The Toxic Avenger (film)

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The Toxic Avenger
Toxic avengerposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
  • Michael Herz
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • Stuart Strutin
Written by
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • Joe Ritter
Starring
Cinematography
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • James London
Edited byRichard W. Haines
Distributed by Troma Entertainment
Release date
  • May 1984 (1984-05)(New York[ citation needed ])
  • April 11, 1986 (1986-04-11)
Running time
79 minutes [1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$500,000 [2]
Box office$800,000

The Toxic Avenger is a 1984 American superhero black comedy splatter film directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (credited as Samuel Weil) and written by Kaufman and Joe Ritter. It is the first installment of The Toxic Avenger franchise. The film was released by Troma Entertainment, known for producing low budget B-movies with campy concepts and gruesome violence. Virtually ignored upon its first release, The Toxic Avenger caught on with filmgoers after a long and successful midnight movie engagement at the famed Bleecker Street Cinemas in New York City in late 1985. It is now regarded as a cult classic.

Superhero film Film genre

A superhero film, superhero movie or superhero motion picture is a film that is focused on the actions of one or more superheroes: individuals who usually possess superhuman abilities relative to a normal person and are dedicated to protecting the public. These films typically feature action, adventure, fantasy or science fiction elements, with the first film of a particular character often including a focus on the origin of their special powers and their first confrontation with their most famous supervillain or archenemy.

Black comedy Comic work based on subject matter that is generally considered taboo

Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark comedy or gallows humor, is a comic style that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. Writers and comedians often use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues, by provoking discomfort and serious thought as well as amusement in their audience. Popular themes of the genre include death and violence, discrimination, disease, and human sexuality.

Splatter film subgenre of horror film

A splatter film is a subgenre of horror film that deliberately focuses on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence. These films, usually through the use of special effects, display a fascination with the vulnerability of the human body and the theatricality of its mutilation. The term "splatter cinema" was coined by George A. Romero to describe his film Dawn of the Dead, though Dawn of the Dead is generally considered by critics to have higher aspirations, such as social commentary, than to be simply exploitative for its own sake.

Contents

The film has generated a media franchise including three film sequels, a stage musical production, a video game and a children's TV cartoon. [3] Two less successful sequels, The Toxic Avenger Part II and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie , were filmed as one. Director Lloyd Kaufman realized that he had shot far too much footage for one film and re-edited it into two. A third independent sequel was also released, titled Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV . An animated children's TV series spin-off, Toxic Crusaders , featured Toxie as the leader of a team of mutated superheroes who fought against evil alien polluters. The cartoon series was short-lived and quickly cancelled. New Line Cinema had planned a live-action film based on the cartoon, but the deal fell through.[ citation needed ]

<i>The Toxic Avenger</i> (franchise)

The Toxic Avenger is a multimedia low-budget superhero comedy splatter film franchise originating with the 1984 film The Toxic Avenger, and continuing through three film sequels, a stage musical production, a video game and a children's TV cartoon. Two less successful sequels, The Toxic Avenger Part II and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, were filmed as one. Director Lloyd Kaufman realized that he had shot far too much footage for one film and re-edited it into two. A third independent sequel was also released, titled Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV. An animated children's TV series spin-off, Toxic Crusaders, featured Toxie as the leader of a team of mutated superheroes who fought against evil alien polluters. The cartoon series was short-lived and quickly cancelled. In 2019, it was announced that Legendary Pictures would be making a reboot of the film, with original creators Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment serving as producers, and Macon Blair serving as writer and director.

A sequel is a literature, film, theatre, television, music or video game that continues the story of, or expands upon, some earlier work. In the common context of a narrative work of fiction, a sequel portrays events set in the same fictional universe as an earlier work, usually chronologically following the events of that work.

<i>The Toxic Avenger</i> (musical) musical

The Toxic Avenger is a rock musical based on the 1984 film of the same name. The book of the musical was written by Joe DiPietro, its music by David Bryan, and both wrote the lyrics.

In 2019, it was announced that Legendary Pictures would be making a reboot of the film, with original creators Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment serving as producers, and Macon Blair serving as writer and director. [4]

Lloyd Kaufman American film director

Stanley Lloyd Kaufman Jr. is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. With producer Michael Herz, he is the co-founder of Troma Entertainment film studio, and the director of many of their feature films, including The Toxic Avenger and Tromeo and Juliet.

