The Toxic Avenger Collection – TA in 4K (1984-2000) Review
This set is for Troma fans and completists … The first film still holds up well, but the third – and especially the fourth – movies are garbage. The movies have never looked or sounded better on home video.
The Toxic Avenger (1984) Plot:
A cruel prank on a wimp backfires when he is transformed by toxic waste into a berserker called The Toxic Avenger.
Located somewhere in New Jersey, a dumpy town called Tromaville is host to a slew of bad apples who hang out at the local fitness club. By day, they terrorize a harmless wimp named Melvin, and by night the thugs (one guy is named Bozo) prowl the streets in their car, eager to run people over – even innocent kids – for “points.” Their terror comes to a head when they conspire to pull the ultimate prank on poor Melvin. They get him to put on a tutu, and they chase him out the window on the top floor of the club, and he splats right into a vat of toxic waste, headfirst. The poor guy begins mutating right away, and by evening, he’s a complete troglodyte mutant with a gloppy face, and he goes on a rampage, starting with the local thugs who terrorize innocent civilians. He starts cleaning up the streets (his weapon is a mop), one jackass at a time, and soon he goes after all the punks who pranked him, leaving him in a hideous condition. The media picks up on The Toxic Avenger’s antics, and turns him into a local folk hero, and Melvin’s luck gets a bit of wind when he saves a beautiful blind girl (pop singer Andree Maranda) who falls in love with him despite his disfigurement. But The Toxic Avenger’s biggest (literally) adversary is a tycoon whose toxic waste is directly responsible for his transformation.
A bona fide cult hit, The Toxic Avenger still holds up with its goofball humor, shocking (sometimes very shocking) graphic violence, plentiful nudity, and an overall playful sense of insanity. The Troma team – namely Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz – inject their irreverent, madcap style into this movie, making it an endearing and enduring classic in the cult circuit, and it remains a pretty fun watch, despite all its over the top gag humor and truly shocking scenes of disgusting violence. The sequels never could match the magic, but you’ve got to hand it to Troma for turning this crazy hard “R” rated movie into a Saturday morning cartoon for kids, complete with action figures that were everywhere for a minute in the early 1990’s.
The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989) Plot:
The Toxic Avenger goes to Tokyo to find his father and becomes an avenger in Asia!
Peacetime in Tromaville doesn’t last long, as a new that arises: a crime syndicate called Apocalypse Inc. whose sole mission is to corrupt the environment with toxic waste chemicals. They declare war on The Toxic Avenger, which backfires when every freakish goon they can throw at him – sometimes all at once – is no match for good old Toxie. Wanting to get to the root of evil, Toxie traces his origins back to Tokyo, where he believes his father is living (and might even be part Japanese), and so he hightails it to Japan on a wind sail and arrives on the shores of Tokyo. Right away, Toxie is a fish out of water with his mutant looks and his mop, but wherever he goes, there’s evil to squash. He saves the life of a pretty Japanese girl, but all sorts of scum and villainy come out of the woodwork to put Toxie to the test, but after some lessons with Sumo wrestlers, Toxie has a new set of skills. Eventually he goes up against his father, who is a piece of scum, but after dispatching him he realizes later on that the man he defeated wasn’t his father after all …
An anything goes screwball comedy with virtually the same amount of chocking violence, nudity, and dumbass gross out gag humor, The Toxic Avenger is a hard “R” rated movie for kids, which is really weird. Toxie is a perfect hero for kids to love, but because this is a Troma movie it’s got graphic gore, fart gags, lots of nudity – even more than in the first movie – and an overall sense of irreverent disregard for the Hollywood machine mentality of moviemaking. There are no rules here. Sometimes it works for the movie’s benefit, but other times it just feels like a rabid dog run amok, which is basically the Troma mantra. The first third of the movie is very slow and dumb, but when the movie moves to Tokyo, the film’s pace picked up and the plot – while silly – sort of coagulates into something halfway interesting. The climax of the movie is set in Tromaville and has a nutty car chase and some more fight scenes, and doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, despite being shot back-to-back with Part III. As “good” a sequel to the first film as this franchise deserves, Part II is sometimes a hoot, but also sometimes a bore. Future action star Michael Jai White has a supporting role as one of the bad guys. In one scene, he rips a guys leg off and beats the man with it. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz directed it.
