Sci-Fi Review: Trancers: City of Lost Angels (2013, dir. Charles Band)


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It took me since September 5th of 2015 to finally reach the very last film in this retrospective of the Trancers series, but I’m finally here. This is the lost sequel that was made…why am I explaining this? There is a title card right at the beginning that does it for me.

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Yes, I do have The Evil Clergyman. I will get to it eventually. Pulse Pounders also has a sequel to The Dungeonmaster (1984) in it, but that doesn’t appear to have been released yet.

The movie begins with good old McNulty (Art LaFleur).

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He is on his way to be briefed about a prisoner in jail who apparently does not like Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) who is still in the past. He is being briefed by The Warden of the jail…

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played by actress Grace Zabriskie. Ah, the good old days when I could still play dumb. You of course know Grace from Norma Rae (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Leonard Part 6 (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), My Own Private Idaho (1991), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Seinfeld, Big Love, and that little short-lived show called Twin Peaks. Oh how I wish I could have claimed I thought that was some late night cable series from the 90s like the TV Show Red Oaks having a character think The 400 Blows (1959) was porn. I still have the right to make a couple American Sniper rubber baby jokes in future posts. You can’t take that away from me! If you are thinking I’m padding out this review because the movie is really short, then you’d be right.

She takes him to every futuristic hallway from the 80’s to meet the vicious murderer named Edlin Shock (Velvet Rhodes). She only says two words in her time there: Jack Deth. He is the one who brought her in.

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You can sort of see through the lousy VHS rip this DVD provides that she is being transferred because the movie has to have an excuse for the criminal to escape and they went with this one.

McNulty walks through a door that can conveniently close on him when needed, and she breaks free.

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She has the cuffs off now that were holding her hands straight up for some reason. Just thought I’d tell you that, cause the movie never explains how that happened. Nor does it explain this.

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That’s right! She somehow punctured and got through the ceiling. Even Zar in Rock’s Winning Workout Without Weights couldn’t do that!

The best he could do was bonk his head on the ceiling.

Rock's Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

Rock’s Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

If you’re thinking they might show her taking someone’s gun that could be used to make that hole, then…um…nope! The best we get is that as she kicked one of the soldiers, he appears to have shot upward once. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

Anyways, The Warden instantly knows she has reached the room where she can go back in time. So of course they go there and find Raines (Thelma Hopkins).

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She tells him that Edlin forced her to send her down the line. McNulty orders Jack’s body brought out of the vault, and gets Raines to send him down the line. By that I mean Alyson Croft is back to play McNulty as a girl. She’s as good as ever in this. In fact, the majority of the film is made up of Tim Thomerson and Alyson Croft reminding us that they really did give the best performances in any of the Trancers movies.

We now cut to the past of 1986 Los Angeles so that Helen Hunt can make what is basically a cameo appearance as Lena Deth. We first see her throwing dishes.

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She’s not too happy with the last three years of their time together. Jack tells her they have a great detective agency. However, they have zero clients despite a great newspaper ad that says, “Put your trust in Deth.” Sounds fine to me! A plumbing agency ran that kind of an ad in my city’s local newspaper back in the 50s.

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Then again, this is the same paper that ran a story talking about dogs pissing on the paper while it sat on newsstands. They also wrote an apology for making a typo in a classified ad by making another typo in the apology. Maybe she’s right. By the way, I’m not kidding about the pissing thing. It’s a four paragraph story about how “canines criticize” the paper.

Meanwhile, back in the movie, she chews him out, he uses the long second to give a speech, but after kissing her, she storms off anyways. Now Jack sits down to watch…

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what I assume is Peter Gunn? They did make a joke about that show in the first Trancers movie. I’m not knowledgable enough about 50s television. That’s when Alyson Croft, as McNulty’s ancestor, shows up to deliver the message that the crazy killer from the beginning is after him.

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Along with that, she brings up the fact that it’s a lot easier to protect Jack if he comes back to the future. This is probably the best part of the movie cause they actually bother to bring this next part up. Jack says that if he left now, then Phillip Deth, his ancestor whose body he is in, could be picked off and thus erase his own existence. McNulty says that the bad lady likes to look the person she is going to kill in the eye. That means she’ll follow him back to the future if necessary. However, since they already built this nice apartment set, Jack stays and stops McNulty from shooting him with the back to the future dart. McNulty likes to do that suddenly to Jack. He did it in the first film thus interrupting Jack just before he was going to have sex.

