Review Date: November 15, 2000
Released by: Troma
Release date: November 14, 1997
Region 0, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Unbelievably, it was over 15 years ago that Lloyd Kaufman and his partner-in-crime, Michael Herz, unleashed Toxie, aka Melvin, aka The Toxic Avenger
, upon the world of low-budget cinema. When first released to theatres in the mid-eighties, the MPAA demanded severe cuts of the film’s outrageous violence, but fortunately, thanks to the incredible versatility of home video formats like DVD, we are finally allowed to see Herz and Kaufman’s film in it’s original, unrated form.
Meet Melvin (Mark Torgl
), a nerdy, 90-lbs. weakling who spends his days mopping and cleaning toilets at the Tromaville Health Club. To add insult to injury, Melvin is being constantly terrorized by the club’s patrons. Their harassment of the poor kid comes to an end when the gorgeous Julie (Cindy Manion
), plotting with her knuckle-headed boyfriend Bozo (Gary Schneider
), tells Melvin she wants to “do it”, and lures him into a dark room wearing a pink tutu (because it “turns her on”) and they begin to make-out. However, when the lights are suddenly turned on, Melvin realizes that he’s not kissing a girl, he’s kissing - a sheep! Mortified, Melvin runs hysterically through the health club and jumps out a window, landing in a barrel of toxic waste on a truck parked outside. Burning and screaming in agony, Melvin runs home where he begins his transformation into...The Toxic Avenger!
Seven feet tall, muscle-bound and REALLY angry, Toxie sets to work cleaning up the mean streets of Tromaville. Dubbed “The Monster Hero” by the local media (the name “Toxie” wasn’t incorporated until the sequel), the city’s jails and morgues begin to fill up with criminal scum. He even gets himself a girlfriend, the blind Sarah (Andree Maranda
). However, the real challenge for Toxie isn’t going to be petty street trash, or the new and exciting world of dating, it’s evil Tromaville mayor Peter Belgoody (Pat Ryan
) and his corrupt police force, who will stop at nothing to destroy him.
Although Troma had been operating for about 10 years prior, The Toxic Avenger
is what really put them on the map in 1984. The film is one of the funniest, bloodiest and politically incorrect gorefests of all time. Nothing and nobody is left unscathed - seeing-eye dogs are killed, shotguns are pointed in little kids’ faces, a little old lady is beaten, a boy is killed in a savage hit-and-run (the “head crushing” referred to on the package occurs during this sequence). The characters embellish every outrageous stereotype in the book - Tromaville’s police chief, an apparent escapee from “Hogan’s Heroes”, can’t stop himself from addressing Mayor Belgoody as “Mein Fuhrer”, while an outlandishly gay couple (well before such sights became commonplace on network TV) talks about how monsters prefer blondes.
A lot of people have criticized Troma and their movies over the years for being unrealistic, cheesy, and refusing to take themselves seriously. What critics of Troma fail to realize is that that is exactly the point - Troma doesn’t care about the realism of their films, it simply isn’t a concern. Troma produces movies that are fun to watch and fun to make. The Toxic Avenger
is a perfect example of this - a movie that’s unpretentious and hilarious, but so offbeat that it just has to be noticed.
Presented full-frame at 1.33:1 (considering it’s low-budget origins, this is almost certainly the correct aspect ratio), the image is generally pleasing. Colors are nice and strong, and the image is clear and relatively sharp. There are quite a few speckles, scratches and splices present on the film element, and although Troma could probably have done a slightly better job at cleaning up the print, I’m not going to complain because The Toxic Avenger
looks better than any video I’ve seen of it.
Unfortunately however, there is the large amount of pixelation that occurs, not just throughout the film, but in many of the video segments that make up the supplemental section. This seems to be a general fault in the disc’s authoring, and can be very distracting at times, even if you are not watching it on a large TV. The pixelation usually occurs in the background of the frame, although it also pops up in images where there is a lot of contrast between light and dark, and where there are complicated patterns, like on people’s clothes (Lloyd Kaufman’s suits during many of his video introductions to the film and supplements, already an eyesore to begin with, suffer heavily).
Because The Toxic Avenger
relies heavily on sound effects and music, it is very important that the soundtrack be given a good presentation, and here the disc does not disappoint. The sound, in Dolby 2.0 Mono, is very pleasing, reproducing the soundtrack without any audible distortion, hiss or background noise. Occasionally there are times when dialogue can be difficult to hear (probably due to technical limitations of the day), but overall the sound is very well-balanced, and it did not leave me scrambling to adjust the volume every three minutes like many other releases have. A good job by Troma.
Troma has really gone to town on the extras department, providing a plethora of supplemental material. First off, there is a feature-length commentary track with Lloyd Kaufman. The track is very informative, covering the origins of The Toxic Avenger
, some history of Troma, anecdotes about the production, explanation of the film’s special effects, actor backgrounds and more. Kaufman is the kind of man that stumbles over vocabulary and can have a hard time expressing himself, so occasionally the track can be frustrating to listen to, although overall it’s a very welcome addition to the disc.
Next, there are seven deleted scenes, which were left out from even the director’s cut. The scenes add some more to the characterization (including an explanation of how Sarah went blind), although mostly they are just extra humor, including a scene where Sarah makes Toxie a sandwich with Draino, and where witnesses confound a police sketch artist by giving different descriptions of Toxie.
Continuing, we get the T.I.T. (Troma Intelligence Test), a trivia quiz on various Troma movies, as well as an interactive tour of the Troma headquarters. The tour is amusing, to say the least, with the viewer given the option of going to any or all of the various departments and sections of the studio (including the Sex Department and the Executive Bathroom!), where various little skits are played. The undeniable highlight of the tour is when we arrive in the script department, where two pre-pubescent girls discuss story ideas, including scripts about boxers who bite off their opponent’s ears and British nannies who shake babies to death (both ideas are thrown out as being unrealistic).
Then there is a short slideshow, containing a variety of publicity stills from the movie, behind-the-scenes photos and some ad art. This is followed by the “Hot Tromabilia” section, a collection of various short materials relating to Troma and The Toxic Avenger
. This section is a real treat - not only do we get several hilarious skits, but we also get to see the title sequence of the children’s animated series Toxic Crusaders
(based on Toxie’s movies), and 5 scenes from the film with additional commentary by Mark Torgl. Whatta treat!
Last but not least, we get theatrical trailers for not only this film, but it’s sequel Toxic Avenger Part II
(which looks like it sucks), and 6 other Troma classics - Tromeo and Juliet, Sergeant Kabukiman NYPD, Bloodsucking Freaks, Surf Nazis Must Die, Class of Nuke’em High
and Def by Temptation
. If you’ve never seen a Troma trailer before, you’ll soon discover that there is nothing quite like them.
Although I really wish more care had been taken in the authoring of the disc, I know that Troma fanatics and Toxie fans alike are just going to eat this DVD up. Overall this is an excellent way to see The Toxic Avenger
, and the supplements will interest anybody that’s into independent filmmaking, cult movies, or people with a just plain weird sense of humor. The Toxic Avenger
is a great film, and this disc deserves the attention of all you fans.
Movie - A
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B
Supplements - A+
- Running Time - 1 hour 22 minutes
- 1 Disc
- 9 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital Mono
- Feature-length commentary track with Lloyd Kaufman
- Deleted scenes
- Troma Intelligence Test
- Tour of the Troma headquarters