And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
SGT. KABUKIMAN, NYPD (1996)
"At the end of Mercury's next journey the dragon shall dance through the hoop of Jupiter. If at that moment the monkey will ride the jaguar and the tiger will feast on the nubile, the order of the universe will be such that the Evil One will reign supreme for eternity. Now, do I make myself perfectly clear?"
Director: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Synopsis: A Japanese man is murdered. He dies swearing that the spirit of Kabukiman can never be killed. Businessman Reginald Stuart (Bill Weeden) attends a Kabuki performance sponsored by his company, Stuart Pandex, which wants to bring "culture to the masses". The performance is also attended by Detective Harry Griswold (Rick Gianisi), who is investigating the murder. During the Kabuki, one of the cast reveals himself as the killer, Rembrandt (Thomas Crnkovich), and slaughters most of the performers. When Harry tries to intervene, an old man who has been fatally wounded kisses him, transmitting to him the spirit of Kabukiman. Harry begins to experience spontaneous transformation, ending up in make-up and a kimono. The old man's granddaughter, Lotus (Susan Byun), tries to tell him that he has been chosen to fight the Evil One, but Harry refuses to listen. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Rembrandt is working for Reginald Stuart, who is possessed by the spirit of the Evil One. Also working for Stuart is a corrupt minister, Snipes (Larry Robinson), who is being investigated by Harry's colleague, Connie LaRosa. Before she can expose him, Connie is brutally raped and murdered by Snipes' thugs. Harry is devastated, and agrees to allow Lotus to train him as Kabukiman.
This may be the best film Troma have ever made. Yeah, I know: big deal, right? To paraphrase writer Richard Lupoff, that's like saying "I'm a nicer person than Hitler". Let me start again: this is one of the very few Troma films where it doesn't feel like the entire creative input was exhausted in coming up with the title. It has an original idea. And it's funny all the way through. Well, pretty much. At any rate, there's a lot of fun to be had as we follow the trials of Harry Griswold (what is it with the name "Griswold"?) as he comes to terms with his new powers: his weapons include wax umbrellas, noodles, chopsticks ("Suppose he used knives and forks!" says an impressed onlooker) and seaweed (a hooker and her pimp end up as sushi). But those guys at Troma are soppy romantics at heart, and none of this works properly without the love of Lotus: Harry's first attempt at a spontaneous transformation turns him into a clown, completewith bang-pistol and laughing bag ("Turn that damn thing off," snaps his Captain). As Lotus, Susan Byun has the unenviable task of playing straightperson in the midst of all this nonsense. She also gets to recite the above-quoted speech three times, and does it without a glitch. (The girl's a trooper.) Bill Weeden goes completely over the top as the evil Reginald Stuart, and Thomas Crnkovich as Rembrandt, the psycho killer in a long grey wig, spends most of the film doing a bizarre take-off of Frank Silva's Killer Bob from Twin Peaks. Even though Kabukiman was publicised as the first Troma film to get a PG-13 rating, fans needn't worry. It still has all those qualities we know and love: unnecessary sex scenes, gratuitous breast shots, toilet humour, vomiting, cheesy special effects and more political incorrectness than you could poke a stick at. The usual Troma targets take another pounding, and there is an enjoyable amount of America-bashing. "I have tried in vain to reason with you Japanese-style," says an exasperated Lotus to Harry. "Now I must resort to American-style!" She then proceeds to beat the crap out him. A man asks a cop why he's taking notes when "only three people were killed". A stockbroker showing off the Mercedes bought with his profits from insider trading is the subject of a Lethal Weapon-esque punishment, while two corrupt lawyers are in the wrong place at the wrong time when Kabukiman develops air-sickness. Kabukiman also threatens a dire fate for anyone who tries to "meddle with the national endowment for the arts". Come to the think of it, the whole film's pretty "arty": in place of an original score (which might have cost money) we have constant snippets from Madame Butterfly - even Lotus' doorbell plays it. Opera in a Troma film. Culture for the masses, indeed....