Now a guy fixing the roof shows up because we are only working without about 24 minutes of footage here.

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Of course Jack lets him go. Now a red herring shows up. Okay, I kid. She’s not a bird, but she is dressed in red!

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If this is actress Velvet Rhodes, then they sure don’t tell you anywhere in the non-existent credits or on IMDb. If she was, then you’d think he would recognize her, but he doesn’t, and neither does McNulty. I don’t think it is. Although, he certainly is skeptical. It really doesn’t matter what happens here. You are watching this just to see Tim Thomerson and Alyson Croft do their thing. They really are good together.

Oh, and the way you know for sure it’s either red jacket lady or roof guy is that they make sure to tell you that McNulty is lucky he has a genetically aligned ancestor to go back into before sending him down the line. That way you know for sure it’s not the killer posing as McNulty.

After a little bit of drinking, a little bit of interrogating, and red herring changing her clothes, this happens.

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Yep, roof guy was the one she took over.

A scuffle now ensues, and between Jack and McNulty,…

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she and Jack are sent back to the future.

Now the fight continues in the future.

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The fight goes to the roof, and she gets knocked off bringing the reason for this plot to exist to an end.

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Jack and Raines talk a bit. Jack decides to go back to the past, but with one condition. Could she send him back three hours earlier? You know, that way this movie never actually happened. Of course she can so…

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they can attempt to kiss,…

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tell McNulty to piss off,…

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and actually kiss.

Then this happens.

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Thomerson runs across the screen holding some stuff while Helen Hunt dances. Classy, Full Moon Features.

Now you may be asking yourself a question right now. Where were the Trancers in this Trancers movie? You didn’t miss anything. They aren’t here. This is the one and only Trancers movie without any Trancers in it. No mind controlled zombie Trancers from the first one. No drug-induced/mind controlled ones from the second film. No super solider ones from the third one. No vampire ones from four and five. No meteor rock tied into a ray gun that zaps you in the eyes from Trancers 6 either. No Trancers whatsoever. Honestly, I’m glad. I needed a change.

What’s nice about this film is that it really doesn’t break the continuity with the actual Trancers II. If anything, it gives us an early glimpse into how Jack was trying to settle into living in the past. Also, how his and Lena’s relationship was already on the rocks. In the end though, I would only recommend this for real fans of the series.

At the end of this entire look back at the series, the only ones worth seeing are the first one, this one, and the actual second movie. Definitely skip the rest.

Artist Profile: Darrel Millsap (1931 — 2012)


When I was searching for information on illustrator Darrel Millsap, I came across the following obituary from the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

“Darrel passed away on April 11, 2012, due to complications of stroke, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. He was born in Ontario, CA, on May 9, 1931, to Poley and Isabelle Millsap. He was known as “Bunky” to all and in the years prior to his stroke, he was quite the character, with a loving heart and a smile on his face.
Darrel served in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged in 1953, where he immediately attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He graduated in 1956 with a degree in Commercial Illustration. He later became a mentor to many graduates of Art Center and was an inspiration to many aspiring artists in the years to come.
He began his illustration career in Los Angeles, working for Fred Kopp Studios under Hector Huerta. Within a few years, he moved to San Diego and began working for Frye and Smith, then ventured out on his own with his partner Robert Kinyon, creating Millsap/Kinyon Illustration. They thrived for years until Robert lost his battle with cancer. Darrel continued his artistic legacy by going solo under Darrel Millsap Illustration, and worked with his many friends and acquaintances in the art business until he retired in 1999. Darrel was truly on of San Diego’s best known “unknown” artists.”

