearance a nice time-capsule vibe to the franchise. Band's attention to detail bridging these two follow-ups without alienating audiences is appreciated and I look forward to seeing what kinds of shenanigans our heroes get into in Trancers III.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, there's a pun here somewhere about the strength of this “trancefer”, but suffice it to say the picture looks amazing for a low-budget '90s action flick. Colors are strong and there is a nice level of detail, particularly in close-ups that offer surprising clarity.
Both a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as a 2.0 presentation are offered, with the latter appearing both muted and murky. The surround mix fares better for the dialogue levels and benefits from some expanded music cues, but remains primarily a center channel showcase.
Charles Band, Tim Thomerson and the wonderful Megan Ward sit down for an engaging audio commentary track, and the three are clearly having a blast as they revisit this old favorite. Their banter is both amusing and informative and while I don't know if it is intentional or not, my favorite part involves their frequent errors when mistakenly linking supporting actors to famous films.
Next up is the classic Videozone (9 minutes) featurette that serves as an extended EPK with members of the cast and crew promoting their new film with laughs and compliments. While essentially a fluff piece that returns from the earliest VHS release, it is a nice addition here.
A surprisingly lengthy gag reel (7 minutes) offers a collection of the usual flubbed lines and actors making goofy faces, but about five minutes in there is a nice section devoted to watching members of the crew at work.
A gallery of production stills offers another glimpse at the making of the film and how it was marketed.
Rounding things out is a collection of trailers for Trancers II and additional Full Moon features.
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