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THE TOXIC AVENGER (1985)

"We better do something about that monster, or Tromaville
is gunna be a nice place to live!"

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Director: Michael Herz, Samuel Weil (Lloyd Kaufman)

Starring: Mitchell Cohen, Andree Maranda, Jennifer Babtist, Cindy Manion, Robert Prichard, Gary Schneider, Pat Ryan Jr, David Weiss, Mark Torgl, Dick Martinsen

Screenplay: Joe Ritter, Lloyd Kaufman, Gay Terry

Synopsis: In Tromaville, New Jersey, the "Toxic Waste Dumping Capital Of America", janitor Melvin Furd (Mark Torgl), a 90-pound weakling, is constantly tormented by Bozo (Gary Schneider) and his cronies. One day, one of the gang’s cruel pranks misfires, and Melvin falls through a window, landing in a drum of toxic waste below. Melvin begins to experience a strange transformation, ultimately emerging as - The Toxic Avenger (Mitchell Cohen). Soon the crooks and bad people of Tromaville are under siege as Toxie wages a personal war to clean up the town. While foiling the robbery of a Mexican restaurant, Toxie rescues Sara (Andree Maranda), a beautiful blind girl; the two fall in love. Toxie continues his campaign, punishing Bozo’s gang for their former treatment of him. The people of Tromaville love Toxie, but the corrupt mayor, Peter Belgoody (Pat Ryan, Jr), and his Nazi-like police chief (David Weiss), feel their crime empire under threat and call in the National Guard to destroy him....

Comments: I wanted to like this film, I really did. But The Toxic Avenger, one of Troma’s endless attempts to hit the tiny target area that lies between funny and offensive, overshoots the mark of the merely offensive and lands squarely in the realm of the outright disgusting. The pity of it is that there were the seeds of an entertaining movie here. Toxie himself wasn’t at all a bad idea - a hero for our times, as it were. The problem is that, for once (indeed, for perhaps the only time in history), the end product actually lived up to Troma’s ad campaign, which promised "a film full of unnecessary sex and violence". Oh, brother, they weren’t kidding.

The credits play over T&A at the local health club (a health club in Tromaville? you may ask - I certainly did), before we are introduced to the original Melvin Furd, a person so utterly repugnant that you don’t blame the bad guys one bit for persecuting him (God knows, he hadn’t been on screen for ten seconds before I found myself wishing he was dead). After an opening sequence that feels endless, the tutu-clad Melvin is mercifully propelled out of the window, and soon we’re in the company of his alter ego, Toxie. Melvin-II has infinitely more personality than Melvin-I (but then, so does one of Melvin’s mops), but unfortunately his attempts to clean up Tromaville involve acts of violence even more repellent than those committed by the bad guys (Lloyd, Michael, I hate to break this to you, but someone getting their hands shoved into a deep fryer ain’t funny).

Along with the grue go "jokes" that would have to stand on a ladder to be low-brow - honestly, you wouldn’t think it was physically possible to fit this many guy-getting-hit-in-the-crotch gags into a mere ninety minutes. And, oh yeah, that "ninety" minutes. Be warned now: a great deal of it consists of the various alleged "highlights" repeated over and over and over - Toxie’s creation, bad enough; Toxie’s violent acts, worse yet; Toxie and Sara having sex - yecchhh!! Frankly, a sexually active Toxie is not an image I care to dwell upon (although he doesn’t at any stage take his tutu off, proving that there is yet something for us to be grateful for).

This sequence aside, things actually do pick up a bit when Toxie rescues Sara, because the performance of Andree Maranda is one of the film’s brighter aspects (that is, if you don’t mind blind jokes. But then, if you do mind blind jokes, what are you doing watching a Troma film?). There’s also a nice turn from Dick Martinsen as the endlessly Irish Officer O’Clancy, and the appearance of America’s nicest National Guard outfit ("Some of the men have come up with a plan to take him alive. It would be more humane."), but it’s not enough to dispel the bad taste left by the rest of the film. Obviously, though, I’m in the minority with this opinion. Toxie was so successful that there’s already been two sequels made, and at last report the world was being threatened with a third. Oh, the humanity....

Footnote: Rumour hath it that people with sharp eyes can spot Marisa Tomei somewhere in this film....