APRIL 22, 2010
I really wish I had a DVD of the released version of The Toxic Avenger (and the time to watch it), because the cut they showed tonight at the New Beverly was some “director’s cut”, and by pretty much everyone’s account, the added footage more or less killed the movie. What was probably a really fun and fast paced 82 minute movie became a sluggish, repetitive 100 minute one that felt even longer. Even with the lowered standards one should set for watching a Troma movie, I just didn’t get the same experience its legions of fans likely got with the final cut.
For example, there are two montage scenes that go on for what seems like at least 5 minutes. The first is when Toxie and the blind girl fall in love, which just keeps going and going (and the music is noticeably looped), killing the humor of the scene. And near the end, which is disappointing no matter how you look at it, we’re treated to endless shots of the army jeeps closing in on Toxie, which would have been OK if he actually fought with them/their occupants, but no. The finale has him kill the mayor and that’s it. It’s the rare “action” film where each sequence is less and less impressive, as if they filmed the movie in sequence and blew all the money on the first few action scenes.
There are also seems to be two plots to the movie, something that was likely exacerbated by the longer version. The idea of Toxie going after the assholes that got him into the literal mess in the first place is fine - not only is it a fun spin on the usual “outcast gets revenge on the bullies who fucked with him” movie (Carrie, Terror Train, Slaughter High, etc), but the scenes in the gym have more inherent potential for humor than the ones with the mayor and his cronies. Most of the laughs I got were during scenes in the gym, with a dude smoking as he worked out, and two ditzy blondes admiring the photos they took of a kid that they ran over. But the mayor stuff mostly relies on us finding the fact that he is overweight to be funny.
And who cares if he’s corrupt? I mean, yeah, he’s responsible for the toxic waste being in the city, but it seems like a concept that’s worthy of its own movie (Toxie goes after the scum who destroyed his city!). Instead, the film keeps shifting back and forth with little cohesion - Toxie goes after one of the bullies, and then he takes on some street punks. Takes another bully down, and then he goes after a slave trader (?). Etc. And the main “bad guy” with regards to the bullying incident has the most anticlimactic death in the entire movie - you don’t even really see him die! After a typically overlong car chase, his car just goes over a hill and blows up in plain view of some continuity errors (is that the crew down there?). Toxie drops a bunch of weights on the head of a drug dealer, and rips the arm off of a guy robbing a fast food joint, but his biggest enemy just dies due to movie physics. It also happens with about 20 minutes to go in the movie, where it should have been the finale regardless of how exciting/climax-worthy it is (and for the record, the chase is certainly more exciting than the standoff with the mayor).
But it’s certainly got enough of that Troma spirit to warrant a view. Melvin (Toxie’s human form) is the most pathetic character in Troma history (which is saying something), and Mark Torgl really goes for broke in his portrayal. And the various, Robocop-esque scenes of Toxie taking on criminals, or simply helping people open their jars of popcorn seeds, are a delight. And I never failed to laugh whenever Toxie would use his very normal, newscaster-y voice after doing some horrible things to wrong-doers. There are also a number of odd sight gags that I really loved, like when the cops investigate the killings at the fast food place while stuffing their faces with tacos. And really, if you don’t laugh at the part where the two bullies beat up an old lady (“Did you see the look on her face when I punched her?”), you have no business watching Troma movies, or reading this site.
Lloyd Kaufman, of course, was on hand to introduce the movie and do a Q&A afterward, and as usual was flanked with a variety of Tromettes and assorted weirdos doing their annoying shtick (rule of thumb for Los Angeles events - if you see “Count Smokula” around, you’re going to be muttering and rolling your eyes a lot that night). It was mildly amusing for a few minutes, but by the time it got to be around 8:15 (on a scheduled 7:30 start time), I really just wanted all of them to go the fuck away. The Q&A was pretty annoying too, as Lloyd can never be bothered to answer a question normally, settling instead for making corny jokes or handing the mike over to someone else (the guy who wrote Poultrygeist answered someone’s question about “his script” for the Mother’s Day remake - I can assure you he had nothing to do with it). I really wish Lloyd didn’t always feel the need to be “on” - he’s been steadily making independent films for 35 years and helping a lot of people get their start. It would be interesting and helpful (especially in LA) to hear him offer actual advice and discuss his years in the film business, instead of making Justin Beiber jokes and hocking his DVDs. And if he’s not interested in actually answering questions, why bother? Just put the next movie on (which was indeed Poultrygeist, however I didn’t stick around due to the late time and the fact that I only knew two people in the crowd) and do your thing outside. On that note, I must give props to Allyson Sereboff from Poultrygeist, who was trying her best to just get things moving along for those people who were there to see a movie.
Someday I’ll get around to watching the released version, which I can guarantee I will like a lot more. As with Resurrected, this “uncut” one (though I hear there’s an even LONGER version floating around!) might have been interesting to die hard fans, but for me, seeing the movie all the way through for the first time (I had seen a lot of the Melvin scenes before, as well as the fast food fight), it was counter-productive. But even when cut down to its normal length, I can’t see ever liking it as much as Terror Firmer or even Poultrygeist (which were ALSO too long, but it wasn’t as crippling an issue as it was here). Supposedly there’s a remake coming along - I’m all for it, as long as it doesn’t try to be two movies again.
And whoever plastered a Troma bumper sticker on one of the Bev’s seats better pray the thing comes right off, or I’ll never buy/rent/watch another Troma movie again (it was in the row with a bunch of Lloyd’s apparently multiple +1s)! I was fucking appalled. I felt like Angelo Pignati coming home and seeing Norton Kelly breaking all of his pigs, and I’m not even an employee/owner! Fuckers! You respect the Bev!
What say you?