Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toxic Avenger, The (1984)

...aka: Atomic Hero
...aka: Health Club Horror
...aka: Toxic

Directed by:
Michael Herz
Lloyd Kaufman

This campy melding of over-the-top violence, slapstick gore humor and horror movie references is pretty hilarious at times and is definitely one of the best to come from the Troma Team. Geeky, scrawny janitor Melvin A. Junko (Mark Torgl) is ridiculed and made fun of by all the snobs at the Tromaville Health Club until one fateful day when he accidentally comes into contact with radioactive toxic waste. The green gunk not only sets him ablaze on contact, it sets in motion a gooey morphing period where the 90-pound nerd will turn into a facially mutated, muscular and courageous crime fighter known as The Toxic Avenger (now played by Mitchell Cohen and voiced by Kenneth Kessler). Billed as "The first super hero from New Jersey," Toxie sets out to clean up the streets of Tromaville, wiping out drug pushers, pimps, hit and run drivers, punk thieves, corrupt politicians and other unsavory citizens giving his town a bad rap.
Definitely not for all tastes, juvenile and sometimes highly annoying, but all in all it's an energetic, bright, tasteless and very funny spoof of horror films, super hero flicks and the emerging 80s health club fad. Jennifer Aspinall did the (top-notch) gore effects, including multiple dismemberments and decapitations, a head squashed by gym equipment and a hilarious taco joint massacre featuring a man getting his hands fried in hot oil and a guy's face being transformed into a sundae. This was a surprise hit in a limited theatrical run, so three sequels; THE TOXIC AVENGER, PART II, THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE (both filmed back-to-back in 1989) and CITIZEN TOXIC: THE TOXIC AVENGER 4 (2000), comic books, a cartoon series (Toxic Crusaders) and action figure toys followed.
With Pat Ryan, Jr. as the obese, corrupt mayor of Tromaville, Jennifer Babtist, Robert Prichard and Gary Schneider as punks (all of them would return for Troma's CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH in 1986), Cindy Manion (who had appeared in De Palma's BLOW OUT), Dan Snow (TENEMENT), Patrick Kilpatrick, Michael Russo and Andree Maranda as Toxie's blind girlfriend Sara. An uncredited Marisa Tomei (frequently named dropped in the publicity these days) can be spotted briefly walking into a locker room, discovering a body and screaming.


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