Michael Herz is an American film producer, director and screenwriter. With Lloyd Kaufman, the two are the co-founders of Troma Entertainment, the world's longest running independent film studio, known for their comedic horror films, including the cult favorite Toxic Avenger series and Tromeo and Juliet.

Troma Entertainment American independent film production and distribution company

Troma Entertainment is an American independent film production and distribution company founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974. The company produces low-budget independent films, primarily of the horror genre. Many of them play on 1950s horror with elements of farce, parody, gore and splatter.

Plot

Melvin Ferd (Mark Torgl) is a stereotypical 98-pound weakling who works as a janitor at a health club in the fictional town of Tromaville, New Jersey, where the customers—particularly Bozo (Gary Schneider), Slug (Robert Prichard), Wanda (Jennifer Babtist) and Julie (Cindy Manion)—harass him constantly. His tormentors get more and more violent, even deliberately killing a young boy on a bike with their car and taking photos of the carnage afterward. One day, they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club and out a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste, which sets him on fire. After running down the street in a ball of flames, Melvin douses the flames in his bathtub. The chemicals cause him to transform into a hideously deformed creature, but is also gifted with superhuman size and strength.

New Jersey State of the United States of America

New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is a peninsula, bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; and on the southwest by the Delaware Bay and Delaware. New Jersey is the fourth-smallest state by area but the 11th-most populous, with 9 million residents as of 2017, making it the most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states with its biggest city being Newark. New Jersey lies completely within the combined statistical areas of New York City and Philadelphia. New Jersey was the second-wealthiest U.S. state by median household income as of 2017.

A group of drug dealers, led by the criminal Cigar Face (Dan Snow), are harassing a police officer by the name of O'Clancy (Dick Martinsen), trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang prepare to castrate him. Melvin appears out of nowhere and violently kills the criminals, then leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face manages to escape, promising to return to take revenge. Melvin then tries to return home, but his mother is terrified of him and will not let him in the house; so Melvin - publicly dubbed "The Monster Hero" (also known as "The Toxic Avenger" or "Toxie") and hailed as a hero - builds a makeshift home in the junkyard.

Elsewhere in Tromaville, a gang of three men are holding up a Mexican food restaurant and attack a blind woman named Sarah (Andree Maranda). They kill her guide dog and attempt to rape her, but are stopped by Melvin, who wreaks bloody vengeance on them. Toxie takes Sarah back to her home, where they begin to get to know one another and subsequently become romantically involved. Melvin continues to fight crime, including drug dealers and pimps for underage prostitutes, and also takes revenge on the four tormentors who caused his transformation. First, he attacks Wanda in the health club's sauna and burns her rear side on the heater. He later returns to the club, pursues Julie into the basement, and cuts off her hair. He then confronts Bozo and Slug after they brutally stole a car, ending in Slug getting thrown out of the moving car and Bozo driving off the side of a cliff.

Child prostitution Prostitution involving a child

Child prostitution is prostitution involving a child, and it is a form of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The term normally refers to prostitution of a minor, or person under the legal age of consent. In most jurisdictions, child prostitution is illegal as part of general prohibition on prostitution.

As Melvin gives aid to the people in the city, Mayor Belgoody (Pat Ryan Jr.), the leader of Tromaville's extensive crime ring, is horrified of what is happening to his goons. He is worried that it will lead back to him and wants Melvin to be taken care of. A group of men, led by Cigar Face, surround Melvin with guns. Just before they fire on him, he leaps up to a fire escape, so that they end up shooting each other.

When Melvin kills a seemingly innocent old woman in a dry cleaning store (she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade), Belgoody uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard. Back in his junkyard home, Melvin is terrified of what he has become, and he and Sarah decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods. They are eventually discovered, and the Mayor and the National Guard come to kill him, but the people of Tromaville will have none of it. The Mayor's evil ways are revealed, and Melvin proceeds to rip out Belgoody's organs to see if he has "any guts". The movie ends with a reassurance that the Toxic Avenger will continue to combat crime in Tromaville.

