THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III – THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE
Dir: Kaufman & Herz. After shooting Part II, the Troma team found themselves with a lot of unused footage and with ingenuity only they possess, decided to turn it, with a few additional scenes, into a fully fledged movie. What’s even more remarkable is that the result is a good deal better than the film from which it’s the left-overs. While it showed that II was partly funded by Lorimar (despite Lloyd Kaufman assuring me they’d no creative input into it, “though I wish they had!”), III returns in part to the original; not quite as much poor taste, perhaps, but still an acceptable film.
In plot, it’s exactly the same as II. Tromaville is threatened by Apocalypse, Inc who try to destroy Toxie. The difference is this time they try to bribe him, rather than sending him off to Japan – he goes to work for them in exchange for $350,000 to pay for an operation to get Claire, his blind girlfriend, to see again. It’s almost as if II never happened; Toxie has totally forgotten all the evil things Apocalypse, Inc did in the last film. He becomes a yuppie before seeing the error of his ways and discovering the head of Apocalypse, Inc is Satan in disguise.
The first third is a joy, in the spirit of the original. The tone is set in the opening scene, a thinly veiled attack on the big boys who rule the film industry: a video shop, full of Troma product naturally, is attacked by Apocalypse thugs (the Warner brothers!) who demand the removal of all but the top 20 titles; one customer who asks for variety & choice is blown away and left twitching on the floor. Enter Toxie. One baddie’s intestines are pulled out and used as a skipping rope, another has his face erased and a third gets a hand shredded, in merciless detail, by a VCR.
The film can’t sustain this for too long – it slides, ever so gently, down-hill with the last third being almost down to II standard. Toxie as a yuppie is a nice idea, and is about the only joke that isn’t over-played. Phoebe Legere, as Claire, has improved drastically and has something of a character now, though her tendency to lie around with her legs splayed wide is slightly distracting.
Directorially, it’s good stuff by Troma standards, at times almost psychedelic with the dream sequences being especially effective. The special effects are about as you’d expect; not expensive, with trick photography and lots of cutting away at appropriate moments – the original Toxie at least showed heads being crushed, for just enough time to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks without realising it was a cheap effect. The soundtrack, loosely based on Dvorak(!), also stood out, though it occasionally doesn’t fit in with the tone of the film.
Overall, not bad. You could edit II & III together and get one great movie; roll on IV (“Mr Toxie goes to Washington”) but will it be as naff as II or as good as III?
TOP TEN TACKY TROMA TEAM TITLES
- Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell
- I was a Teenage TV Terrorist
- Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters
- Sergeant Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D.
- Sizzle Beach, USA
- The Nymphoteens
- Surf Nazis Must Die!
- Death to the Pee-Wee Squad
- Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid
- Rabid Grannies
Founded in the mid 1970’s by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, two graduates of Yale University (Kaufman majored in Asian studies!), Troma films have acquired an odd status among trash fans – some people swear by them, others about them. Their best known product is “The Toxic Avenger” which pulled in worldwide over $15 million on a budget of less than $1 million. It became notorious after receiving the most cuts in the history of the BBFC, though this is still better than the Ontario film review committee, who refused point-blank to watch the second half! Despite never having had a hit film in big company terms, Troma kept plugging away, releasing an average of five or six films a year, both made by the Troma team, and bought in from outside. LLoyd Kaufman was over in the country recently for a Guardian discussion on exploitation films. The other panellists were Nigel Floyd, film critic specializing in schlock/exploitation, Andrew Keyte, head of Film Rental at Virgin Video who have bought the rights to several Troma films and Derek Malcolm, ‘Guardian’ film critic.
The discussion opened with people trying to define an exploitation film. Nigel Floyd described it as a movie that cashes in on a current trend, where art comes second. This same man went on to describe ‘Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer’ as the best exploitation film of the last ten years, and completely failed to describe what trend it was cashing in on or how art came second in it. Floyd launched into an attack on The Toxic Avenger for conforming to standard values while the best exploitation films preached non-conformity; Lloyd Kaufman replied, “If we’re guilty of promoting bad values like loyalty, decency and being true to one’s girlfriend than I am very sorry!”. The conversation turned to marketing and it was suggested that for Troma, the title played a large part and marketing was used to sell second rate films. Here, it turned out that “Rabid Grannies” was the original title of the film and not a Troma device – the dubbing, too, was done in Belgium.
The subject of censorship came up, and Keyte described how the BBFC’s blanket ban on martial arts weapons was posing problems for ‘Toxic Avenger 2′, despite the Ninja Death Star used in the film actually being a star-fish, the BBFC wanted it cut. He went on to say there is a lot of caution in the video industry just now, as they want to avoid a crackdown leading to a similar situation to Germany where ’18’ rated videos are now only available from licensed sex shops.
Lloyd Kaufman was asked for the Troma formula, but replied that they didn’t go by one, beyond trying to keep the budget modest. They find a lot of subject matter in the newspapers and treat it in a new way – about the only common theme running through their films is that they are nearly all comedies (this obviously excludes bought-in product like “Combat Shock”). They’re not keen on bigger budgets; ‘Sgt Kabukiman, NYPD’ is their biggest ever at $4 million. Kaufman suggested it was the big companies that really pulled the wool over people’s eyes with marketing, quoting ‘Batman’ as an example of the power of advertising.
By now it was becoming clear that Kaufman didn’t take anything too seriously, Keyte was a company mouthpiece, Malcolm a closet trash fiend and Floyd a total prat. The man purported to be a fan of exploitation films yet, even by his own terms, the films he liked couldn’t be so described. He accused Troma of trying to create cults, failing to deliver the goods and having a ‘glib and superficial’ attitude. Then he went on to criticise their attitude towards women and homosexuals, but was totally unable to justify the latter accusation. Kaufman responded by saying it was taken to obvious extremes, but skipped neatly round a question from the floor about Senor Sida, the AIDS-ridden bad guy in “Troma’s War” (Kaufman regards the unrated version of it as a the nearest thing Troma has to a masterpiece!). He did admit that he might not distribute “Blood Sucking Freaks” now, a movie he described as being harder to watch now then when it came out and made the comment that he disliked violence to children – since this is a feature of both “The Toxic Avenger” and “Rabid Grannies”, it seemed a little odd!
After a discussion on why there hasn’t been a British equivalent to Troma since the demise of Hammer(!), which came to no real conclusions, Kaufman was asked where he saw Troma going. He said he’d never been so worried about the place in the market of the independent film-maker and warned that it was quite possible that the large amount of films on the market was no lasting trend but just the overhang from the home video explosion.
Perhaps the most chilling thing to come out of the whole evening came at the end, when it was claimed that Colorbox had come under pressure from some major video chains following the passing of “Bad Taste” uncut, threatening to withdraw other Colorbox movies unless ‘something’ was done. They resisted, so let’s hope that this is an isolated case; if the video companies start slapping their OWN censorship on top of that of the BBFC (and there’s no reason to think it’ll work the other way, with video chains stocking uncut versions of films they consider have been unfairly censored), then it’s another kick in the teeth for ‘freedom’…