Hey you, do you like movies? What about bad movies? What about movies that are so bad, they’re good? What about movies that are so over-the-top with bad acting, unbelievable scenarios, and buckets of blood you can’t imagine how good and decent people would ever allow such a film to be made? That’s right up your alley, you say? Welcome to the phenomenon of Trash Cinema, where films that the major studios won’t touch with a thirty-foot cattleprod are produced by small, independent studios and loved by millions of fans worldwide.
For this first edition of Trash Cinema Review, it is only right at I showcase a film from one of the most outrageous purveyors of B-Movie trashfests – Troma Studios. Founded in 1974 by independent filmmakers Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, they started their careers by producing and directing low-budget sex comedies to almost no success whatsoever. In 1985, they would finally make a mark, or bloodstain in their case, in cinematic history when they release The Toxic Avenger. A gruesome tale showing the origins of the first superhero from New Jersey.
I need to take a moment to express to you, dear reader, that if you have not yet been initiated to Troma’s films, and are not used to watching films that showcase scenes of brutality and extreme violence, then you may need to brace yourself when watching. These films are not for everyone. While I will do my best to not to get too descriptive of the gore depicted in order for this article to still be enjoyed by the more sensitive readers out there, the vast majority of Troma films do not pull any punches when it comes to showing people getting downright fucked up. Are you ready? Here we go.
Based in the town of Tromaville, NJ, our story starts with Melvin Junko, a 98 pound weakling and janitor at the Tromaville Health Club where he is always being picked on by two no-good punks Bozo and Slug and their sadistic girlfriends Wanda and Julie. These four psychopaths’ main hobbies include working out, having sex, and at the end of the day, piling into the car for a few rounds of hit-and-run. These aren’t the only bad guys in the film, far from it. Tromaville is a town teeming with villains, creeps, criminals, pimps, and drug pushers. But it is Bozo and his small gang that are the cause for Toxie’s genesis.
Having become fed-up with Melvin’s constant geekiness, they concoct a plan which embarrasses him in front of everyone at the Tromaville Health Club. They all have a big laugh at poor Melvin’s expense and causes the distressed janitor to dive through the second-floor window where he lands in a vat of toxic waste sitting on the back of a flatbed truck which just happened to be parked outside. With open barrels of bubbling green liquid being trucked around town, totally unsecured and driven by cokeheads, I think that the town of Tromaville definitely got the hero it deserved.
The transformation scene is well done, with conventional SFX and buckets of red and green goo thrown in for good measure. As far as I can recall, this was the only superhero transformation scene that came complete with its own puberty joke. Melvin has grown into the Toxic Avenger, destroyer of evil. He can’t help it either. When some nefarious minded baddie is up to no good, Toxie goes into a bloodlust and tears the criminal scum limb from limb, but he always stops before he hurts an innocent.
When a taco restaurant is robbed by three maniacs, there is more bloodshed. These guys are so vicious that they murder a blind woman’s dog. Troma movies really make sure you hate the bad guys. Just when things seem their bleakest, the Toxic Avenger bursts in and dispatches the criminals in brutal fashion. Like I said, I’m keeping the descriptions as tame as possible, but take my word for it, these guys get taken apart. Literally. This is also the scene where Toxie meets his girlfriend, Sara. The blind woman who just lost her dog ends up falling in love with Toxie. And with a major spoiler alert right here, they remain in love throughout all four TA movies and she eventually gives birth to twins.
This has led me to ponder a question. In one of Kevin Smith’s Askewniverse films, a character brings up the subject of Superman sleeping with Lois Lane and would she be injured during climax. I had the same question when Toxie gets down with Sara. The question is exacerbated in my mind when we see Toxie urinating green sludge. If that’s what he… wait a minute… I don’t think I should ask such a question out loud.
Anyway, getting back to the topic of Toxie saving the town…
Tromaville has a new hero. Whenever a crime is committed, the Toxic Avenger appears and destroys the bad guys, usually by pulling their guts out or splitting their heads open. (I guess he just wants to see their inner beauty.) Toxie saves a police officer from getting killed by gang members. One of them calls himself Cigar Face, because he will put his cigar out on your face. Cigar Face is the one bad guy we see in all four TA movies. As you watch different Troma features, you will notice some actors being in multiple movies, and Dan Snow who plays Cigar Face is in quite a few of them.
The good people of Tromaville cheer Toxie as their hero. They print up T-shirts calling him their hero. They cheer for him when he walks down the street. The Toxic Avenger is making Tromaville a good place to live again and the people love him for it. Except for the Mayor and the Police Chief who are so corrupt, they become desperate for Toxie to make a mistake so they can discredit him and finally put an end to this town’s streak of goodness and get back to making piles of cash from any criminal source possible.
One day, Toxie makes such a mistake. When we see him murder a seemingly innocent woman in a dry cleaner’s shop, we wonder if our new favorite hero has made a bad turn. We find out that this woman was the head of a slavery ring with a criminal history a mile long, but the Mayor and Chief can’t let anybody know about it and they use this incident to discredit the monster hero.
When the Mayor demonizes Toxie and tries to get the townspeople to turn against our hero, he even gets the army involved. In the end, Toxie and his force for goodness win the day and Tromaville is saved.
This was the movie that put Troma Studios on the map. In the following years, the Toxic Avenger has had three sequels, a Saturday morning cartoon called the Toxic Crusaders, an NES game based on that cartoon, a theater musical, and finally news of a fifth movie featuring Toxie’s sons – The Toxic Twins. The Toxic Avenger has become a B-movie classic, and if you can handle the brutal killings and scenes of gore, you’re in for a good time.
The best part about this is Troma Studios have put the majority of their catalog up on YouTube for all of us to watch for free. The only films of theirs that you can’t watch like this are the new releases, but I hope if you really like this movie, you’ll throw Troma a few dollars and get the DVD. All I ask is that if you do wish to watch their films on YouTube, you go directly to their Troma Movies channel and watch them there, and not some channel where some anonymous goon posts a bootleg copy of the movie just to get free internet points. I promise that if you can get into Troma films, you will be binging on them for days.
So here it is in all its gruesome glory: