DNDF: Charles Band and Tracers 1-6

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Friday, September 13, 2013

DNDF: Charles Band and Tracers 1-6

Much like John Agar, Samuel Z. Arkoff and Troma Films, Charles Band is no stranger to the musing of my articles or television.  I could devote a month to him exclusively and still not cover the entire breath of his contribution to B-movie history.  When looking for a photo to use tonight I was surprised to find out he looks nothing like what I expected him to look like, kind of looks like my uncle actually.

Charles Robert Band (born December 27, 1951 in Los Angeles, California) is an American director, writer, and producer, mostly known for his work on horror films.  He is the son of director-producer Albert Band, and brother of the composer Richard.  With his former wife Meda, he had two children,Alex, the vocalist for the band The Calling, and Taryn.  He had two sons with his former wife Debra Dion: Harlan and Zalman.  Band's grandfather was the artist Max Band.

His most famous films are those in the Puppet Master franchise and the Subspecies series, made by his company Full Moon Features.  Before Full Moon Features, his earlier (and now defunct) company Empire Pictures made films like Ghoulies and the cult classic Re-Animator.  One of the few non-horror films he worked on was the Prehysteria trilogy, which were made by his family oriented company Moonbeam Entertainment.

Starting in the 1970s, Band formed Charles Band Productions.  Dissatisfied with distributors' handling of his films, Band created Empire Pictures in the early 1980s.  Through Empire, he could produce and distribute his films ensuring proper distribution and return on profits.  Empire entered the video market with Wizard Video during this time, which released films by others in addition to Empire product.  At the height of its run, Empire produced 12 theatrical and 12 direct-to-video films a year.  Wizard produced two games for the Atari 2600 in 1982: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween based on the films of the same names and both quite controversial at the time for the levels of violence.  Citing the fall of the Italian lira, the Rome-based Empire closed its doors in the late 1980s and Band returned to the States.  There he formed Full Moon Productions which was quickly changed to Full Moon Entertainment and later became Full Moon Studios and Full Moon Features before settling on the current Full Moon Pictures.

During this time, Band produced exclusively with Paramount Home Video before parting ways with that company in 1994.  Since then, Full Moon has been an independent company, producing and distributing solely for the home market.  Notable side companies have included Moonbeam Entertainment, Filmonsters, Action Xtreme, and Pulsepounders all of which produced films aimed at kids and tweens as well as Torchlight Entertainment and Surrender Cinema which produced soft-core films for the adult market.  In addition, Monster Island Entertainment produced low-budget "man in a rubber suit" monster movies, Alchemy Entertainment later Big City Pictures created urban horror, and Pulp Fantasy Productions specialized in non Full Moon type horror.  For a short time in the early 2000s, Full Moon became Shadow Entertainment when Band felt the company's product had strayed too far from the brand that he had created.  During this time, many of the films were produced by J. R. Bookwalter's Tempe Entertainment.  Since 2004, Band has taken a more active hand in the company, producing and directing almost every film released.  In 2004, the Wizard Video line was reintroduced.

For a short time, fans could buy a line of toys based on characters from the films such as Shrieker, Radu from Subspecies and the Puppet Master puppets as well.  Branded Full Moon Toys, this line lasted a couple of years. More recently, the Monster Bra line has been created, specializing in gag brassieres.  CD soundtracks have been released through the Full Moon Records line including many works by Band's brother Richard and comics based on Dollman, Puppet Master, Subspecies and Trancers were released through Eternity Comics.

Trancers (1985)

  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Charles Band
  • Produced:
    • Charles Band 
    • Debra Dion
  • Written:
    • Danny Bilson
    • Paul De Meo
  • Starring: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Michael Stefani
  • Music:
    • Phil Davies 
    • Mark Ryder
  • Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
  • Editing: Ted Nicolaou
  • Studio:
    • Altar Productions 
    • Empire Pictures 
    • Lexyn Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Empire Pictures 
    • Full Moon Entertainment 
    • Shadow Entertainment 
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 22 May 1985
  • Running Time: 76 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is a police trooper in the year 2247 who has been hunting down Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani), a criminal mastermind who uses strange psychic powers to make people into zombies that carry out his every desire.  Deth can identify a tranced victim by scanning them with a special bracelet.  All trancers appear as normal humans at first, but once triggered, they become savage killers with twisted features.

Before he can be caught, Whistler escapes back in time using a bizarre, drug-induced time traveling technique. Whistler leaves his body in 2247 and travels down his ancestral bloodline arriving in year 1985 and taking over the body of an ancestor who happens to be a Los Angeles police detective named Weisling.

Once Deth discovers what Whistler has done, he destroys Whistler's body – effectively leaving him trapped in the past with no vessel to return to – and chases after him through time the same way.  Deth himself ends up in the body of one of his ancestors; a journalist named Phil Dethton.

With the help of Phil's girlfriend, (a punk rock girl named Leena (Helen Hunt), Deth goes after Whistler who has begun to "trance" other victims and plots to eliminate the future governing council members of Angel City, (the future name of Los Angeles), who are being systematically wiped out of existence by Whistler's murder spree of their own ancestors.  Deth arrives too late to prevent most of the murders and can only safeguard Hap Ashby (Biff Manard), a washed-up former pro baseball player who is the ancestor of the last surviving council member Chairman Ashe.

