Film Review: Trancers (1984, dir. Charles Band)


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Back in the 1990’s there was a show on TNT that would play cult films. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was like what TCM Underground is today. I’m pretty sure that’s where I first saw The Warriors (1979), and it introduced me to Trancers. I fell in love with it. I loved the music so much that even though there was no chance I could find it, I had my parents take me to all sorts of places trying to find the soundtrack. That never panned out. Although, the music is still so burned in my mind that when I watched the horrible Savage Island (1985) this year, I recognized the music. And sure enough, Mark Ryder and Phil Davies composed the music for that movie too. They ripped themselves off. But enough of my personal backstory.

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In typical film noir fashion, we are introduced to Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) and the setup of the film in voiceover narration as he enters a diner at night. Deth is a cop in the future who just finished “singeing” Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani). Whistler uses psychic powers to enslave people and turn them into what are known as Trancers. Hence the title. There are two people in the diner. A man sitting at the counter and an old lady behind it. After ordering some coffee, he checks the guy using a special bracelet to see if he’s a Trancer. Nope, but watch out cause here comes the old lady.

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After taking a knife to the leg, Deth defeats her and her body disappears in a burning red light. That’s how all the Trancers die. Then Deth’s superior McNulty (Art LaFleur) shows up. He tries to give Deth some lip about Trancer hunting being out of bounds for him. Deth does what Bogart would have done. He gets in his car, tosses his badge out the window, and drives off. McNulty tells us that Deth was a good cop till his wife was killed by a Trancer.

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Cut to a shot of what was Los Angeles, but now called Lost Angeles because it’s underwater. Deth likes going diving out there. McNulty and some other cops show up to tell him that the council needs him. Deth says “fuck them”, but there’s one more bit of information. Whistler is still alive. That gets his attention and he goes to meet with the council.

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The council was once made up of three people, but one of them and his children have disappeared. Here’s the deal. In the future, they have the ability to send you back in time, but you do it by possessing the body of one of your ancestors while your own body remains in the present. Whistler has “gone down the line” and killed off one of the ancestors of a council member. The remaining two council members ask Deth to go back in time to protect their ancestors and bring Whistler back to the present to stand trial. They have his body and are holding it for trial. Well, that is until they show Deth the body.

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Interesting side note. The two council members are played by Anne Seymour and Richard Herd. Anne Seymour goes all the way back to All The King’s Men (1949). Richard Herd is famous for several things, but probably best known for being some sort of long lost brother to Karl Malden. They really look similar.

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Deth is given a picture of Herd’s ancestor, a baseball card of Seymour’s ancestor, and two vials to be used to bring Deth and Whistler back to the future. Then Deth is injected and finds himself in the body of his ancestor Phillip Deth. Oh, they also sent him back with a special watch that gives him a “long second”. That’s what the film says stretches one second to ten, but in movie terms, it’s much much longer than ten seconds. What follows isn’t much plot wise. This movie is just a little over an hour long. But it’s the delivery that makes it fun. The funny lines. The references. The self aware B-Movie filmmaking. And of course, the boom mic popping in from the top of the screen here and there. So what’s first?

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Deth kills Santa Claus. When Deth first arrived he was in an apartment with Lena (Helen Hunt). She works at the mall with Santa. When Santa gets that look on his face, then it means only one thing in this movie: he’s a Trancer. After singeing him, he explains to Lena who he is and why he’s there. This is when we find out that trancing only works on “squids”. Earlier we also learned that dry hair is for squids. That’s why Deth put some stuff in his hair to slick it back. We also get one of my favorite lines ever.

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Now it’s on to the tanning salon where Herd’s ancestor works. This is where the movie references The Lady In The Lake (1947).

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This is also one of a couple of reference the film makes to itself. In the future, it’s July. In the present of the film, it’s Christmas, but it looks like they shot it in July. Well, anyways, too bad for Herd because his ancestor is already a Trancer. He tries to kill Deth by putting him in a tanning booth to burn him to death. Luckily, Lena comes to his rescue, but Whistler is waiting in the parking lot. You see while Deth’s ancestor is just some guy, Whistler’s ancestor is a cop and apparently his men are now Trancers.

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Thank goodness for that long second. But enough of what little action there is in this movie because it’s time for a long sequence of jokes. I can’t post them all, but this is probably my favorite.

