Troma’s War DVD Review
Directed by Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman
Written by Mitchell Dana & Lloyd Kaufman
1988, Region 0 (NTSC), 105 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on January 26th, 2010
Carolyn Beauchamp as Lydia
Sean Bowen as Taylor
Rick Washburn as Parker
Ara Romanoff as Cooney
Patrick Weathers as Kirkland
Jessica Dublin as Dottie
The survivors of a plane crash find themselves trapped on an island populated with terrorists planning an attack on the Unites States. The group must put aside their petty differences and join together in a fight for survival. The clichés of countless war movies are wrapped in the warmth of Troma excess in this misunderstood remnant of '80s action cinema.
The passengers include Lydia (Carolyn Beauchamp) and Taylor (Sean Bowen), who may just fall in love if they can avoid terrorists and get off this island without killing each other first. Parker (Rick Washburn) is a used car salesman/Vietnam vet who organizes the unlikely heroes into fighting back against their captors. Other passengers include an assortment of colorful senior citizens and a mid-level rock band thrown in for good measure. Some of the survivors have been taken to a terrorist training camp on the island and the others must rescue them by facing an army of blood-thirsty mercenaries.
One thing going for our heroes is that while they may not know their way around firearms, they are all instantly qualified as cinematic heroes. These are the people in the movies who never run out of bullets and manage to hit any target they point their gun at while the bad guys are unable to hit the red side of a green barn (or some such country wisdom).
Troma’s War is a by the numbers flick that includes key elements of such films as Delta Force and Missing in Action, but instead of adding touches of Platoon, the recipe is tainted by the minds behind The Toxic Avenger. The film was an attempt to cross over to mainstream audiences, but Troma is more inclined to include fart jokes and outrageous humor that is off-putting to the unsuspecting masses. Audiences were less than accepting of the laughs to be found in AIDS rape than director Lloyd Kaufman anticipated.
Unprepared civilians facing off against a trained army is a classic metaphor for the independent filmmaker against the corporate-backed studio system, a theme presented in numerous Troma films. Troma’s War was Kaufman’s response to the warmongering by the Reagan administration and the glorification of violence as seen in films like Rambo: First Blood Part II.
The film was savaged by the MPAA ratings board, losing 18 minutes of material in order to receive the mandatory R rating. What remained was a confusing and unsatisfying abortion of a film that disappointed both the filmmakers and audiences alike. Countless unsold copies filled Troma warehouses and the studio was dealt a financial blow with repercussions 23-years later.
Video and Audio:
The picture quality is reasonable and still presented with a 1:33 full frame transfer; any remastering from the 1998 release is minimal. Unbelievably, the DVD has been given an interlaced transfer and edge halos are abundant. Colors are strong and flesh tones appear natural, but are paired with murky blacks and elevated contrast levels.
The audio sounds a bit cleaner than on the original release, and gets the job done without doing any serious lifting along the way. Dialog is eclipsed at times by the explosive battle sequences.
Once again the Tromasterpiece Collection delivers, preserving all of the material from the earlier release and adding a few new goodies for the fans.
Returning from the 1998 release is the Lloyd Kaufman’s audio commentary (complete with gaps of painful silence as Lloyd watches the movie).
Interviews with members of the cast and crew celebrating the 10th anniversary of the film follow with an episode of the Tromaville Café series featuring Troma’s War.
The leftovers are rounded out with original promotional material, including the theatrical trailer.
Missing from this edition is the Lloyd Kaufman intro to the film.
The new fun includes a Kill-O-Meter option that offers all of the 300+ death scenes to play out in under ten minutes.
A Man For All Seasons is a short interview with low-budget director Rolfe Kanefsky (There’s Nothing Out There) sharing his memories from the set of Troma’s War.
Veteran’s Day: A Post-Tromatic Reunion offers a conversation between Pericles Lewnes (Redneck Zombies) and Troma staple Joe Fleishaker (Citizen Toxie), sharing tales from the production.
The Tromasterpiece Collection is shaping up to be a nice way for Troma to revisit some catalog favorites, but with Troma’s War there is a strong aftertaste of missed opportunity. It would have been nice if deleted scenes (from the original 4 hour workprint) had been provided or a new commentary recorded to replace the old gap-filled track. New interviews addressing how this production changed the Troma company and their business model would have been a welcome addition. What should have been a long overdue salute to the timeless message of the film, the biggest disappointment is the total absence of Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz revisiting their “lost masterpiece.”
Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.