Deth is given some high-tech equipment which is sent to him in the past: his sidearm, (which contains two hidden vials of time drugs to send him and Whistler back to the future), and a "long-second" wristwatch, which temporarily slows time stretching one second to ten.  The watch has only enough power for one use but he receives another watch through time later to pull the same trick again.

During the end fight with Whistler, one of the drug vials in Jack's gun breaks, leaving only one vial to get home. Jack then makes the choice to kill Weisling (who is possessed by the evil Whistler), or use the vial to send Whistler back to 2247.  Jack injects Weisling with the last vial sending Whistler home, but with no body to return to, he effectively destroys him.  Jack then decides to remain with Leena in 1985, although observing him from the shadows is McNulty, his boss from the future, who has traveled down his own ancestral line and ending up in the body of a young girl.

 

Trancers II (1991)

  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Charles Band
  • Produced:
    • Charles Band 
    • Thomas Bradford 
    • David DeCoteau 
    • John Schouweiler
  • Written:
    • Jackson Barr (Screenplay) 
    • Charles Band (Story) 
  • Starring: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt
  • Music:
    • Phil Davies 
    • Mark Ryder
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Editing:
    • Andy Horvitch 
    • Ted Nicolaou
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Echo Bridge Home Entertainment 
    • Full Moon Entertainment 
    • New Video 
    • Paramount Home Video 
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: August 22, 1991
  • Running Time: 85 Minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Los Angeles, 1991.  Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) has gotten used to life with his wife Lena (Helen Hunt) in the six years since they killed Whistler.  Hap Ashby (Bif Manard) has made a fortune investing and has moved from the streets to a palatial estate, sharing it with Jack and Lena.  But life is about to get difficult for Jack.  Whistler's brother, E.D. Wardo (Richard Lynch), has gone back in time and created a "trancer farm" under the guise of an environmental organization.  GreenWorld strives to 'clean up the world', but they are kidnapping the homeless and mental patients to enslave in a trancer army.  Once again, Hap is under attack, useful to Wardo as the ancestor of future Angel City Council Member Ashe.  Jack's ready to singe some trancers in the name of the law, but he isn't expecting his dead wife, Alice (Megan Ward) to show up—and neither is Lena.

Alice has been saved from death by the City Council and send back to 1991 to help Jack stop Wardo.  The tension mounts as Lena becomes fearful of losing Jack to his future wife, Hap slips back to the bottle to deal with the stress, and Jack realizes that when Alice returns to the future, she'll die again.  Somehow, Jack must find a way to save more than just the future.

 

Trancers III (1992)

  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Directed: C. Courtney Joyner
  • Produced:
    • Albert Band 
    • Charles Band 
    • Keith S. Payson
  • Written: C. Courtney Joyner
  • Starring: Tim Thomerson, Melanie Smith
  • Music:
    • Richard Band 
    • Phil Davies 
    • Mark Ryder
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Editing:
    • Lauren A. Schaffer 
    • Margeret-Anne Smith
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Echo Bridge Home Entertainment 
    • Full Moon Entertainment 
    • New Video 
    • Paramount Home Video 
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: October 14, 1992
  • Running Time: 75 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Jack (Tim Thomerson) is now a successful private detective, catching cheating lovers in the act.  However, Jack's life with Lena (Helen Hunt) has gotten rocky and he faces divorce if he can't clean up his act.  Before he can mend his troubled relationship, he's jacked back up the line to 2247 by Alice (Megan Ward), to save Angel City from its future destruction in a massive trancer war.  His mission - find the origin of this new wave of trancers and end it with extreme prejudice.  The only problem is that Lena, now remarried, is the only tie to Angel City's impending doom.

Jack learns that the US government has sponsored a new trancer training program, run by the maniacal Col. Daddy Muthuh (Andrew Robinson).  With the help of R.J. (Melanie Smith), a camp escapee and Shark (R.A. Mihailoff), a crystal-powered mandroid sent by Ruthie Raines (Telma Hopkins), Deth will have to find a way inside the trancer program and shut it down for good.

 

Trancers 4: Jack of Swords (1994)

  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Directed: David Nutter
  • Produced:
    • Charles Band 
    • Michael Catalano 
    • Oana Paunescu 
    • Vlad Paunescu
  • Written: Peter David
  • Starring: Tim Thomerson, Stacie Randall, Ty Miller, Teri Ivens, Mark Arnold, Clabe Hartley, Alan Oppenheimer, Lochlyn Munro, Jeff Moldovan, Stephen Macht
  • Music: Gary Fry
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Editing: Lisa Bromwell
  • Studio:
    • Castel Film Romania 
    • Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • Full Moon Entertainment 
    • New Video 
    • Paramount Home Video 
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: February 2, 1994
  • Running Time: 83 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Jack is now back in the future.  He had since lost Lena, and finds out that he's lost his other wife Alice to none other than Harris.  While heading out for another assignment, something goes awry with the TCL chamber.  Jack finds himself in a whole new dimension.  He also runs across a different version of trancers.  These guys seem to be in control of this planet.  Jack manages to assist a rebel group known as the "Tunnel Rats" crush the rule of the evil Lord Calaban.