The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989) Plot:
Toxie makes a deal with the devil, leading to a final confrontation between good and evil.
Toxie and his blind gal pal Claire (Phoebe Legere) are living happily at the dump when they get some mail that offers an expensive surgery to correct Claire’s blindness. In order to pay for her surgery, Toxie makes a deal with the leader of Apocalypse Inc. to become their new spokesperson, and Toxie uses the cash to get Claire’s sight back, which could have potentially disastrous consequences. What if she finds him hideous? What if she hates the way their shack in the dump looks? Turns out Claire is a great sport and she ends up loving Toxie just the way he is, but the deal with Apocalypse Inc. backfires: Turns out, he made a deal with the actual devil, and Lucifer himself shows up to collect Toxie’s debt. But there’s a big problem: Toxie turns back into Melvin, the human wimp, and the devil’s got muscles! The only way for Toxie to triumph is to figure out how to get toxic again, and with the whole town of Tromaville riding on who wins the battle, Toxie will have to pump up the sludge to save face.
Relying on some lengthy flashback sequences to pad out its running time, The last Temptation of Toxie is junk, but it’s still somehow just fun enough to remain watchable with its goofball sense of humor and surprisingly effective makeup effects work and gore. It’s all done in good fun (if you’re on the movie’s wavelength), and fans of the series should have a good time with it. Less overtly sexual with a lot less nudity, but a crazy sex scene added, this time around, the movie might have some crossover appeal to a younger audience if parental approval has been given, but otherwise, this is still strictly adult-oriented Mad Magazine-style madness in the Troma vein. Directed by Llyod Kaufman and Michael Herz.
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000) Plot:
Toxie faces the prospect of fatherhood and a new nemesis: Himself!
There’s a whole new breed of villainy in Tromaville, and it comes in the form of a gang of developmentally disabled diaper-wearing terrorists called The Diaper Gang who invade schools and murder kids and blow up schools. That’s what’s going on in Tromaville, which should give you an idea how low these movies have stooped to get a reaction from their diminished, but very niche audience. Toxie isn’t much help, but at least he tries, and after a debacle of a rescue attempt at Tromaville High, he goes home, hanging his head and impregnates his blind wife Claire (Heidi Sjursen who is much more generous with nudity than the previous two actresses who played this part). In the meanwhile, something weird happens: An evil version of Toxie with weird hair curls show up and takes Toxie’s place, doing horrible things to the good people of Tromaville – like dismembering and murdering innocent civilians, raping Claire and impregnating her with an evil, mutant baby, and other fun stuff – and only the real Toxie can save the day.
As low as a movie can go in every sense of the word, Citizen Toxie exemplifies the putrid quality with which Troma descended after the mid 1980s with an almost non-movie status that feels like some deranged fans of the brand produced on a shoestring instead of real filmmakers. The movie almost instantly outs itself as a shock movie with disgusting scatological “humor” with feces, gore, almost nonstop in-your-face nudity, abortion gags, penile humor, and an overall sense of anarchy and a degrading approach to whatever might’ve made the original movie a halfway decent movie. This one is complete garbage and should be tossed in the meat grinder and incinerated. I hated it. Some random actors and musicians like Corey Feldman, Ron Jeremy, Lemmy Killmeister, and James Gunn appear in small roles. Lloyd Kaufman directed it.
The new Toxic Avenger collection arrives in 4K Ultra HD in a box set for the first time, and Blu-rays are also included. Each film comes with a ton of bonus features, interviews, commentaries, and filler material. A hardcore Troma / Toxie fan may enjoy the set, while I personally would only “need” the first film and perhaps the second one, I found the fourth movie to be repulsive and not fit for human consumption. The movies have never looked or sounded better, so points for the presentations, and they took some care with this release for collectors and comepletists.