Tromeo & Juliet (1996)
By: M. Walsh on October 28, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Stomp Visual (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 107 minutes
The Movie
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Starring: Jane Jensen, Will Keenan. Valentine Miele, Maximillian Shaun, Debbie Rochon, Lemmy
Screenplay: Jason Green, James Gunn, Lloyd Kaufman
Country: USA
"O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?"

This is the question I posed to Lloyd Kaufman after his 1996 updating of the Bard's famous tragedy had reached its climax. I mean, I didn't actually email Mr. Kaufman and ask him why his film was so painfully awful, but I would have liked to.
I remember watching this on video a long time ago and being less than impressed with it then. Sure, there were hot lesbian sex scenes and giant monster penises and crushed/mutilated/deformed human heads...but it was really nothing new. Watching it again on the recently released (locally, that is) "Director's Cut" DVD I realised that, quite apart from the fact that I had I seen it all before, it probably wasn't all that wonderful to begin with.

My initial viewing of The Toxic Avenger was one of glee, amazement and adolescent awakening. It was, at the time, one of the many films that provided a worthy counterpart to the crud that production companies pimped to my particular demographic. In 2005, however, and after so recently revisiting the almost deliriously awful Hell of the Living Dead, I find it difficult to ascertain what it was, exactly, that attracted me to Troma films in the first place.

Oh yeah, I remember, the crappy acting, crappier effects and gratuitous nudity. For some reason, however, these things just don't seem to tickle me like they used to. Don't get me wrong, I will defend the merits of The Toxic Avenger to my deathbed, but I can no longer see the fun in films that are as aggressively bad as Tromeo and Juliet. For a cut-rate gore effect to really get me chuckling, it has to be played straight. And while much of this scatological updating of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy is loaded with potential, much of it also fails to be either entertaining or funny.

None of this will matter to the hardcore Troma devotees. I suppose I have just become the Captain Hook to the Troma Team's Peter Pan. As for the plot, well, it's Romeo and Juliet as we all knew it in high school, just with more puns and latex. And at 107 minutes, it feels damn long. On the DVD, Lloyd Kaufman informs the viewer that the first cut of the film ran for over 3 hours.

I can only pray that he was joking.
Throw away those old VHS copies and say hello to the definitive release of Tromeo and Juliet. Actually, don't. Because I'm pretty sure that the battered, heavily-chewed and basically un-trackable ex-rental tape that I used to own had superior video quality to what is offered on this...ahem..."lovingly digitally mastered" edition of the film. Let's say, for argument's sake, that this was "filmed" in an aspect ratio of 1:85:1. It's impossible to tell really because, as most Troma afficionados would be aware, aesthetically pleasing compositions are not one of the Troma Team's major concerns. However, the framing does look a bit tight on the odd occasion, which could really mean anything. This is a full frame transfer and you can take your pick as to the source of the framing issues: either the image has been cropped or the photography sucks. Probably both. "Shadow detail" and "colour saturation" are simply idiomatic descriptions here, and film artefacts pop up now and then to remind us all of just how cheap a bastard Lloyd Kaufman really is.
Budget on-set sound equipment and appalling ADR work are the most obvious culprits here. The sound mix itself is, alternately, muddy and grating. The soundtrack, graciously provided by such sterling artists as Ass Ponys and The Wesley Willis Fiasco, has all the charm of a twelfth generation TDK bootleg captured through a transistor radio and recorded onto a broken dictophone.
Extra Features
Plenty of stuff here, all of it stunningly cheap and gleefully nasty. What Lost Scenes from Yonder Window...offers a selection of deleted scenes from the film, all prefaced with a typically hammed-up introduction from the irripressible Kaufman. Like most of the features on this DVD, these introductions are "complimented" with some of the worst video effects I have ever had the misfortune to see. Star Crossed is a selection of on-the-set, and in-film, snapshots. So, in other words, it's a photo gallery. Kinky Stuff follows this and is comprised of 8 sub-sections ranging from the bad (Ula & Sarka: Pain-proof Rubber Girls) to the utterly fucking awful (Radiation March). The Coming Distractions feature has been disabled, thanks to our friends at the OFLC, who also saw fit to excise the Troma Intelligence Test as well. The feature-length commentary by Lloyd Kaufman is, from what I can tell, amusing and informative. I was unable to sit through the entire film again to hear all the anecdotes that Kaufman was offering up due to the very real fear I had of developing some kind of inoperable brain cancer if I were to watch Tromeo and Juliet twice. The Tour of Troma is a lot of fun and contains more of Kaufman doing his bow-tie and microphone shtick along with some sophomore vignettes featuring bikini-clad babes who were apparently lost in a time warp for the better part of twenty years.
The Verdict
Tromeo and Juliet is what can only be described as a review-proof film. Everything about it sucks ass through a straw but, like most of the films in the Troma archives, that's exactly the point. However, making little or no effort is hardly a commendable thing for a production company to do and it is far too easy to simply film any old shit in the hope that ineptitude is still enough to make people laugh. Perhaps I've grown weary of the films in the Troma catalogue over the years. What was once funny and endearing to me has become familiar and boring.

There are some quintessential Troma gags to be found in the film, and it is certainly a Kaufman and Herz production through and through, but I tend to like my bad movies with a pinch of earnestness. It is always funnier to laugh at someone who has tried and failed than at someone who has tried to fail.
Movie Score
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