THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984)

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE TOXIC AVENGER – UNCUT NUCLEAR EDITION / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LLOYD KAUFMAN, MICHAEL HERZ / SCREENPLAY: JOE RITTER / STARRING: MITCH COHEN, JENNIFER BAPTIST, CINDY MANION / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Thirty years after he first jumped into view to a blast of Mussorgsky's “Night on Bare Mountain”, Toxie is back, on Blu-ray. This simple tale of a weedy mopboy who falls headfirst into a vat of bubbling green goo and is transformed into an unlikely champion for justice put Troma on the map and is still a byword for bad taste and irreverence.

It's a film that does all sort of things that shouldn't work but that somehow do. The mixture of knockabout humour and bloody violence, of gross-out FX and skits that can trace their origins all the way back to vaudeville. The “Troma style” of acting, with the cast of crazed meatballs and spitefully vindictive bimbos – Bozo, Slug, Wanda, Julie – leering and gurning like gargoyles. It ought to be a hopeless mess, but instead it's like a Robert Crumb cartoon come to life, and it all adds up to a vivid, if warped, view of '80s America, with its fitness freaks buffing up their own bodies while the world around them disappears under toxic waste.

It has scrubbed up exceedingly nicely on this HD transfer, which is generally very clean, with a little fine grain in some of the two-shots and just a couple of scratches. Most of the early scenes have natural-looking colours, but the real surprise is how rich and deep the night-time scenes are, especially the notorious hit and run of the kid on the bike and the Shinbone Alley sequence.

The disc comes with an alternative, longer (92 minutes) cut of the film, in standard definition only. Much of the additional material involves the sleazy mayor, but there's also some extra heavy petting between Slug and Wanda, an extended “Is This Love?” montage and a bit where Toxie's blind girlfriend makes him an oven cleaner sandwich. Nothing essential, but interesting enough. There's a mixed bag of facetious Troma-produced extras, the only one that really stands out being a 5-minute chat with Mark Torgl, who played Melvin the mopboy. He reveals that the sheep he was supposed to kiss was unappetisingly infested with ticks and lice, and that during the location filming of the Shinbone Alley sequence the cast were accosted by a homeless person irked at having his bedtime interrupted.

The highlight, though, is the audio commentary by Lloyd Kaufman, which is much less flippant, and much more detailed and revealing than one might have expected. He talks about his love of the '40s screwball comedy director Preston Sturges (you can see it in the deleted scenes with the mayor) and is always ready with interesting nuggets of information about the cast, special effects and so forth – apparently Slug and Wanda got married and are now “running a theatre group in New York”.

Extras: Audio commentary with Lloyd Kaufman / Alternative Japanese cut / Intros / Featurettes

 


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