Here’s a few examples of his work:

Balcony of ShameNude in OrbitPlatypussyPlaygirl PadSwap CircuitThe Case of the Naked DiverThe Posh SinnersTo Swap A WantonWell Hung Up

The Fabulous Forties #12: D.O.A. (dir by Rudolph Mate)


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The 12th film contained in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set is the classic film noir D.O.A.  Before I get into reviewing this film, there’s an oddity that I feel the need to point out.  According to the back of the Fabulous Forties box, D.O.A. was released in 1949.  However, according to Wikipedia, imdb, and almost every other source out there, D.O.A. was released in 1950.  In short, it’s debatable whether or not D.O.A. actually belongs in the Fabulous Forties box set but it really doesn’t matter.  D.O.A. is a classic and, along with Night of the Living Dead, it is undoubtedly one of the best B-movies to ever slip into the public domain.

D.O.A. opens with a lengthy tracking shot, following a man named Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) as he walks through the hallways of a San Francisco police station.  Frank walks with a slow, halting movement and it’s obvious that he is not a healthy man.  When he finally steps into a detective’s office, Frank announces that he’s come to the station to report a murder — his own.

Frank is a small-town accountant who came to San Francisco for a vacation.  After a long night of drinking, Frank woke up feeling ill.  When he went to a doctor, he was informed of two things.  Number one, he was in overall good health.  Number two, he only had a few days to live.  Sometime during the previous night, Frank was poisoned with a “luminous toxin.”  There was no antidote.

The rest of the film follows Frank as he attempts to figure out who poisoned him and why.  It’s an intriguing mystery and I’m not going to ruin it by going into too many details.  Over the course of his investigation, the increasingly desperate Frank comes across a gangster named Majak (Luther Adler).  This leads to a lengthy scene in which Majak’s psychotic henchman, Chester (Neville Brand), repeatedly punches Frank in the stomach.  It’s a scene that, even in our far more desensitized times, made me cringe.  I can only imagine how audiences in 1950 reacted.

(There’s also a shoot-out at a drug store that can stand alongside almost any modern-day action sequence.  Regardless of whether the film was made in 1949 or 1950, it still feels like a movie that could have just as easily been made in 2016.)

But really, the mystery is secondary.  Instead, D.O.A. is truly about Frank and how he deals with the knowledge that he is going to die.  Before being poisoned, Frank is the epitome of complacent, middle-class suburbia.  He’s engaged to Paula (Pamela Britton) but he’s in no hurry to marry her.  He’s got all the time in the world.  When Frank goes to San Francisco, he epitomizes the bourgeoisie on vacation.  He goes to the 1940s equivalent of a hipster nightclub, not because he’s actually interested in what the scene is all about but because he’s a tourist looking for a story to tell the folks back home.  When he checks into his hotel, he leers at every passing woman with a casual sexism that would not be out-of-place on an old episode of Mad Men.  Frank is floating through life, confident in his own complacency.

It’s only after he’s poisoned that Frank actually starts to live.  He goes from being passive to being aggressive.  Knowing that he’s going to die, he no longer has anything to lose.  Only with death approaching does Frank actually start to live.  Frank’s realization that he waited to long to live makes his final line all the more poignant.

D.O.A. is a classic!  Watch it below, you won’t be sorry!

The Fabulous Forties #11: The Strange Woman (dir Edgar G. Ulmer)


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The eleventh film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1946’s The Strange Woman.  The Strange Woman is one of those film noir/small town melodrama hybrids that seem to have been something of a cinematic mainstay in the mid to late 40s.

The Strange Woman of the title is Jenny Hager (Hedy Lamarr) and she’s not just strange because she’s got an Eastern European accent despite having grown up in Bangor, Maine.  The film opens in 1824 and we watch as tween Jenny pushes one her classmates into a river, despite the fact that he can’t swim.  At first, she seems content to let him drown.  However, once she realizes that an adult is watching, Jenny jumps into the river and saves his life.

Ten years later, Jenny has grown up to be the most beautiful woman in Maine.  However, her father is abusive and regularly whips her as punishment for being too flirtatious.  Jenny has plans, though.  She wants to marry the richest man in town, a store owner and civic leader named Isaiah Poster (Gene Lockahrt).  Isaiah also happens to be the father of Ephraim (Louis Hayward), the young woman who Jenny tried drown at the beginning of the film.

And eventually, Jenny’s dream does come true.  She marries Isaiah, even though she doesn’t love him.  She just wants his money and is frustrated when the sickly Isaiah keeps recovering from his frequent illnesses.  She starts to flirt with the weak-willed Ephraim, trying to manipulate him into killing his father.

