The Charles Band Special

Featuring - and perhaps celebrating - the movies of producer Charles Band

Learn more about Charles Band, the "leader of the pack" among DTV moviemakers, according to the LA Times - and even buy his films, if you dare - at his websites.

Full Moon Pictures
Wizard Entertainment
Cinemaker (For only $100 you can learn how to make money the Charles Band selling the secrets of DTV moviemaking for $100 a pop).

All films reviewed by Simon Drake

Zone Troopers (1985)

"They take war to a new dimension."

Directed by Danny Bilson
Starring Tim Thomerson, Art Le Fleur and Biff Maynard.

    When a fairly effective Nazi strike force (for a Charles Band production that is) ambushes a squad of U.S Commandos, the four surviving soldiers are lost behind enemy lines. They consist of grizzled and terminally pissed off Sarge (unsurprisingly Tim Thomerson), War reporter Charlie (Maynard), Corporal Mitinski aka Mittens (Le Fleur) and naïve kid Joey.
    Charlie and Mittens go off hunting deer (not the wisest move when lost behind enemy lines!) and get captured when they decide to explore a Nazi base camp. Sarge and Joey, whilst searching for them, stumble across a crashed spacecraft that they destroy. Finally they find Charlie and Mittens and bust them out, along with a bug eyed Martian who they have to keep alive and return to its own planet so the Nazis won't use it as a weapon.

What's wrong with it?

    It's your typical Charles Band production, a cheap as chips sci-fi adventure rattled out in a weekend with pretty ropey effects (this one features one of the most unconvincing alien since Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon!). The Script is a little cheesy and the characters are quite stereotypical, although that could be one of two things. 1) It's a self-referential post-modern spin on the 1940's pulp war stories it's satirising or 2) (and slightly more likely) Charles Band doesn't have to pay a script writer if they steal the dialogue from old war films.

What's right with it?

    Charles Band films all have a fairly healthy sense of their own ridiculousness, and Zone Troopers zips along with its tongue rather firmly in its cheek. The cast all seems to be enjoying themselves and because of it, are treated to some cracking one-liners. And there's some good costumes and sets (in particular the crashed spaceship). Plus there is a nice usage of Glenn Miller's song 'in the mood' (although they were probably forced to use it after being sued by John Williams for ripping off the Imperial March on their soundtrack)

How bad is it really?

    Not bad at all, if you don't take it seriously (as the filmmakers clearly don't) and get into the spirit it's a good laugh.

Best Bit?

    "I'm great at hunting deer as I was raised by Indians…My father was Mahatma Gandhi!"

What's up with…?


Production Values – Pretty solid. Good costumes, nice moody locations. The alien ain't fooling anyone though! 8.

Dialogue and performance – Despite the slightly cheesy script there is some corking one-liners and all the cast deliver them with aplomb. The four leads all make the most out of their roles and actually give them more characterisation than you'd expect. 5.

Plot and execution – It's pretty much Saving Private Terrestrial (made 15 years before Spielberg ignored the British and made Tom Hanks an action hero) with some well handled action set pieces and entertaining narrative. 5.

Randomness – Nothing too bad really. 3

Waste of potential – Hell no, this far surpassed my expectations of quality. 1

Overall 22%


Trancers 2 : The two faces of Jack Deth (1991)

"Time waits for no man...Unless his name is JACK DETH!"

Directed by Charles Band
Starring Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt and Art Le Fleur.

    Picking up six years after the first Trancers film, Jack is living in L.A and married to Leena (Helen Hunt, ever the stalwart!) and having commitment fears whenever she mentions getting a house and starting a family. However before Jack and Leena get a chance to view the potential dream home, they are attacked by Trancer Gardeners (who were trying to kill Hap Ashby, the drunk from the first film who's the saviour of future history and currently a millionaire).
    It turns out that Whistler's brother is creating an army of Trancers hoodwinking the homeless and patients from the local mental hospital and turning them into killer zombies.
    By a staggering coincidence Jack Deth's late wife (from the future) is sent back in time into the body of one of her relations (who just so happens to be in the same mental hospital as the one Whistler's brother is recruiting at). Mrs Deth (actually called Alice Stillwell) has to escape to inform Jack that she knows where the Trancer's are being created and also that she has a time machine hidden in the shed to take Jack 'back to the future'.

What's wrong with it?

    The story is pretty thin, not only do you have a rip off of both Terminator films, there's also a rather lame attempt to create a 'sit-com' atmosphere with Jack, Jack's wife and Jack's other wife from another time who doesn't know he's married in this era (now that's good writing!) Whenever Jack and Alice end up kissing, Helen Hunt inevitably walks in and they all argue and crack wise. It's like 'Friends' without the laughter track and more zombie shootouts.
    The script does have a rather sledgehammer approach at times, especially the opening voice over by Thomerson 'previously on Trancers' and the 'Say isn't that the TCL chamber that can go back in time?' type of lines.
    Plus the production isn't much to write home about; there's only a couple of sets and some rather hokey action scenes.

What's right with it?

