In 1597, William Shakespeare published one of the most endearing love stories ever written. Romeo and Juliet, the tale of two star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a bitter rivalry between families that turn deadly. For centuries people all over the world have loved and had been inspired by this tragic tale of unrequited love. Revered by scholars as one of the true classic pieces of literature, every performance throughout history sees the original source material treated with respect and humility. The passion and yearning the two lovers have for each other speaks of a bond that not even death can separate. This quintessential love story has been told to millions of people all over the world.
Then in 1996 Troma put out their version; kicking respect and humility to the curb. Directed by Lloyd Kaufman, this film was written by James Gunn. Yes, the same James Gunn that wrote Guardians of the Galaxy wrote Tromeo and Juliet. The setting was moved from Italy to New York City where patriarchs Cappy Capulet and Monty Que, two local pornographers who, at one time, were close friends until a bad business deal set them against each other. Monty Que has let his life fall apart since the deal that lost him his company ‘Silky Films.’ His son Tromeo tries to clean Monty up, only to watch him crawl back into the bottle.
Cappy Capulet, on the other hand, has found financial success with ‘Silky Films.’ Cappy is a rich, perverted narcissist forcing his daughter, Juliet, into an arraigned marriage to local butcher shop manager London Arbuckle. The film follows the main plot points of the original story. The dialogue is modern with bits of the original lines recited in certain scenes. At the start of the film, we learn about House Que and House Capulet with narration by Lemmy (House of Motorhead.)
At its core, the story remains the same, this is still Romeo and Juliet, albeit a version that has been dragged through Troma’s meat grinder, but it’s is a decent recreation nonetheless. The acting was fantastic, the special effects were nice and bloody as usual. This was one that it’s easy to see the love and care that Troma put into this one. They wanted to make the most bizarre version of the Bard’s classic they could and it shows.
How faithfully do Tromeo and Juliet remain to the original source material? It follows the same beats and plot points and even has some original lines mixed with modern speech such as…
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” “I know, it sucks!”
“What light from yonder Plexiglas breaks?”
Most of the characters in Tromeo & Juliet are the same characters from the original renamed and purposed. Obviously, the two titular characters are spoken for, along with Lord Montague/Monty Que and Lord Capulet/Cappy Capulet. Mercutio has become Murray Martini, Benvolio is now Benny Que, Count Paris becomes London Arbuckle, and Prince Escalus is renamed Detective Ernie Scalus.
When I first watched this movie, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was going to be more of a parody which, in hindsight, would have been awful. Instead, it had received a Tromatic rewrite and injected a breath of fresh, blood-soaked air into it. Like any Troma movie, this isn’t for all tastes, but it’s definitely one of the better ones. Tromeo & Juliet features sexual situations (some good, some god-awful creepy) with Tromeo & Juliet’s first love scene being done very well indeed. (Thy boots doth knocked verily.) The violence isn’t too bad in this one unless your biggest trigger is someone losing an eye or getting their head dashed open. Tromeo & Juliet is one of Troma’s most popular films, and it is the one that actually got a positive review from the New York Times. This isn’t even the worst adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I’ve seen the one with Leonardo DiCaprio. This one is better.
I now present to you Tromeo and Juliet in all its free, legal and embedded glory, thanks to the TromaMovies YouTube channel.
That rumbling you feel coming from the ground below? Not to worry, that’s just William Shakespeare breakdancing in his grave.