The Toxic Avenger (1988)
By: Devon B. on January 30, 2015 | Comments
88 Films | Region Free | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 2.0 | 82 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Starring: Andree Maranda, Mitchell Cohen, Pat Ryan Jr., Jennifer Baptist
Screenplay: Joe Ritter
Country: USA
I first encountered The Toxic Avenger when I was about six. My younger cousin and I went to a video store and I was allured by the iconic cover art. My aunt spent a while debating whether the movie would be suitable for two youngsters, uncertain if its being unrated was because it was a cheap kid's movie that nobody submitted to the MPAA or because it was a gleefully violent masterpiece of independent cinema. I guess the synopsis on the back steered her towards rightly assuming it was the latter, and my cousin and I were deprived of what I'm sure would've been a life changing experience. Just think how warped I would've been if I had seen Toxie ripping baddies apart back then. I'd probably be some sort of film obsessed geek who…oh.

The Toxic Avenger is the story of Melvin the Mopboy who works at a health club in the city of Tromaville. When a harmful prank goes even wronger Melvin ends up in a vat of toxic waste and rather than melting and then getting run over by a car he mutates into a monster. Melvin's transformation changes his personality so he's no longer quite so awkward, but he's still a decent guy so whenever he goes on a killing spree he only targets bad people, making him the first superhero from New Jersey.

My aunt was spot on with not allowing us to watch this movie because it is very naughty. The film is full of obscene jokes, nudity and extreme violence. This last one is mostly a result of Melvin's rampages, because Melvin isn't content with just stopping crimes, he is compelled to stop the criminals forever. Ever since Troma started releasing "director's cut" editions of its films, copies of The Toxic Avenger have proudly boasted they contain the full head crushing scene, which I thought for a long time was the scene in the gym, but later learned it's probably the car kill. This movie is so violent that it's actually debatable which head crushing scene is the infamous head crushing scene. Well, not that debatable because it is actually the car one.

It's not just the violence that makes this top notch Troma. The social satire of a community brimming with ramped up deviants works better here than in any of Troma's other films, and it's got some of Troma's funniest lines ever and some of its best acting. The acting, aside from that of future Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, isn't exactly Oscar worthy, but it is well suited to this ridiculous movie. Gary Schneider's hilarious portrayal of the amoral Bozo makes that character the greatest miscreant of Tromaville ever and Marc Torgl is beyond perfect as the nerdy pre-toxicated Melvin.

This is easily one of Troma's best, but the movie is still a bit uneven, mostly because it doesn't really have a climax. Even without a climax the movie was always going to get high accolades from me because it has a scene where a guy gets beaten with his own severed arm, a joke that always makes me giddy with laughter. This is the film where Troma hit its stride before it soon lost its stride and began making bad versions of Troma movies before re-finding its stride in the 90s.

I ordered the UK release of The Toxic Avenger because I've fallen for the steelbook marketing ploy like the total chump I am. I'm sure that won't be a deciding factor for everyone, but I will say the steelbook is beautiful. Or as beautiful as artwork featuring a mutated, mop wielding superhero wearing a tutu can be.
The Disc
The Toxic Avenger still sports spicks, spots and specks, so the image isn't completely revolutionised, but it looks much, much better than before. Colours can be oversaturated and heads aren't the only thing that gets crushed because some detail is lost in the blacks. Mostly this is a nice, clean print that offers moments of great clarity and detail, which makes it easier than ever to spot Marisa Tomei. The audio track has a little bit of source based hiss, which 88 Films can't be blamed for, and otherwise this is a clear track that should please the purists. The Blu-ray has trailers for Puppet Master 1-3, The Pit and the Pendulum, Demonic Toys, Bloody Birthday, Two Moon Junction, Dollman, Blood Sucking Freaks, Tourist Trap and Castle Freak. There are plenty of actual extras, mostly recycled from the original DVD release. There's a commentary; an alternate cut of the film with intro; the 15th and 30th anniversary intros by Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma and creator of The Toxic Avenger; that staple of Troma releases The Radiation March; the intro from Toxic Crusaders; the Toxie 15 years later sketch and the death of Toxie sketch; the Troma studio tour, which is now just a series of clips instead of a slightly interactive tour; Marc Torgl's mini commentary for the scenes he was involved in; a Comcast ad that features Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma and creator of The Toxic Avenger, living in a fridge box; that public service announcement where the woman gets naked; Motörhead's "Sacrifice" set to Troma clips; a small slide show; and trailers for the four Toxic Avenger movies. The main feature commentary is the commentary from the first DVD release featuring Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma and creator of The Toxic Avenger. I've read that he recorded a second commentary track, but that this one was the more informative, so if only one version could be included this was the one. The alternate cut is the Japanese version, presented in standard definition. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I think the big difference with the Japanese cut is that the TV version scenes are reinstated in the movie. There was also an extended montage during the sex scene at the tip, which didn't really add anything…or make much sense within the context of the scene. This version reveals the true fate of two of Toxie's victims, and offers a brief look at the actor who played Toxie out of the makeup. The Japanese cut also comes with an intro that features Michael Herz before he started being played by Joe Fleishaker. The intro has Japanese subs and, I assume, joke English subs translating the Japanese subs.
The Verdict
Troma have put out their own Blu-ray of The Toxic Avenger which has a slew of different extras, but has compressed audio. Also it's not available as a steelbook. I made my choice based on getting the best version of the feature film, but it's a shame that neither version is definitive.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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