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Now Deth is taken by Lena to a punk rock concert where the band is playing the worst version of Jingle Bells I’ve ever heard. But Deth does get to deck some guy who tries to harass Lena. And then three guys show up to fight Deth unsuccessfully.

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The guy in the middle puts Kid N’ Play to shame. After doing some hilarious dancing to the bad music, Deth almost gets laid. Well, I should be more specific. Jack Deth almost gets laid. Phillip Deth does get laid. McNulty shows up in the body of a little girl who happens to be his ancestor and brings Deth back to the present because obviously Herd is gone from the future. Deth convinces Seymour’s character that he can save her so she sends him back just in time to miss the sex.

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When Deth can’t find an episode of Peter Gunn on TV, he sees Whistler on the news saying he is going to institute some sort of program to “keep track of the homeless and protect the innocent.” Deth knows this means the ancestor he’s looking for is on “skid row”. This guy is named Hap Ashby (Biff Manard) and he used to be a pitcher. Now he’s a drunk. After consulting the three wise men, I mean the three homeless guys who call themselves the three kings, they then know where to look for Ashby.

The remainder of the film is quite short. They find Ashby. There’s a motorcycle chase. They harass Ashby about taking a shower and cleaning up. Then they set a trap for Whistler so we can have our climax.

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Whistler tries to throw her over the side of the building. Deth uses the long second and catches her after getting to the ground before she does. I love that during the slow motion sequence of the long second, the movie cuts not once, but twice to Ashby drinking.

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I also love that Ashby puts his pitching to good use to knock Whistler off the roof. By that I mean Whistler is hit by something, climbs out onto the ledge to dangle, then is hit again so he can fall. Seriously, you can basically see him climb out there on his own. It’s pretty funny.

With one of his vials to send people back to the future broken, he uses the remaining one to send Whistler back to nothingness and Deth remains in the past. He decides to stay with Lena since them being together is how he came into existence in the first place. The End.

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Well, not really because we get one final shot of McNulty as a little girl and there happens to be six more films in the Trancers franchise. It’s fair to say that I’m not very familiar with them so they’re going to be new to me too.

Let’s Get Buzzed With THE SWARM (Warner Brothers, 1978)


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The 1970s were the decade of the all-star disaster movie, and nobody made ’em like Irwin Allen. The Master of Disaster opened the floodgates for this genre with 1972’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, following quickly with the red-hot 1974 mega-hit THE TOWERING INFERNO. Soon Hollywood was unleashing one disaster film after another: EARTHQUAKE, AVALANCHE, SKYJACKED, and so on. But Allen was a sci-fi guy at heart, having made his mark with TV shows like LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, THE TIME TUNNEL, and LAND OF THE GIANTS. Combining the two seemed natural for Allen, so together with screenwriter Stirling Siliphant, they concocted THE SWARM.

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A missile base has been mysteriously attacked, killing the communications crew. General Slater (Richard Widmark) rides in on a chopper, leading the troops. Brad Crane (Michael Caine), a Ph D entomologist (studier of bugs), is on base for reasons unknown, so the General holds…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy 75th Birthday, Raquel Welch!


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

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One Million Years B.C. (1966)

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Myra Breckenridge (1970)

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Hannie Caulder (1971)

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Kansas City Bomber (1972)

Film Review: Nukie (1987, dir. Sias Odendal and Michael Pakleppa)


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Wow! I’ve watched and reviewed 60 Hallmark movies in a row. I then watched two more and started another one when I cracked. I’ll remember those two movies, but I need a break. So of course I watched Nukie! You know when you watch The Cinema Snob or AVGN, then you watch the movie or play the game and find out it’s not quite as bad as they made it seem. No, not here. Brad Jones wasn’t exaggerating about Nukie. Not at all.

So what is Nukie? It’s a message film chastising America while simultaneously begging for it’s help, but just being a total and complete mess of filmmaking instead. I really hope IMDb isn’t correct because it says that Nelson Mandela said this was one of his favorite films of 1988. I’m going to assume that must be wrong cause IMDb also says it premiered in South Africa in 1987, but based on the content, I think it’s probably true. Really really sad, but true.

