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The Toxic Avenger
Your August Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: The first Super-Hero... from New Jersey!

Pizza: Nick's

Preshow Entertainment: LAND OF THE GIANTS


Okay, so big deal, Orwell got the telescreen right. And he got the omniscient cameras right. And yeah, yeah, yeah, there will always be war. I'll give the bloke all that. But he missed one important thing in 1984 - the NYC premiere of THE TOXIC AVENGER. And after so many years (has it really been 25?) of knowing about Toxie & Co., I (and a really fun crowd) actually sat down and watched the movie (oddly, none in attendance had seen it). Thank you Random Movie Club!! We couldn't (or maybe wouldn't) have done it without you!

I didn't love TTA, but I liked it okay. Not liking TTA is like not liking THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Sure, you can not enjoy the movie, but you have to understand what it is, and appreciate it. In fact, I love the joy that this film gives people, enough so that videos of fans reenacting scenes are included on the DVD. Not too shabby for a movie that no theater would play (they finally found one that would).

Let me begin by saying that THE TOXIC AVENGER is perhaps the finest example of a movie featuring the main character wearing a pink tutu while kissing a sheep.

Beginning with a prologue about pollution, we're pretty sure TTA is going to be a cautionary tale, a movie with a message. A movie that raises the question - can a crappy movie be so crappy that it's...fun?

Melvin (Mark Trogl), who looks like a cross between Clay Aiken and my aunt, works as a janitor at a health club. There's no cliche here, unless you count the way he squints his eyes, juts out his teeth, his inability to mop a floor without knocking someone in the pool, and of course his name...Melvin. Yes, all the performances are so over-the-top you'd half expect some Tex Avery feline to slap it with a lawsuit (TTA actually became a cartoon as well as bred three sequels). Yet as stupid as Melvin is, he's not half as moronic as his bimbo/himbo tormentors; Bozo (Gary Schneider), Julie (Cindy Manion), Slug (Robert Prichard) and Wanda (Jennifer Baptist). But the trouble really begins when two imbeciles pull their truck in front of the health club, a truck transporting open barrels of green radioactive waste in the back. Grab a pen, you can write what happens next, right?

Melvin goes through an AMERICAN WEREWOLF/ALTERED STATES transition, but, you know, a really cheesy one...and with mop in hand, is transformed into the hideous yet justice-seeking Toxic Avenger (actually, he's never called that in the film, except in the narration done in post). Toxie soon puts a crimp in the mayor and police chief's payoffs and other corrupt affairs all done to possibly the worst 80s music (that's pretty bad, right?) ever laid to tape, like the song BODY TALK (co-written by Corey Feldman's father who, I shit you not, is one of the writers of the songs I WANT CANDY and MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK).

You may think that frivolity abounds in this campy outing, and you'd be right. But beware, as there are some truly shocking moments too. This is still a horror film, so don't toss it on your television set thinking you won't see a kid's head get squashed or someone's arm getting ripped off. You know, that kind of stuff. Fight scenes are like The Three Stooges (eye pokes, Curly's floor spin, two heads bashing into each other) with go-for-gross effects. A 10-minute set piece (that's 1/8th of the movie) in a Taco Bell-y place features death-by-human-milkshake, the aforementioned arm rip, a pair of deep-fried hands, a shotgun pointed at a baby, and a dead dog. And it's here where Toxie falls in love, for just like the blind hermit was nice to the Frankenstein monster, blind Sara (Andree Maranda) can only see Toxie as her knight in shining armor. So what if the armor is a puss-laden radioactive body suit/tutu.

Sara & Toxie
Like Toxie himself, the movie isn't just one thing. It's got its funny moments too, like the "falling in love" montage between Sara and Toxie or the AIRPLANE! gag (Slug puts a snake down the aerobics teacher's shirt, forcing him to make funny moves which the class imitates). The dialogue had a few funny moments too (Julie: "See what you did, you idiot! See what you did?! You stressed Bozo!").

TTA was the movie that put independent Troma Studios on the map. Say what you will, but owner Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma Team prospered with little to no help from Hollywood. And Kaufman, who carries himself a bit like Mel Brooks' less successful brother, had a few notable performers in his films; Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Costner, and in TTA, the very first appearance by Marisa Tomei (don't blink).

Judging by the DVD extras, it seems most diehard fans seem to have first watched TTA when they were between 8 and 11 years old. It became a "moment" for them. THE TOXIC AVENGER was the outsiders' Tiffany Mall Tour.

THE TOXIC AVENGER is pretty much what you'd expect. It's an R-rated (they had to cut things, like beating up an old lady, to get the R), no-budget piece of art with bad (practically all practical) lighting, acting, music, you name it. Add porn and it would be a porn film.

But it's a tough one for me. I love parody and satire. I even enjoy over-the-top stuff. I also like people who make the exact movie they intended to make. So why didn't I flip over THE TOXIC AVENGER? I'm not sure. It's an okay movie, I suppose, but its schticky, play-it-big camp wore thin very quickly for me. Yeah, maybe that's it. TTA seems empty and flat. Maybe if it felt like it was honoring or even ripping off the genre it's playing with it would have worked better. It just seems...easy. And dumb. Maybe I like parody that is smart but pretends to be dumb. But THE TOXIC AVENGER is just dumb.


We watched an episode from the first season of LAND OF THE GIANTS. This was another (and perhaps my favorite) of the Irwin Allen sci-fi shows of the 60s which included LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and TIME TUNNEL (okay, depending on which day you ask me, I may like TUNNEL better than GIANTS).

LAND OF THE GIANTS, an inch away from a LOST IN SPACE facsimile, is about 7 people (there's even a Dr. Smith-y character who's more trouble than he's worth) on a ship, that encounter a wormhole on their way from L.A. to London. They crash land on an Earth-like planet, and as the title hints...

I loved this show as a kid, and watching it again, I must say the effects were pretty good for a weekly show. I still think a giant's head peering into a box that one of our guys is in is a truly spooky image. And the theme song (yep...John Williams) is cool and scary. The episodes are hit and miss, like most shows back then (seasons sometimes ran up to 40 episodes, so quality was bound to suffer). The one we watched was pretty slow, but it featured Zalman King, who left acting for writing and producing faux-sexy movies and TV shows like 9 1/2 WEEKS and the ridiculous yet successful RED SHOE DIARIES.

Watching LAND OF THE GIANTS again, I am thoroughly convinced that actor Gary Conway, who plays Captain Steve Burton, was the inspiration for marionette Gary Johnston from TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE. Am I right?


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