Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things: now half the carbs!

Denez McAdoo

The Toxic Avenger1984director – Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz”The First Superhero from New Jersey”82 min- unrated110 min – director’s cut

So much sick, twisted, tasteless, and just plain old deranged humor crammed into one film, it begs the question-where do these kinds of people come from? Well, New Jersey actually. Home to that other famous mutated monster-Bon Jovi. Produced and directed by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, The Toxic Avenger was such a success for the two semi-competent directors that it is largely responsible for kick starting Kaufman and Herz’s production company Troma Studios, which still lovingly provides the world with an endless supply of worthless cinematic drivel even to this day. But even by the far less politically correct standards of 1984, The Toxic Avenger was guaranteed to shock and offend pretty much anyone and everyone who saw it. Reportedly, the most complaint letters that rolled into the Troma offices were concerning a scene in the film involving a blind girl’s seeing eye dog getting shot and skidding across the floor as it’s guts spill out. It’s not surprising that people were offended by this scene of gratuitous dog killing, it was just a little unexpected that the scene was able to overshadow any other scene of similarly appalling carnage-like, let’s say, the scene involving an innocent kid on a bike having his head repeatedly run over by a car. Heck, I even thought that the scene where a robber with clown face-paint points a shotgun at a little baby (the actor apparently quit after being asked to film this very scene) was in rather poor taste. Oh yeah, and this is a comedy film if the aforementioned atrocities had you thinking otherwise. What is really surprising is that the film generated enough popularity that it some how developed a spin-off, a children’s Saturday morning cartoon series, The Toxic Crusader. Did ABC even bother to watch this movie?

Somewhere in this mess there is a plot but who cares, right? All you need to know is that the world’s biggest nerd, Melvin Junko, is hated by everyone except his mom. He falls into a barrel of toxic waste and his flesh burns off and he becomes mutated and transformed into a beefy, yet suave, Toxic Avenger that we’ve all come to know and love. In the end he scores with a blind girl who is the only one able to see his inner beauty, or, you know, not able to see his outer butt-ugliness. Along the way there is plenty of bloodshed and yes, the occasional shedding of clothes, to occupy a handful of lesser films. In fact, this is probably what makes The Toxic Avenger so engaging and entertaining; its comic book slapstick pacing keeps you glued to the screen and it doesn’t let go for even a second. It’s rare to find a film that is this consistently entertaining.

In the end, The Toxic Avenger is one damn funny movie. There, you’ve done gone and made be use the “D” word, but dag-nabbit, it’s true. Sure, you may be ashamed at yourself for laughing sometimes, but at its core The Toxic Avenger is a inspirational, heartwarming tale. It’s the classic story of good old fashion American vigilante justice. Good guys beating bad guys into a bloody pulp just like in Rambo or Dirty Harry, only uglier and wearing a tutu and wielding a mop.

Before I finish up, I have to warn you about the heavily edited 82 minute version of this film that’s floating around. That’s almost a full eight minutes shorter than the full version, and 28 minutes shorter than the director’s cut. That’s roughly 10 minutes of the best parts of the movie cut out and thrown onto the editing room floor, all in the name of decency. Screw decency. If I wanted decency I wouldn’t be watching this film in the first place. It’s full of gratuitous violence and gore. No, I’d be at home watching a nice heartwarming and uplifting film like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Nope, no excessive violence and gore there. Just some good, wholesome, mom-friendly crucifixion.