The Toxic Avenger - Uncut Nuclear Edition Blu-ray Review
Directed by Michael Hertz and Lloyd Kaufman
Written by Lloyd Kaufman (story), Joe Ritter, Gay Terry and Stuart Strutin
1984, Region B/2, 83 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 18th August 2014
Mitch Cohen as The Toxic Avenger
Andree Maranda as Sara
Jennifer Babtist as Wanda
Cindy Manion as Julie
Robert Pritchard as Slug
Gary Schneider as Bozo
The superhero film, 80s Troma style. When skinny nerd Melvin Ferd takes a dip in toxic waste, he emerges as superpowered monster The Toxic Avenger. What starts out as a mere vengeance trip against those who once bullied him becomes something much bigger as Citizen Toxie learns that with great power comes great responsibility. Well, as much responsibility as one might reasonably expect from an 80s era Troma film, anyway.
Like many, I first discovered The Toxic Avenger during my teenage years (the ideal age to be watching Troma) in its British cut form, missing several key scenes. This Blu-ray edition comes with the 'full head crushing scene included' promise, referring to an early sequence in which Ferd's tormentors go out drink driving and splatter an innocent young boy all over the hood of their car. The (utterly fantastic) novelisation by Lloyd Kaufman and Adam Jahnke is all fine and well, but there's no substitute for the real thing. Watching the film with its gorier scenes restored – in High Definition no less – is like watching a whole new movie. This is The Toxic Avenger as it was meant to be seen.
A far cry from hunky Andrew Garfield, CGI skinny pre-Captain America Chris Evans or even wimpy weepy Tobey Maguire, no superhero has ever done the zero-to-hero transformation as successfully as The Toxic Avenger. Mark Torgl is utterly disgusting as Melvin Ferd, Tromaville Health Club's resident mop boy, making one almost sympathise with Bozo, Slug and the bullies. Almost. They do kind of ruin that by running over a little boy's head in the next scene. Accidentally dropped into a vat of toxic waste during a prank gone wrong, skinny Melvin is transformed into the gigantic musclebound Toxic Avenger, wielding a mop, dressed in a pink tutu and suffering with severe anger management issues. Taking his frustrations out on the local criminal community, Toxie is hailed as a hero by the citizens of Tromaville but unappreciated by the corrupt mayor, who soon begins plotting his downfall.
The Toxic Avenger may be more superhero film than horror flick, but there's no fear of Troma losing sight of their, well, Troma-ness. It's all here, from the ridiculous gore to the somehow non-alluring nudity (maybe its the very 80s tan lines) and complete lack of sensitivity towards anyone or anything. This is most evident in the film's portrayal of blind love interest Sara, (over)played by Andree Maranda. It's testament to the movie's goofy charm that Sarah hasn't gone down as the most offensive portrayal of a blind person in history. She makes Mister Magoo look positively, well, positive by comparison, constantly trashing her surroundings and whacking Melvin on the balls. It's the 80s horror equivalent of a Farrelly or Wayans brothers film – only it's as offensive as the former wishes they were and far funnier than the latter have ever been.
That's not to say it's for everyone. Indeed, The Toxic Avenger is unapologetically niche, appealing only to those with a high tolerance for daft humour, extreme gore and a hyperactive button-pushing desperation to offend. Its special effects and acting are frequently terrible, the script a joke. That this is the closest Troma have to a mainstream release (including Saturday morning cartoon tie-in!) speaks volumes for their cheeky punk attitude towards filmmaking. Like its hero, The Toxic Avenger is utter trash. It also happens to be one of the most entertaining superhero films ever made. This Blu-ray upgrade is a polished turd in the very best way.
Video and Audio:
Having seen only its crummy old UK DVD transfer (only a step up from VHS), this Blu-ray upgrade was as revelatory to me as the restoration of its head crushing scene. There's the odd moment appears blurred or in low-def, but if you're watching The Toxic Avenger, chances are, you're probably willing to let such things slide.
The Blu-ray comes loaded with a heap of short but sweet special features. This kicks off with an audio commentary by the always enthusiastic Lloyd Kaufman and a series of video introductions – including one for the film's Japanese release, notable for its dodgy subtitles. That same cut is included in standard definition and runs only slightly longer than the film's director's cut. The rest of the featurettes consist of various Troma pieces of massively varying quality. There's also the opening credits for the tie-in cartoon Toxic Crusaders (like an unwashed Justice League), just in case you needed a reminder of just how bizarre this particular franchise gets.
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