The Toxic Avenger (1984) BluRay Review

toxiccoverThe Toxic Avenger (Blu-ray review, 1984)

Director – Lloyd Kaufman

Starring – Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl, Andree Maranda, Pat Ryan Jr

Run Time – 88 minutes

Release Date – Monday 18th August

Label – 88 Films

88 Films dive into the Troma Studios back catalogue, starting with one of its most iconic movies – The Toxic Avenger.

Melvin (Torgl) is the janitor of the Health Club of small town Tromaville. He is a geeky looking, sexually deprived individual who is mocked by everyone he encounters. Some of the people at the Health Club are obnoxious, vain bodydonna’s that think they can treat anyone how they like and also do what they like. They harass Melvin and even trick him into kissing a sheep in front of everyone at the Health Club. Humiliated he runs away but they give chase, mocking the distraught man. In order to escape his tormentors he jumps out of a window and lands directly into a barrel containing toxic waste (on the back of a flat-bed truck that just so happened to be parked outside).

Melvin manages to get out but he is covered in toxic waste and is in agony. While he lies on the pavement in unbearable pain the tormentors stand over him, laughing. Melvin staggers home and has a bath, but once in it the toxic waste causes him to drastically mutate into an ugly, super strong giant of a man. Roaming the streets of Tromaville he seeks to punish the bullies and stop the criminals of his town and in doing so he becomes known as The Monster Hero (Cohen).

toxic1One of director Lloyd Kaufman’s most infamous creations, The Toxic Avenger is a slice of classic 80’s Troma trash. On the surface it is frivolous and cheaply made, but beneath it tackles themes that Kaufman has been crusading against for decades.

With the typical over-the-top acting Avenger is a movie that knows serious drama and acting will not be what is expected from the viewer. It basks in its absurdity, especially with the character of Melvin. Torgl is hilarious with his pathetic facial expressions as the perving janitor. Andree Maranda somehow keeps a straight face during her oddball romantic scenes with Toxie. For a movie with this low standard of quality acting to survive, it must have had some sort of charm.

The charm, or appeal at least, can be found in the plight of downtrodden Melvin. Many people will have felt as if they are being mistreated or bullied by others and wish to strike back at them somehow. This is the point of The Toxic Avenger – the nerd conquers the tormentors. Once mutated by the toxic waste Melvin punishes those that do wrong (criminals) or those that have wronged him (the annoying teens at the health club). The weakling has been transformed into a force to be reckoned with and will no longer be the butt of everyone’s jokes. The character has lasted so long because in a way people can related to it. Also, Kaufman has never pretended Troma is anything other than what it is: low-budget independent film-making. Both the studio and the viewer know the movie isn’t about winning praise, it’s about pure entertainment.

toxic2On another level the movie works as sheer fun. Toxie and Sara having sex, the bodydonna’s running over a child’s head that is clearly a melon and a dog being slung across a restaurant floor (after being ‘shot’) are all laughable and perhaps even bad but it will cause a smile or too and even some laughter. This is integral to Troma’s survival, most the studio’s films may have a small budget but they are big on laughs and fun. They don’t let a lack of resources stop them from doing something, such as Toxie ripping off a thugs arm in one scene. They simply hired a one-armed man and had him attach an arm from a shop mannequin until the ‘big moment’. The absurdity clearly has appealed to many over the decades and The Toxic Avenger may be the best example of Troma-tainment.

A big selling point for this release of the original Toxie is that it is now in high-definition thanks to it being on Blu-ray. The sound isn’t brilliant but the picture quality is very good. A little grainy still yet it allows the viewer to see the naff effects in all their ‘glory’. Occasionally the image on-screen with shake a little and blur slightly as a result, although this is a minor complaint that won’t distract from the movie.

Lloyd Kaufman himself does the commentary duties (it is available on other releases of the movie, it should be noted). As ever he is very honest and frank as he recalls his time making The Toxic Avenger. For those that are not very familiar with the film or who have never heard the commentary before it enhances the feature as Kaufman reveals such details as making the film without even having a name for it (Health Club Horror was considered) and how Torgl pleaded to stop shooting at one point.

toxic3There are also a whole host of extras, again some may be known to the viewer and others not. They are:

Introduction to the Japanese Cut – A brief video featuring Lloyd talking about the film in front of a crowd of Troma employees (with canned laughter).

Alternative Japanese Cut – Standard definition

15th and 30th Anniversary introductions by Lloyd – The director talks about the impact the film has had as it reaches various landmark birthdays.

The Radiation March – An odd 53 second video of children dancing in front of a building, urging people to stop pollution.

Intro from the Toxic Crusaders cartoon – the catchy-as-hell beginning from the Toxie kids cartoon that proved to be a hit.

Toxie: 15 Years Later – 4 minute video of Toxie at ‘home’ at his mansion, basking in his success.

Tromaville Cafe: Death of Toxie – Confusion at the café as it appears Lloyd has killed Toxie.

Troma Studio Building Tour – tongue-in-cheek and nudity heavy guide of the offices.

Mopboy Secrets with Mark Torgl – ‘Melvin’ talks over one scene of the Toxic Avenger

toxic4Why Is Lloyd Kaufman Living in a Refrigerator Box?

Public Service Announcement – some nude ladies encourage viewers to masturbate about them.

Aroma du Troma – Music video featuring clips of Troma movies. Music provided by Motorhead.

Plus the usual slide show, reversible sleeve and various trailers for all the Toxic Avenger movies and 88 Films releases. The film is also available in a hmv exclusive edition (2000 copies) and a Zavvi steelbook exclusive edition (4000 copies).

An impressive release undoubtedly, The Toxic Avenger is a movie that is worth seeing and this blu-ray release is great value for money.

Film: 8 out of 10

Extras: 7 out of 10

Amazon order page: Click HERE

Zavvi order page: Click HERE

James Simpson

About James Simpson

A freelance writer and lover of movies, James is a long term contributor to UK Horror Scene. He has a regular feature on UKHS, World of Horror, as well as reviewing and interviewing when he can. He also writes for Gore Splattered Corner and Space Monsters Magazine. He has previously written for Scream Magazine and Zombie Hamster. Twitter: @JSimpsonWriter
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