The android character Shark from Trancers III was originally intended to have a much larger part as Jack Deth's sidekick.  After idea and script changes, his character was almost entirely written out with Jack Deth explaining that he was destroyed on a mission.  Shark's head is also physically shown as part of lamp in Jack Deth's home.

Filmed back-to-back with Trancers 5: Sudden Deth.  The film's alternate subtitle of "Journeys Through the Dark Zone" is actually recycled from an unfilmed movie of the same name that was set to be directed by original Trancers writers Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo in 1986.  The film's trailer reuses music from Robot Wars and Doctor Mordrid.

 

Trancers 5: Sudden Deth (1994)

  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Directed: David Nutter
  • Produced:
    • Charles Band 
    • Michael Catalano 
    • Michael J. Mahoney 
    • Oana Paunescu 
    • Vlad Paunescu
  • Written: Peter David
  • Starring: Tim Thomerson, Stacie Randall, Ty Miller, Terri Ivens, Mark Arnold, Clabe Hartley, Alan Oppenheimer, Jeff Moldovan, Stephen Macht
  • Music: Gary Fry
  • Cinematography: Aldofo Bartoli
  • Editing: Lisa Bromwell
  • Studio:
    • Castel Film Romania 
    • Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed:
    • New Video 
    • Paramount Home Video 
    • Wizard Entertainment
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: November 9, 1994
  • Running Time: 73 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Jack's back for one more round with the Trancers.  Jack Deth must attempt to find his way home from the other-dimensional world of Orpheus, where magic works and the Trancers were the ruling class (before Trancers 4, that is).  Unfortunately, Jack's quest to find the mystical Tiamond in the Castle of Unrelenting Terror may be thwarted by the return of Caliban, king of the Trancers and once thought dead.

This film is the next to last appearance of Tim Thomerson as Jack Deth.  The film has been released on DVD through the Trancers boxset.  Yes, there is a boxset.

 

Trancers 6 (2002)

  • Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Jay Woelfel
  • Produced:
    • Johnnie J. Young 
    • Charles Band 
    • Maurice Smith
  • Written: C. Courtney Joyner
  • Starring: Zette Sullivan, Jennifer Capo, Robert Donavan, Timothy Prindle
  • Music: Jon Greathouse
  • Cinematography: Paul Deng
  • Editing:
    • Jonathan Ammon 
    • Jay Woelfel
  • Studio:
    • Extraordinary Films Ltd. 
    • Full Moon Entertainment 
    • Young Wolf Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Big Sky Video 
    • Shadow Entertainment 
    • V Releasing Corp.
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: July 23, 2002
  • Running Time: 88 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

In a return to the groundbreaking original film's premise, Jack Deth is back - traveling back in time and into the body of his own daughter, Josephine, on a mission to save her life and save the world from the most lethal Trancers yet.  Jack/Jo must adapt and survive being a girl while avoiding many assassination attempts by more powerful and dangerous zombie-like Trancers than he's ever faced before in the series.  With his new friends, his new enemies and a new female hero are set to take Trancers into the next century for both the planet and Full Moon Pictures.

Tim Thomerson's scenes are footage taken from the earlier Trancers sequels.  Thomerson himself could not return to reprise his role of Jack Deth due to his asking price being higher than the filmmakers could meet and the film being non-union.  A photograph of Helen Hunt, who played Leena in the first three Trancers films, can be spotted on Jo's refrigerator early in the film.  Maggie Grace was originally considered for the role of Jo.  A brief clip of Cosmo the alien from Bad Channels is seen in the film's trailer.  Every member of the crew has a cameo in the film, including the director and the producer.  Attempts to get other stars from the original films were met with no success as well.  Even though this is the 6th entry in the Trancers series, there is no mention of any of the events from parts 4 or 5.  The events of part 3 however, with Jack having wiped out all the Trancers, is mentioned.

After production was completed, screener copies of the film were sent to Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster however, passed on the film, since the screeners of the film turned out to be defective and the movie was not even on the screeners.  D’OH!


And then there was that one time Tim Thomerson donned the Jack Deth character one more time.

Evil Bong is a 2006 horror/comedy film directed by Charles Band about a group of college stoners who smoke from a sentient, malevolent bong unaware that it traps the smoker in a surreal strip-club with killer strippers and other strange creatures.  The ending features an extended cameo by Tommy Chong, of Cheech & Chong fame.  Brandi Cunningham from VH1's Rock of Love with Bret Michaels and Bill Moseley of The Devil's Rejects also make appearances in the film.  It was followed by two sequel, Evil Bong 2: King Bong, and Evil Bong 3D: The Wrath of Bong.  Thomerson also played Jack Deth in a small cameo in this movie.  Maybe we’ll talk about that series one day but for now I think I’m going to stop doing series for Date Night and go back to the original concept of two unrelated movies that I will find a connection between to make a perfect double feature.


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