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The movie begins with two flying lights in space. They are talking about what they call “the blue planet” as they fly over it. They are two aliens called Miko and Nukie. Miko is like a two year old who spotted something shiny because he gets too close and goes careening downwards. His brother Nukie chases after him. Nukie crashes in the middle of Africa and I kid you not, Miko appears to land at the front door of the “Space Foundation” that has things that say NASA inside it. I say this because Miko is instantly captured. By that I mean he is just wheeled in like he literally landed at their front door.

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This film gets stupid really quick. First, Steve Railsback’s character is introduced with this shot.

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He looks happy to be there doesn’t he? Did he even know they were filming him? The funniest thing is that they use that exact same shot later in the movie when they call him at home again. Well anyways, take a look at this.

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If you are going to watch Nukie, then you better get used to that shot because they will cut to it over and over again. Each time a voice that doesn’t match anyone in the lab will either tell you what is going on or that nothing is going on. Let’s get this over with.

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You see that shot there? That’s Nukie using the moon as some sort of satellite to communicate with Miko in the science lab. It’s the last time you will see him do that. No, I don’t mean the last time he talks to his brother, but the last time he will use the moon. After that, they just seem to be able to hear each other. The magic of inconsistent powers that plagues this film. Wonder if anyone involved in the production of Nukie worked on Heroes.

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Now Nukie knows that his brother is a prisoner of America, but he doesn’t know what that is. He asks a giraffe if it’s America. That’s the screenshot at the start of this review. In short order, Nukie runs into two little kids that are twins. This is the first time Nukie displays powers that apparently he can’t use to get to America. This time it’s to teleport. One moment he’s one place, and then suddenly next to the kids surprising them. Yet, you’ll see him walk throughout most of the movie. Considering this is a message movie, I’m sure it’s meant to match the many refugee marches that we have seen on the news. Hopefully, you haven’t actually been part of one. But I’m sure if you were and could teleport, then you would have used that handy ability instead of just walking. Not Nukie though. And this is just one of many powers Nukie will display.

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Yep, when Nukie sleeps, he becomes invisible. So we’ve seen teleportation and that he can become invisible. Yet, Miko isn’t teleporting and is completely visible while we are told he is in a deep sleep. While we are frustrated that Nukie isn’t using his powers to get to America, we are also left wondering why Miko isn’t escaping.

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Also, keep that shot in mind. Nukie says the “light beam transformer” is working again. Then he turns into the light he was at the beginning and flies around. Not to America mind you, but instead he lands somewhere near water.

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Nukie looks into the water and sees he looks like a pregnant bag of trash. Apparently, that’s news to him. So, in the horrible Highlander sequel, they become immortal when they come to Earth. In Nukie, they look like that. Bummer for them. Then this happens.

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Yep, no explanation how he got down there or how he is instantly on his feet again in a few seconds. However, we actually do get an explanation of what he was doing down there. Despite the fact that what we see happen is a storm in the nearby village, Nukie was down there causing earthquakes. Why? Who knows, but it gets him a reputation as a “bad god” by the villagers nearby. Not dumb enough for you yet? Don’t worry, there’s more. We now meet a talking monkey.

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The other monkeys/apes/whatever also talk. Of course Nukie asks them about America. They point him to the monkey above who lives with the humans. Oh, then Nukie freezes someone.

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I really wish a plane would fly over and dump massive numbers of Coke bottles on Nukie. No such luck, but there is plenty of product placement in this. Clearly we are meant to see these things in the science lab, then in Africa to see how the worst things about America are being brought to Africa. That, and there’s an ad for South African tomato sauce. Back in the science lab, Miko comes out to quote Scotty from Star Trek IV.

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This is when we really get introduced to EDDI. That’s the computer at the Space Foundation. It’s a weird weird computer. It can put Miko to sleep, it can make one of the scientists dance, it tries to hit on a lady named Pam, and at one point I swear Miko was giving it a hand job via the keyboard, but actually he was just giving it a heart. Of course, right after getting the heart, he hits on Pam. Meanwhile, back in Africa.

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Yep, don’t use that light transformation thing to save your brother, but go ahead and nearly kill people by trying to fly a chopper. That will certainly convince them you’re not a bad god. Especially after you used telekinesis to push over and explode pots. Oh, and at this point Railsback is in Africa to investigate Nukie and Glynis Johns is there as a missionary of sorts named Sister Anne. She was there at the beginning of the film. Honestly, they’re not important.

