The Toxic Avenger begins with the introduction of Melvin Ferd (Mark Torgl), the mop boy in Tromaville’s health club. His job consists of mopping up messes that members leave behind after working out. Melvin’s your typical 98lb weakling that everyone picks on. One afternoon while cleaning the pool area, Melvin has a run in with club bullies, Bozo (Gary Schneider) and Slug (Robert Prichard). They both warn him to stay out of their way or else. Julie (Cindy Manion), Bozo’s girlfriend, devises a plan to belittle Melvin. She talks him into thinking she’s going to have sex with him and dresses him in a pink tutu as the color pink turns her on. She then lures him into a dark room and exposes his new fashion to the entire health club. Out of embarrassment, Melvin runs from the crowd and jumps from a 3rd story window landing in a barrel of toxic waste sitting on a truck below. As Melvin starts to burn and transform, he runs from the gathering crowd and ends up at home where he completes his transformation into a hideous monster.
The transformation turns Melvin into a badly disfigured but well built monster. His new super-hero like attributes allows him to fight crime, and in Tromaville, there’s plenty of crime to fight. There’s been a rash of killings by a group of people using a car to kill their victims. The city is also running rampant in terms of drug sales on the streets. This includes sales to people inside of Tromaville’s own health club. If that wasn’t bad enough, the chain of drug peddling seems to run all the way up the ladder right into the Mayer’s office. So with corrupt cops, politicians, drug dealers and small time criminals on the streets (hmm, this is starting to feel like a blaxploitation film), Toxie (Mitch Cohen – voiced by Ken Kessler) has his hands full in trying to clean up his beloved Tromaville.
During one robbery, Toxie meets Sara (Andree Maranda), a blind customer at a fast food restaurant being robbed. It’s love at first sight for the new super-hero and once he saves her from the goons in the restaurant, the two immediately fall in love and decide to move in with each other. Shortly after this, things begin to turn sour for our new hero as he’s accused of killing an innocent woman. It turns out that the woman he killed was no innocent bystander, but it’s too late for Toxie as the local paper has already reported his crime, so it must be true, right? Will the townsfolk standup for the new super-hero knowing his heart is good? Or will the corrupt Mayer convince everyone, including the National Guard, that the former health club mop-boy needs to be destroyed.
The Toxic Avenger is by far my favorite Troma film (followed closely by the brilliant Terror Firmer). From the get go we know not to take The Toxic Avenger too seriously as the acting is way over-the-top. This however was the intent of the script as director Lloyd Kaufman clearly set out to make a fun film with splattering’s of horror thrown in. The cast is wonderful as they perform over-the-top (as intended) and make the experience a fun one to watch. The films direction and editing are also on par with the films over-all theme and feel. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that The Toxic Avenger is the film that set so many main-stays in future Troma films. Things such as over-the-top performances, sexy girls wearing next to nothing dancing in scene backdrops, crowds of overly-excited loud people and loads of low-budget death and or gore scenes.
There never seems to be a dull moment during The Toxic Avenger as the film moves along at a brisk pace (this says a lot about the script) and brings a total of 22 deaths to the screen. In fact, this happens to be the highest body count film I’ve covered in my early blogging career. I also have to mention the films musical score. Although slightly dated, the music still rocks and tunes such as Body Talk (Sandy Farina), It’s This Love (Mark Hoffman) and Lay It On The Line work well with the films over-all theme. So, if you haven’t seen The Toxic Avenger, well, shame on you. I highly recommend you do so as it became the so-called building blocks for Troma Entertainment allowing it to flourish.
The Toxic Avenger was written by Lloyd Kaufman and Joe Ritter and was directed by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (the film credits Michael Herz and Samuel Weil aka Lloyd Kaufman). The films budget, and I quote this from Mr. Kaufman himself via twitter, was “$450,000 approx in 1982, which in today’s dollars taking into account inflation, would be 2 billion eight hundred thousand” (as you can see, Mr. Kaufman has retained his wonderful sense of humor after all these years) and was released in 1984, sort of. According to the DVDs commentary in which Lloyd Kaufman helms, the film only sold to one distributor, in France of all places, and didn’t really sprout its legs until a year later when it started showing at midnight in the famed Bleecker Street Cinemas in New York City. It is now of course a cult classic and is readily available on many formats.
As far as the films director goes, Lloyd Kaufman, he was no stranger to film prior to directing The Toxic Avenger. As an actor, he could be seen in John G. Avildsen’s Rocky as a street drunk and in Don Taylor’s The Final Countdown (a personal favorite of mine) he can be seen a few times as Lt. Cmdr. Kaufman. Kaufman also doubled as the pre-production supervisor in Rocky and was the associate producer in The Final Countdown. Lloyd Kaufman has more than paid his dues in the film industry and is looked upon as an Icon in the business by many would-be filmmakers and fans of film in general.
Favorite Badass Moment: Toxie killing all three fast food thugs and meeting Sara
Favorite Boobs or Boobs in a Scene: Julie striping her top off showing Melvin her perfect fun-bags
Favorite Death Scene: Bozo runing over Skippy with his car crushing his head killing him
Boob Count: 4 pair
Body Count: 22
IMDB Rating: 5.9 / 10
My Rating: 7.0 / 10
Final Thoughts: This is, hands down, Lloyd Kaufman’s masterpiece. It’s a must see for fans of horror/comedy.