Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

Trancers III: Deth Lives (1992)

Trancers III: Deth Lives (1992)

Starring Tim Thomerson, Melanie Smith, Andrew Robinson, Telma Hopkins, Megan Ward, Stephen Macht, R.A. Mihailoff, Helen Hunt

Directed by C. Courtney Joyner

Expectations: Moderate. The 2nd was OK.

Jack Deth has stooped to new lows. As the film starts, Deth advertises his private investigation business focused on cheating husbands with a low-budget television commercial featuring a bevy of cute girls in Santa’s Helpers costumes and a VHS video camera in hand. The end of the ad is punctuated with a shotgun blast to the TV from a disgruntled liquor store robber. He runs back to the counter trying to get the money from the prerequisite Asian store owner, when suddenly a high-pitched squeal hurts their ears. They are bathed in orange light and a time capsule that kinda looks like a phone booth materializes. A crazy looking alien thing pops out and asks, “Where’s Jack Deth?” The alien promptly tracks Jack down and takes him back to the future with him. Oh no!

Things aren’t exactly what they seem though when Deth reaches the future. Someone in the past has created a Trancer army, causing the future to be completely overrun with them. It is important to note that the Trancers here aren’t the same as they have been before. Each film seems to have its own definition for the term, but it works well enough if you go with it. In Trancers 3, they are drug-fueled lunatics, hell-bent on violence, ass-kicking and fucking shit up. As one of these trained Trancers says as he shoves a pool cue through an innocent bystander and then flings him across the bar, “Sorry Lieutenant! I’m on a level 10 high!” Deth is filled in on all of this from series veteran Telma Hopkins and Jack’s wife from the future Alice (Megan Ward). What they need from Jack is another hop back in time, to the cesspool of villainy 2005, when the new Trancer army was taking shape. Deth needs to re-connect with Leena (Helen Hunt) as she supposedly has the answers.

Now for those that enjoyed the first two films a couple of things should be noted so your expectations are set correctly for this one. A quick glance at the cast list might make this one seem close to the previous films, but in reality the only true holdover throughout is Tim Thomerson. Both Helen Hunt and Megan Ward are only in the movie for about three minutes each, if that, so the focus here is on Jack and the new characters. This ends up working really well, as the presence of the old characters lends credibility and gives the film a bridge quality that allows it to exist within the “epic” Trancers saga. I really like how these films are ultimately unconnected, but yet they loosely follow a timeline and show character progression from film to film.

The biggest change though is director C. Courtney Joyner. The visual look of the film retains the full frame composition and color palette from Charles Band’s first two films, but Joyner adds in tons of really well done moving camera, specifically some pretty good steadicam work. I’m a big fan of steadicam and most of the action sequences feature it in Trancers 3. It adds a lot to the energy of the film and makes the short seventy-four minute runtime fly by at a quick pace.

The special FX were done by legendary group KNB this time around, which seems like a good idea but as there aren’t a lot of physical effects in the film, their talents are mostly wasted. The alien that shangais Jack at the beginning looks great, as do the Trancers and the limited gore that is featured. Just don’t expect lots of top-notch KNB work and you’ll be fine.

The acting is about at the same level as previous Trancers films. Thomerson continues to play the hard-boiled future cop with ease. His character is closer to the first Trancers film here, which is a good thing. The villain this time around, Col. Daddy Mother, comes to us courtesy of veteran actor Andrew Robinson, best known for his début role in Dirty Harry as the Scorpio Killer. He tears up the screen and delights by oozing creepy charm and a commanding presence.

Trancers 3 features a lot more future-tech and science fiction ideas due to all the time travel and repercussions, so I enjoyed it more than part 2. I think it could go either way for most people though, depending on what they want out of a movie.

Next week, I’m gonna take a break from all the Trancing to bring you a review of 1985’s Zone Troopers. It was made around the same time as the original Trancers and features a good portion of the same cast. Lookin’ forward to it!

August 3, 2010 - Posted by | 1990s, Action, Good Trash, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I tried to watch the first Trancers for laughs…. And… well… And that was supposed to be the “good” one 😉

    Comment by Joachim Boaz | August 16, 2010 | Reply

    • Yeah the Trancer movies are definitely not for everybody. They take themselves fairly seriously so most of the laughs come from laughing “at” some of the situations or the poor acting. I still enjoy them a lot though, and every film of the series is different.

      Comment by Will Silver | August 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. Yes, it definitely did take itself seriously. Have you seen Screamers (1995)? Based on a Philip K. Dick story… If not, you should check it out — seems up your alley!

    Comment by Joachim Boaz | August 17, 2010 | Reply

    • I saw Screamers a number of years ago and I remember being somewhat disappointed. Second Variety is one of my favorite Philip K. Dick short stories, and I thought the movie only did a fair job of representing it. I judged it a lot harsher than I would usually judge a B sci-fi film though, due to my love for the original story.

      Comment by Will Silver | August 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hahaha — I thought it was quite good for a B sci-fi film… Better than Trancers 😉 I mean, it might be as good as the that horridly overrated “classic” (might be the wrong word) Total Recall…

    Comment by Joachim Boaz | August 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Yeah I should watch it again. I was mostly upset with the changed ending and that it wasn’t set on Earth. Minor annoyances, but still…

      Ah man, Total Recall is awesome! Not representative of Dick’s work so much at all, but I saw it long before I started reading him or knew who he was, so the film was able to root itself deeply into my young mind. Arnold was my go-to guy growing up so he could do no wrong back then.

      Comment by Will Silver | August 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. I grew up on Star Trek (original series, next gen, voyager, etc)…

    A Scanner Darkly is the best film adaptation in terms of his story. I was an extra (it was filmed in Austin, TX and I went to school there at the time)!!! Sadly, I can’t find myself in the film so I didn’t make it on the screen….

    I’ve come to the point where I try (the key word) to appreciate the film regardless of how much it screws up the original story. It can’t be a perfect transfer of mediums….

    Comment by Joachim Boaz | August 17, 2010 | Reply

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