They just don’t make ‘em like they used to—low-budget B-grade sci-fi horror-comedies of the 1980’s, that is. For connoisseurs of the genre, and I’m sure that there are many, Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman’s exuberant 1984 masterpiece “The Toxic Avenger” is a veritable household name, complete with all the tits, tutus, and crushed skulls of innocent children that one could ever possibly want from a single viewing experience.
He’s here to clean up this town…
Brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood producers at Troma Entertainment, whom we can also thank for introducing such cinematic greats as “Mother’s Day” (1980) and “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” (1986), “The Toxic Avenger” tells the story of a pervy young teen (played by Mitch Cohen) living in “Tromaville” NJ named Peter Park—uh, Melvin Ferd III (rhymes with “nerd,” get it?). A mere 98lbs, with a face that looks like a tragic Jon Heder and Carol Burnett collision, the closest thing to action poor Melvin ever gets is a kiss with his own mother. And so, as is law in the superficial universe of 80s movies, he is harshly bullied and excluded from the better-looking, sex-having majority. Cast aside as janitor at the local gym, he is doomed to a life of mopping away while everyone else alternates between cigarettes and crunches and change-room intercourse (this is the kind of public gym that definitely requires constant mopping).
“He is screwing up my karma!!!”
Alas, one fateful day our hero’s fate is changed forever, when a cruel joke goes terribly wrong and he falls, tutu-clad, into a vat of irresponsibly stored toxic waste. Although the chemicals leave him horribly disfigured, they also grant him the gift of extraordinary size and strength, thus transforming him into the Toxic Avenger (voiced by Kenneth Kessler)! From here on out, he uses his powers to combat crime and corruption, help old ladies cross the street, and date the hottest blind chick this side of the east coast.
The best thing, or at least the most prominent thing, about a B genre film, particularly any film associated to Troma, is its complete and utter limitlessness. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is taboo in Troma-town. Racial stereotypes, rape jokes, masturbation, hilariously fake and gratuitously violent child, animal and even midget murder are all given their decent dose of screen time in “The Toxic Avenger”. That being said, can someone please explain to me how this conceptual world got translated into a children’s animated series revolving around superheros combating the evils of pollution? Seriously, what the fuck? Apparently 13 episodes of the thing actually aired as a Saturday morning cartoon back in the day (the day being 1990). Yes, a Saturday morning cartoon for young children, produced by the same guys who distributed “Curse of the Cannibal Confederates” (1982) and “S&M Hunter” (1986). I just wish I had been born a few years earlier so that I enjoy first-hand all that kid-friendly Troma goodness radiating from my television screen.
Not just another pretty face….
I may have missed out on some animated fun, but “The Toxic Avenger”’s adult-geared goofiness is more than enough to make up for it. This is just one big live-action R-rated cartoon, where over-the-top performances and amazing practical effects make just about any sick and surreal fantasy possible. Considering all the hilarious characters and their one-liners, I can’t help but feel a certain appreciation for the fully grown adults who gleefully tapped into the weirdest regions of their imaginations just to make this thing happen, and clearly enjoyed every minute of it. It’s campy as hell and has some really shitty editing, but “The Toxic Avenger” is guaranteed to rescue you from everything overly serious and mundane.
My Rating: 8/10