Studio: Full Moon Features
Director: Charles Band
Writer: Paul De Meo, Danny Bilson
Producer: Charles Band
Stars: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Art LaFleur, Telma Hopkins, Alyson Croft, Grace Zabriskie, Velvet Rhodes
An escaped murderer goes back in time to Los Angeles in 1986 to take revenge against Jack Deth for her imprisonment.
“Trancers” disciples already know the legend, but for the sake of posterity preservation: Once popularly referred to as “Trancers 1.5,” “Trancers: City of Lost Angels” was one of the three intended chapters in Full Moon founder Charles Band’s 1988 anthology film “Pulse Pounders.” Through the magic of a misplaced 35mm negative and a production company bankruptcy, “Pulse Pounders” unfortunately poofed into the ether, effectively erasing “City of Lost Angels,” “The Evil Clergyman,” and a “Dungeonmaster” follow-up before Band could massage the finishing touches and release the movie to the masses. 25 years later, a VHS transfer of an edited workprint wandered out from nowhere and at long last, fans could finally feast their eyes on these formerly lost low-budget rarities.
Much like “The Evil Clergyman” (review here), which was the first “Pulse Pounders” segment restored for belated release, “Trancers: City of Lost Angels” reaps an incalculable benefit from there being no other way to view it but through rose-colored glasses. For B-movie fans who gorged on genre offerings of the 1980s, a displaced “Trancers” adventure pulled from that period and sent up the line to the 21st-century is immediately on the good side of a “can do no wrong” mentality.
Nostalgia only absolves so much, however. While diehards will be pleased as punch to see Tim Thomerson and Helen Hunt in their “Trancers” prime as Jack and Lena Deth, the reality is that “City of Lost Angels” doesn’t register as much more than a brief blip on the radar.
Silent psychopath Edlin Shock has only spoken two words in five years, though she also murdered 13 fellow inmates and injured two guards over a pack of cigarettes. Jack Deth’s old cop shop boss McNulty is assigned to Shock’s prison transfer, but after a couple of poorly staged kicks accompanied by kung-fu theater sound effects, Shock gets the drop on her escort and journeys back down the line to take revenge on Jack Deth in 1988. Or 1986. McNulty says one date while onscreen text says another, so who knows.
The chief issue with the story is that it doesn’t fit snugly within the confines of a 24-minute narrative. The primary plot beat is the mystery of whose body Edlin Shock is going to turn up in to surprise Deth when she returns to 1980s Los Angeles. But with only two characters to choose from and nine minutes remaining in the runtime to make the reveal, let’s just say the suspense doesn’t exactly reach levels of seat-gripping feverishness.
The secondary beat is the climactic confrontation between Deth and Shock across two time periods. Overly pantomimed fistfights limply build to a lackluster finale that involves foiling the big baddie with a tube of hair gel in a moment charitably described as anticlimactic. It gives Jack Deth an opportunity to deliver another fan-service snicker, but as far as satisfying action goes, Deth’s entire encounter with Shock is a dud.
“Trancers” fans will eat up the project no matter what, and that seems to be something Charles Band takes into account regarding the restoration’s retuning. Whereas Band tapped his brother Richard to cook up an appropriate auditory accompaniment for “The Evil Clergyman,” “Lost Angels” makes due with repurposing old “Trancers” music cues originally intended to score scenes of higher intensity. As such, the soundtrack fits the “Trancers” world without actually fitting the scenes. There’s a point at which no amount of retrofitting will bring in bigger profits (would a specifically-created soundtrack really attract an additional audience?), so although I understand such decisions from a business perspective, it still feels like being shortchanged as a fan.
Memorable mainly for the cryptic history of its very existence, “Trancers: City of Lost Angels” will meet with polite appreciation from the “Trancers” faithful as a semi-intriguing chapter in Jack Deth’s time-hopping saga. But other than being relevant for a few one-liner chortles as a disposable aside in the “Trancers” mythology, “City of Lost Angels” doesn’t have anything running in its race that would be of interest to anyone else.
Review Score: 65