Tim Thomerson has to be one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. Born in 1946, and with his first appearance on screen in an episode of TV series Mannix in 1975, Thomerson has racked up over two hundred TV and film credits since then and is still working.
You’ve probably never heard of him, and you may never have even seen him in a film, as his career seems to have been spent for the most part in B-movies.
His most famous role is Jack Deth (and yes, I spelt that correctly) in a 1985 low budget sci-fi mash-up of The Terminator and Blade Runner.
Yes, it’s the return of Guilty Pleasures, my irregular series on films I have watched and enjoyed, but maybe shouldn’t have.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Guilty Pleasures #3: Trancers.
My biggest problem with telling you about this particular 1980s cheapo sci-fi knock-off is trying to decide where to start.
Well, let’s begin with a basic overview of the plot.
The story starts in Angel City (Los Angeles to you and me, and I think it is underwater by this point) in the year 2247, when enforcer Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) has just retired from the weekly grind after vanquishing villain Martin Whistler and his roving band of zombies, called ‘trancers.’
Jack Deth, as played by Thomerson, is a Sam Spade private eye type character, only with ray guns and a watch with a ‘long second’, (more on the long second later).
But, (don’t ask me what happened I can’t remember) Whistler and his trancers have gone back to 1985, with the fiendish plan of exterminating Angel City’s ruling council by killing off all the council members’ ancestors.
So Deth agrees to go back in time to get Whistler and the trancers all over again.
Time travel here involves a person’s consciousness being sent ‘down the line’ into an ancestor’s body, in this case a journalist named Phil Dethton played by, you guessed it, Tim Thomerson.
Dethton happens to have a pretty girlfriend called Leena (played by a very young Helen Hunt) who works as a Santa’s elf at a shopping mall (yes, it’s a Christmas movie too) and wears a skimpy, tight-fitting elf suit for much of the film. Together they work to find Whistler and protect the council member’s ancestors.
You following this so far? There might be a test later.
As you can imagine with body swap time travelling there are lots of fun shenanigans to be had
Deth’s gruff, hard talking boss also pops down the line to 1985, but he winds up in the body of a young girl.
In another scene Jack and Leena are in bed about to, well, you know, ‘get it on’, when Deth is zapped back to 2247 for an emergency meeting with the council. By the time Deth is back in 1985 the fun is over and Leena is cooing about how amazing he was.
As Leena turns over to go to sleep, Deth wearily switches on the TV and says to himself, ‘Well, fella, I hope you enjoyed yourself.’
Then there is Jack Deth’s watch. With a push of a button, Deth can take advantage of the watch’s ‘long second’. Once activated, this stretches out a second of time so that everybody apart from Jack is frozen in time, giving him a chance to run away.
Trancers is gloriously ridiculous, and at a running time of one hour fifteen minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
It also has one of the best tag lines for a movie ever:
Jack Deth is back, and he’s never even been here before.
And where else are you going to watch a film with the line, ‘Dry hair’s for squids’?
Trancers spawned five more films, and Thomerson starred as Jack Deth in all but 2002’s Trancers 6.
Well, I don’t know about any of the sequels but I highly recommend you check out Trancers.
Or at the very least the trailer.