Those pesky black bars on the screen! Remember when DVDs started coming out in widescreen format and everyone from your next-door neighbor (with all the junk in their backyard) to your Dad was bitching about them? Leave it up to cinema master Martin Scorses to shame the masses when he said “watching a film in full screen is like looking at Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Supper’ with only four disciples!” This is the same sentiment I feel when discussing the Trancer series from Full Moon Features, starring the legend of all Herculian gods (we’re not worthy) Tim Thomerson. You cannot just talk about one in the series without discussing the full saga of future cop Jack Deth… unless you are one of those zombie body invaders who include Trancer VI on your dusty DVD shelves (for shame on you!).
Yes, we know it’s not Blade Runner. Yes, we know it had a low budget. Yes, we know Helen hunt went on to be a megastar. None of that matters. What makes the first five Trancers fun is the filmmakers know all of this and are having a blast making them! Tim Thomerson was a west coast comedian who has a strikingly similar feel to Harrison Ford, but unlike Grumpy Ford hating on the tan shirts and blaster (Han shot first), Thomerson thrives in the career-defining role and acts like it. Trancers is like taking the original cut of Blade Runner, Splicing in some zombies from Night of the Living Dead, and baking it with the lemon zest of rock & roll B-level filmmaking! However, the greatest to come from the first film is there are four other adventures of our hero escaping the realities of Deth (yes, I said four, NOT FIVE!). Band and company landed on a simple formula with the first film and made the smartest decision not to re-tread the same territory (until #VI), thus opening the story arc on many different levels.
As for the plot of the films, they do what is best for all franchises, which is to make each a contained film in that you don’t have to watch the rest to enjoy, but why would anyone do that (unless it’s the sixth one, in which you can avoid)? The basic concept of the series is a future cop (a.k.a title for the film in different markets) Jack Deth is a Trancer cop who kills zombie-like beings from the past, present, and sometimes future. As the series goes on we get Deth traveling back and forth through different times. Whether Deth is in a shopping mall in 1984, in a future war in 2300, or a castle in the 1640s, you can always count on Deth to cheat death! The Trancers series was the best kind of relic from the ma-and-pa video store. If you rented the first one and lavished the wild ride, you gushed there were four more to rent (there was one more at the end, but we don’t talk about that one).
If you grew up at the video store in the 90s, you know who Charles Band and Full Moon Features are, but we can all thank them for such a plethora of great, cheap films which featured some amazing cover art for the VHS era. Fun little note, there are technically 6.5 films in the series, as Band made the short Trancers: City of Lost Angels for an uncompleted anthology movie (still better than Trancers VI, which is not hard to beat). You can find all of the films in the series (including the one that shall not be named ever again) online at fullmoondirect.com, Band’s streaming service, but can also be seen with commercials on Tubi and without on Prime. So, take the serum to transport you to a distant uncle in the past, deep fry some fish from the temporal water, and enjoy the entire toa of Deth (except the last one, of course).