Of all the companies that make B list movies, none have quite the following that Troma has. Their name has become synonymous with campy, hypersexual, and blatantly graphic (though unrealistically) violent films. While they are also known for such “classics” as Nuke ‘Em High and Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD, the ultimate Troma film has to be The Toxic Avenger.
What makes The Toxie Avenger so great is that it came out in the 80’s, at a time when the genre of B movies had declined to an all-time low. By the end of the 70’s many of the higher end B movies were being made into A movies with bigger budgets and more well-known casts. What was left was dredged up from the bottom of the post-censorship rules barrel. These films were increasingly cheap, violent, and just plain bad. The Toxic Avenger came out right in the middle of this decline, as the epitome of what the genre could be, part bad comedy and part low budget horror film.
The plot of the movie begins with Mervin, the mop boy at the Tromaville Health Club, enduring considerable amounts of torment from a homicidal twenty-something with ‘Roid Rage named Bozo. He is tossed out a window where he lands in vats of toxic waste and is transformed into the horrifically mutated Toxic Avenger (lovingly referred to by fans as “Toxie”).
After his terrifying transformation, Toxie begins to hunt down all of the town’s evildoers, which obviously includes his former tormentor, who has taken to running down children in the street in his free time. As Toxie works his way through the series of evil people he wants to take out, he finds rather creative ways to kill off the dredges of society. Three thugs involved in a robbery meet particularly disturbing ends involving a milkshake mixer, a deep fryer, and a pizza oven respectively. Of course, since every movie has to have a romantic side, Toxie has a love interest who is blind (something like Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four.).
For a low budget film, this is pretty fabulous. It has all the things I want to see in a B movie from that time period. Despite their best efforts, the acting is terrible. In the fast food restaurant robbery scene, one robber tries so hard to look intense and intimidating that his body tenses and his eyes bulge almost out of his head. I was concerned he was going to have an aneurism! The primary antagonist, Bozo, suffers from what one can only assume are steroid induced mood swings that left me both stunned and laughing. I wish real steroid users were this amusing. Even Toxie is not immune to the bad acting plague going on in this movie. Melvin is barely able to open his eyes or deliver lines and after his transformation, Toxie’s voice is dubbed in so poorly that even fans of the terrible voice dubbing in Godzilla films would be appalled.
Complementing the terrible acting are the less than impressive sets. The love shack in which Toxie and his love interest set up looks like something made by kindergarteners with paper mache. Other sets look like someone dumped an office trash can in front of the wall of a sound stage in an attempt to depict a garbage strewn alley that falls more than a little short. Most trash filled alleys I’ve seen (and having lived in New York for several years, I’ve seen my fair share), are far from white drywall with crumpled paper and food wrappers lightly strewn about.
The fight scenes are a particular source of entertainment. Filled with terrible martial arts and quick cuts, in a vain attempt to portray action, these scenes had me almost in tears from laughter. Any time a gun goes off, blood squibs are used in a liberal fashion and to very little effect.
Eventually Toxie’s actions earn him the ire of the corrupt, local officials who want to see him taken down. The movie ends, as many movies of this genre do, with a big scene in which the army is called up and a mass of men in uniform with surplus equipment show up on scene. By the end, Toxie resorts to using his hands to pull unidentifiable organs out of the town’s rather bloated mayor.
Toxie has over the top violence, a German scientist with an atrocious accent, one of the worst sex scenes I’ve ever witnessed(Watchmen is still worse), and a car chase with the crappiest cars they could find, all things adding to The Toxic Avenger’s imperfect perfection. The one thing I was truly impressed with was the amount of army surplus equipment they managed to scrape together. While some of the shots may have involved the same trucks driving past the camera more than once, there were also an old tank, several jeeps and trucks, and a whole mess of machine guns. For a movie of this caliber, it is quite a spread. I can’t think of a better choice for my introduction to Troma’s B movie library.
3/5 Death Stars