Cast

Production

The Toxic Avenger was the film that "built the house of Troma", [5] and was Troma's first horror film. Previously the production company focused on sex comedies such as Cry Uncle! and Squeeze Play! . Subsequently, Troma focused almost exclusively on horror films. [2]

In 1975, Lloyd Kaufman had the idea to shoot a horror film involving a health club while serving as the pre-production supervisor on the set of Rocky . At the Cannes Film Festival, Kaufman had read an article that said horror films were no longer popular, so Kaufman claims that he decided to produce his own version of the horror film. The film's final outcome was less a bona fide horror film and more of a campy superhero-spoof with extreme violence embedded throughout. The setting of the movie in a health club and the movie was given a working title of Health Club Horror. [2] [6]

Filming

Principal photography for The Toxic Avenger took place at various locations in New Jersey, including Jersey City, Boonton, Harrison, and Rutherford during the summer of 1983. [7] Filming was later reported to be completed in 1983. [8]

The car chase scene was inspired by the final truck scene in George Miller's film Mad Max 2. [9]

Release

Home media

The Toxic Avenger was released by Troma for the first time on DVD on March 25, 1998. It was later re-released by Troma on November 20, 2000 and again on September 3, 2002; with the latter release of the film being a part of a 4-Disk Toxic Avenger movie pack. The film was later picked up for distribution by Prism, who later released the film on February 2, 2004. Troma later released a 21st Anniversary Edition version of the film on March 29, 2005. On March 7, 2006; the film was released by KOCH Entertainment. The film would not receive another home media release until Troma released a "Japanese Cut" of the film on December 11, 2012. Troma would release the film for the first time on Blu-ray on August 12, 2014. On November 18, later that year, it was again released on Blue-ray by Import Vendor. [10]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Toxic Avenger holds an approval rating of 70%, based on 20 reviews, and an average rating of 5.5/10. It's consensus reads, "A silly and ribald superhero spoof, Toxic Avenger uninhibited humor hits more than it misses." [11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 42 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "Mixed or average reviews". [12]

Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, calling the film, "A funny spoof... Not without violence and gore but still entertaining." [13] Stephen Holden of The New York Times rated the film a score of 3/5, complimenting the film for its " maniacally farcical sense of humor", while also noting that the film itself was trash. [14]

The film was not without its detractors. TV Guide gave the film a negative 1/5 stars, writing "Though it is silly, sleazy, and graphically violent, The Toxic Avenger does hold a bit of warped charm for fans of this sort of thing." [15] Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club was highly critical of the film, writing, "As for the movie itself, it's still a piece of trash, if a marginally entertaining one: It's too self-consciously parodic to be good kitsch, and too gross to be all that fun." [16]

In other media

The Toxic Avenger has been adapted to other media:

Reboot

According to Kaufman, due to the remake of Mother's Day , major motion picture companies were interested in doing remakes of other Troma films. Among the titles that were in negotiations was The Toxic Avenger. [23] On April 6, 2010, a remake of The Toxic Avenger was announced. [24]

The remake, said to be aiming for a family-friendly PG-13 release similar to the Toxic Crusaders television series, is to be co-written and directed by Steve Pink. [25] In May 2013, Arnold Schwarzenegger entered talks for a role in the film. [26] Sometime in late 2013, Schwarzenegger dropped out to work on Terminator Genisys , but, as of February 2015, plans for the remake continued to circulate. [27] On September 12, 2016, Variety reports that Conrad Vernon will direct the film with executive producers Guillermo Del Toro of Double Dare You, Bob Cooper and Alex Schwartz of Storyscape Entertainment and Akiva Goldsman & Greg Lessans of Weed Road. Mike Arnold and Chris Poole are on board to rewrite the screenplay by Pink and Daniel C. Mitchell. [28]

On December 10, 2018, it was announced that Legendary Pictures has won the rights to reboot the film, with Kaufman and Herz to serve as producers. [29] In March of 2019, Macon Blair was announced as director of the upcoming reboot. [30]

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Toxic Crusaders is an animated series based on The Toxic Avenger films. It features Toxie, the lead character of the films leading a group of misfit superheroes who combat pollution. This followed a trend of environmentally considerate cartoons and comics of the time, including Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Swamp Thing, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. As this incarnation was aimed at children, Toxic Crusaders is considerably tamer than the edgy films it was based on. Thirteen episodes were produced and aired, with at least a few episodes airing as a "trial run" in Summer 1990 followed by the official debut on January 21, 1991. It aired on YTV 1991 to 1997 in Canada. The US cable network G4 aired the first two episodes on July 25, 2009.

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References

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  7. The Star Ledger. October 26, 2014. pg. E7
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  28. Kroll, Justin (February 14, 2016). "'Sausage Party' Co-Director Conrad Vernon to Helm 'Toxic Avenger' Remake". Variety.
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