    There's a nice sense of familiarity, with most of the cast from the first film returning rather comfortably to their roles clearly having a riot with the characters. Plus there's actually quite a few nice one-liners in the script, which clearly doesn't take itself too seriously (at one point Tim Thomerson pretty much looks at the camera whilst delivering the line 'Whistler's Brother? You've got to be kidding me!')

How bad is it really?

    It's in much the same vein as the first Trancers film with pretty much the entire cast returning. If you are okay with the first film there's no real reason you'd dislike this.

Best bit?

    "Goddamnit McNulty the next time someone hands you an exploding ham…I'm gonna pass the mustard!"


    Alice: (After escaping from the mental asylum) "Jack It's you…The only man I had sex with!" (then promptly falls unconscious)
    Jack: (to camera) "I didn't think it was that bad"

What's up with…?


Production values – A notch up from Trancers 1, although that's not saying much. There's only a couple of sets (probably filmed in Charles Band's house!) and some not terribly convincing squibs when Trancers are shot. Plus the soundtrack is the same as the first film…And I'm not talking a 'Star Wars' type of use the similar themes for new scores, but the exact score from the first one. 17

Dialogue and performance – There's some great jokes and a couple of nice scenes. Plus the peerless Tim Thomerson clearly relishing the hard-boiled, slightly self-deprecating lines he has to spit out that he does with gusto. The rest of the cast gets into the swing of things nicely. 6

Plot and execution – The plot is rather patchy, there isn't much narrative flow. Plus Charles Band seems a lot more comfortable which the previous cast standing around wise cracking than the action or exposition scenes. Plus the end is a bit of a wash out. 15

Randomness – Nothing too bad. Just a few whopping coincidences and a couple of rogue actors doubling up. And there is also the seeming randomness of Trancers showing up attacking the goodies whatever or wherever they may be. But hey, that's in the entire series, so 'furrrget about it!'. 7

Waste of potential – It doesn't quite have the zip of the original and the plot is a bit guff, but as a follow on it works as well as can be expected. 4

Overall 49%


Dollman (1991)

"He's the toughest cop on the planet Arturus...But on Earth he's over his head."

Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring Tim Thomerson and some wannabe actors.

    Brick Bardo is the toughest, most grizzled, most pissed off cop on Planet Arturus (played unsurprisingly by Tim Thomerson) and owner of 'The most powerful gun in the universe' (do you see what they did there?). When chasing his arch nemesis (who happens to be a floating head) into space they both get sucked into a black hole and crash land on Earth in a nameless ghetto area where they are 13 inches tall. Floating head teams up with the baddies and Brick hooks up with a single mum and goes about fighting crime in the neighbourhood.

What's wrong with it?

    'Tim Thomerson as a pissed off tough cop from another place, but here's the twist…He's only 13 inches tall'
    This could have been pure box office gold….erm…well pure Charles Band enjoyable pap. However the script sadly fell into the (cack) hands of Albert Pyun who manages to suck any fun and life that this flimsy premise of a film might have had. The film plods along with Tim Thomerson rather morosely plodding along with it simply relying on his stock machismo and moodiness with nothing to work with in the script. Plus the 'Tiny Tim' special effects are fairly woeful.

What's right with it?

    Tim Thomerson's pissed off tough guy routine is always watchable for your rental price…And the scenes on Planet Arturus are fine with Brick waving his gun around in launderettes and threatening to shoot 'through' the hostages in a siege like a spacey Dirty Harry. It's when he lands on Earth that the film begins to blow.

How bad is it really?

    Bad…and worse still, it's boring. Although it is better than Stuart Little.

Best bit?

    "Look a head on the road!"
    "I don't see anything ahead"
    "No a head…on the road!"

    Or the delightful delivery of the lines "What the fuck are we fuckin' waitin' for? I mean, fuck this shit! Fuck man, the fuckin' set-up is fucked up! The little fucker knows what kind of fuckin' shit is waiting here to fuck him up. So lets get the fuck out of this fuckin' deal, and go lookin' for the tiny little mother-fucker!"

What's up with…?


Production Values – Limp. Plus the one good effect 'Bricks gun blowing people into tiny pieces' is scraped once he lands on Earth presumably for budget reasons 'Bricks gun blows a tiny splatter of ketchup onto people' just isn't as fun. 17

Dialogue and performance – There's nothing of note within the dialogue (apart from the comically excessive use of curse words). It's quite telling that even Thomerson can't seemed to be arsed to try (and then he had the indignity of the outtakes being used for 'Dollman Vs Demonic toys'. Way to kick a man when he's down!) 16

Plot and execution – 'Tiny Harry takes on homeboys'…But dull. 18

Randomness – The Nike corporation in space? Nonsensical plot? Not as random as many of Pyun's films. But still fairly schizophrenic. 17

Waste of potential – Hell yeah. Brick Bardo could have been the new Jack Deth, and Dollman could have been the new Trancers (and how grateful the cinematic world would have been!). But it's a shame that it really sucked…It shouldn't have been any good but it shouldn't have sucked. 20

Overall 88%