The Toxic Avenger
I’ve never been such a huge fan of Troma films. They are silly and look awfully cheap, but they do it on purpose which isn’t that much fun. To me, a bad movie must be naturally bad, not artificially. So, while I do appreciate what Troma does and the culture they have created, I’ve disregarded most of their films, including the Toxic Avenger series. Big mistake, at least when it comes to the first one, which was as mindless and gratuitous as a movie can get but also exhibited surprising quality. And best of all, far from being silly, it was tremendously fun!
The first Toxic Avenger is practically a blueprint for the trashy films that came out from the 80‘s — one can feel its smelly tendrils extending all over the decade with films such as Street Trash and Bad Taste. It was released in 1984 and it’s one of the very first Troma hits, since the company had been producing generally raunchy sex comedies after its inception in 1974. The Toxic Avenger is equally a tribute to bad films and a big finger towards big movie productions. You can almost hear Lloyd Kaufman and Co. laughing at the entire cinema history throughout the film and that’s perfectly fine because The Toxic Avenger is, hands down, the absolute anti-movie. I must admit though that it took me several minutes to catch the “feel” of the film — this is because, in true Troma spirit, the acting is appalling and unbelievably cheesy. Every single character is horribly stereotyped and overacted. It’s like watching a low-rate TV novel times ten. The guy that plays Toxie in particular – Mitch Cohen – is impossible. I mean it, he can’t exist! No human being can articulate such a wide range of facial expressions and produce that dumb smile. I immediately loved the guy and he’s really one of the highlights of the movie. Unfortunately, he didn’t appear in the sequels (nor in many other movies for that matter) which doesn’t hold a candle to the original.
You probably know the plot of the movie so I won’t elaborate much: you have the usual poor boy – Melvin – who is the mop boy for the Tromaville Health Club and is constantly being harassed by a gang of hedonistic and overly macho boys. But all the heavy jokes they play on Melvin come to a tragic finale when he falls into a vat of toxic waste… He then suffers a series of bizarre transformations until he becomes The Toxic Avenger! Yeah, from mop boy to slimy town hero. Needless to say, Melvin, now reborn Toxie, is intent on fighting crime and corruption with his newly acquired powers, and of course seeking revenge on the gang that turned him into a monster while he’s at it. Eventually, he will go as far as obliterating the mayor of Tromaville who wants to turn the town into a gigantic waste disposal.
The Toxic Avenger is excessive but in the right way, and the seriously over-the-top acting is merely one aspect of these many excesses. Just picture those macho boys from the club running their car over a defenseless kid who is riding a bike just for the heck of it – Carmageddon-style – and then their respective girlfriends taking pictures of the victim in agony. To avoid any expletives, that one sort of grabbed me by surprise. But even with all these excesses, The Toxic Avenger is a well done and effective movie, providing rip-roaring fun from the very first minute to the credits, and a few quite creative gory scenes. Mention apart deserves Toxie’s girlfriend who, before you ask, is blind and is performed by Andree Maranda, who went to become a country singer. I’m truly sorry that she didn’t pursue her acting career further because she was fantastic in the role of Sara, another great highlight along with Melvin. I could go on and on, mentioning many great little things but, as a whole, this is essential cult viewing and gets a very solid seal of approval from me.
The Toxic Avenger can be acquired from Troma Entertainment.