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Because that crap landed on there the way it did, and because Nukie has been acting like a jackass, the twins from earlier are banished into the wilderness. Something to do with an old legend about twins and bad gods. Who cares? We need Nukie to show more powers.

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After flying around for no good reason, and certainly not to reach America, Nukie lands and shoots a lightning bolt from his hand to start a fire for the kids. Then this happens.

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To help the kids sleep, Nukie goes into a dance number. He also does a fireworks display. But that’s not the dumbest part. No, no, no. This is where Nukie, who can’t fly to America, flies into space, around the moon, and back to to the kids.

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Meanwhile, back in the science lab.

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Really, once you see Nukie fly around the moon and that guy regress to childhood, you’re numb to the rest of the movie. After Sister Anne gives us a speech about the evils of Americanization, one of the kids is bit by a cobra. Unfortunately, his brother sucks out the poison. But fortunately, this happens.

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I love when the kid cries out “Nukie! Nukie! You killed my friend!” At this point you are crossing your fingers, but of course you don’t get your wish. This is when the film finally decides to wind things down, and it does it pretty fast. I will do the same.

Nukie is captured and nearly killed, but gets away. The twins are separated. One is in a hospital and the other is out and about. Nukie briefly stops at the hospital to heal the kid with his magic hand. Miko finally decides to do more than just talk to the computer and hides in a trashcan. Pam finds it and that stupid voice tells us the program was shut down and classified. Railsback goes back to Africa. At this point the one kid joins Nukie and they go on a final march to reach America. Nukie gets really tired and then Nukie finally does what we have been begging him to do all along. He tells the kid that the two of them can fly to America. Seriously, after almost 100 minutes, they finally use this power that has been paraded in front of our face the whole movie.

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They don’t reach America, but land on some beach, then Nukie seems to die. The boy makes a wish that everything will just magically resolve and it does. His mom, Sister Anne, Railsback, and Miko just show up on this random beach. With Nukie and Miko reunited it’s time for them to leave, right? Well, almost. I forgot to mention that the talking monkey also shows up on the beach. They take the talking monkey with them. THE END.

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If there is a worse E.T. ripoff film out there, then I’m really scared. I can’t even imagine that the E.T. porn films are more annoying than Nukie. Just a little gross.

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Film Review: Prime Time (1977, directed by Bradley R. Swirnoff)


Prime TimeThe great character actor Warren Oates appeared in a lot of fairly obscure movies but none are as obscure as Prime Time.

With a running time of barely 70 minutes, Prime Time is a comedic sketch film that was meant to capitalize on the then-recent success of The Groove Tube, Tunnelvision, The Kentucky Friend Movie, and the first season of Saturday Night Live.  According to the Unknown Movies Page, Prime Time was financed independently and was picked up for distribution by Warner Bros.  After the Warner execs saw the finished film, they decided it was unreleasable so the film’s production team sold the film to Cannon Pictures, who were famous for being willing to release anything.  The movie played in a few cities under the terrible title American Raspberry and then went straight to VHS obscurity.

Sketch comedies are usually hit-and-miss and Prime Time is definitely more miss than hit.  The majority of the film is made up of commercial parodies but, since most of the commercials being parodied are no longer on the air, the humor has aged terribly.  There is also a wrap-around story.  The President (George Furth) and a general (Dick O’Neill) try to figure out where the commercial parodies are coming from and stop them before the broadcast leads to a riot.   There are a few funny bits (including Harry Shearer as a stranded trucker looking for a ride and Kinky Friedman singing a song about “Ol’ Ben Lucas who has a lot of mucus”) but, for the most part, the film is epitomized by a skit where people literally get shit dumped on their head.  The film’s opens with an incredibly racist commercial for Trans Puerto Rican Airlines and it’s all downhill from there.

As for Warren Oates, he appears in an early skit.  He and Robert Ridgely (best known for playing Col. James in Boogie Nights) play hunters who take part in the Charles Whitman Celebrity Invitational, climbing to the top of the Tower on the University of Texas campus and shooting at the people below.  It’s even less funny now than it probably was in 1977.

How did Warren Oates end up in a movie like Prime Time?  Even great actors have bills to pay.  As for Prime Time, it is the one Warren Oates film that even the most dedicated Warren Oates fan won’t regret missing.

Warren Oates and Robert Ridgely in Prime Time

Warren Oates and Robert Ridgely in Prime Time