Of course, even as she’s manipulating Ephraim, she’s also flirting with John Everd (George Sanders), despite the fact that John is already engaged to the daughter of the local judge.  Though Everd is a good and decent guy, he still finds himself tempted by Jenny.

What makes all of this interesting is that Jenny isn’t just a heartless femme fatale.  Throughout the film, there are several instances when she wants to do good but can’t overcome her essentially heartless nature.  She gives money to charity and, whenever she listens to one of the local fire-and-brimstone preachers, she finds herself tempted to give up her manipulative ways.

The Strange Woman was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, who is probably best known for directing the ultimate indie film noir, Detour.  He was a childhood friend of Hedy Lamarr’s and she specifically asked that he direct her in The Strange Woman.  As a result, this film represents one of the few times that Ulmer was given a budget that was equal to his talents.  What makes The Strange Woman stand out from other 40s melodramas — like Guest In The House, for example — is that, even with the larger budget, Ulmer’s direction retains the same deep cynicism and dream-like intensity that distinguished his work in Detour.  The film remains sympathetic to Jenny, even as she often suffers the punishments that were demanded by the production code.

In the role of Jenny , Hedy Lamarr is a force of a nature.  She is so intense and determined that watching her as Jenny is a bit like seeing what Gone With The Wind would have been like if Scarlet O’Hara had been a total sociopath.  Even the fact that Lamarr’s accent is definitely not a Maine accent seems appropriate.  It sets Jenny apart from the boring people around her.

It reminds us that, even if she is “strange,” there is no one else like Jenny Hager.

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The Fabulous Forties #10: Dick Tracy’s Dilemma (dir by John Rawlins)


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The 10th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1947’s Dick Tracy’s Dilemma.  According to Wikipedia, this was the third Dick Tracy film to be produced by RKO Pictures.  In case you couldn’t guess from the title, Dick Tracy has a dilemma in this film.  I assume that, in the first two films, he had a problem and a quandary.

Clocking in at just an hour, Dick Tracy’s Dilemma takes place over the course of one long and very dark night.  Three men rob the Flawless Furs Warehouse and kill the night watchman.  The leader of the gang (played by Jack Lambert) is known as the Claw because, instead of a right hand, he has a prosthetic hook, which he can use to either beat or claw people to death.  (It all depends on his mood.)  The Claw also loves cats so he can’t be all bad.

Investigating the murder is Detective Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd).  This was the first Dick Tracy film that I’ve ever actually watched so I can’t claim to be an expert on the character.  But judging from this film, Dick Tracy’s dilemma is that everyone around him is either extremely stupid or extremely evil.  For example, Dick’s partner, Patton (Lyle Latell), is useless.  When Dick’s number one informant, a fake blind beggar named Sightless (Jimmy Conlin), attempts to get some important information to Dick, he has the misfortune of running into Dick’s idiot friend, a Shakespearean actor named Vitamin (Ian Keith).  Vitamin mishears the information and he delivers his lines with so much over-the-top flourish that, by the time he tells Dick that Sightless wants to speak to him, the poor beggar has already been murdered by The Claw.

Seriously, people have been talking about how dark Batman v. Superman is but just check out Dick Tracy’s Dilemma.  The Claw is a sadistic killing machine and, in the end, it seems like it’s more dumb luck than good police work that leads to Dick Tracy tracking him down.  The film ends with smiles all around, despite the fact that it’s only been a few hours since poor Sightless was clawed to death.  If Vitamin wasn’t a drunk old actor, Sightless wouldn’t be dead.  For that matter, Dick Tracy is the one who pressured Sightless to act as an informant in the first place.

Seen today, Dick Tracy’s Dilemma seems more like an episode of an old cop show than an actual movie.  It’s easy to be dismissive of it but I don’t know.  If I had been alive in 1947 and saw this movie when it was originally released, I probably would have enjoyed it.  Ralph Byrd makes a convincing hero and there is a sense of genuine menace to Jack Lambert’s performance as The Claw.  That said, don’t even get me started on Vitamin.

What type of name is Vitamin anyway?

You can watch Dick Tracy’s Dilemma below!