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THE TOXIC AVENGER

 

Toxic AvengerDirected by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz

Produced by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman, Stuart Strutin

Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Joe Ritter

Starring: Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl, Andree Maranda, Pat Ryan Jr.

Cinematography: Lloyd Kaufman, James London

Editing by: Richard W. Haines

Distributed by: Troma Entertainment

Release date(s): May 1984

Running time: 87 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $500,000

 

Melvin Ferd III (Mark Torgl) is a stereotypical 98-pound weakling; he works as a janitor at a health club in the fictional Tromaville, New Jersey. There, he is tormented by his customers, particularly Bozo (Gary Schneider), Slug (Robert Prichard), Wanda (Jennifer Babtist), and Julie (Cindy Manion), who harass and tease him constantly. The Mayor of Tromaville is Mayor Peter Belgoody (Pat Ryan Jr.) who, unknown to the citizens of the town, is also the leader of a massive Tromaville crime ring, but hides this fact by promoting good will and proposed justice to the town as a cover-up. As days go by Melvin’s tormentors grow more and more violent, even killing a young boy on a bike by running him over with their car and taking photos of the carnage afterwards. Finally, one day they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club by other customers and out a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste, which immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames, Melvin survives, and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.

Elsewhere, 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 attack and brutalize him. Then, just as Cigar Face prepare to castrate Officer O’Clancy with his gun, a large creature (portrayed by Mitch Cohen and voiced by Kenneth Kessler) comes out of nowhere and violently kills the criminals then leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face survives, but has had his testicles smashed by the creature before escaping. O’Clancy is initially terrified of the creature but soon learns he was only trying to help him as the creature approaches him and politely apologizes for his behavior as he has „never done this sort of thing before“. The officer’s rescuer, dubbed the „Monster Hero“, is the now profoundly mutated Melvin. He tries to return home, but his mother (Sarabel Levinson) ends up fainting upon the sight of him. Wracked with sorrow, the Monster Hero builds a makeshift home in the junkyard. Mayor Belgoody is shocked at the deaths of some of his goons, but is still confident that the Monster will not come looking for him, hoping that one of his goons will kill him eventually.

Elsewhere in Tromaville, a gang of three men consisting by Leroy (Patrick Kilpatrick), Frank (Larry Sulton), and Rico (Michael Russo) are holding up a Mexican restaurant called „The Mexican Place.“ The men kill one of the patrons (Xavier Barquet) and attack a blind woman named Sarah (Andree Maranda) after killing her guide dog. Frank attempts to rape her, but is attacked by the Monster Hero who ends up ripping off Frank’s right arm. He wreaks bloody vengeance on the three men: Leroy is first covered in whipped cream (and a cherry) before having a milkshake-stirrer rammed into his throat, Rico has his hands and wrists plunged into a deep-fryer, and Frank is stuffed in an oven. The Monster Hero takes Sarah back to her home where they begin to get to know one another, and progressively fall in love. The Monster Hero returns to the Health Club, killing a drug dealer (Dennis Souder) by crushing his face with a weight lifting machine. There, he attacks popular girl Wanda (one of his tormentors that had caused his transformation). Afterwards, the Monster is relieving himself in a back alley when a limo pulls up and a pimp tries to push a 12-year-old girl onto him. When he starts to fight back to save the girl, a group of men come out of the limo. He fights them all off and saves the girl. The Monster Hero soon starts building up a friendly reputation in Tromaville by doing all sorts of „superhero“ work from saving two younger boys from Bozo’s group to even helping the elderly to cross the street.

Meanwhile, Mayor Belgoody is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to his goons, as not only are they being killed one-by-one by the Monster Hero, but some of them are also turning themselves in for their own safety. He is now worried that their deaths will lead up to him sooner than he expects and wants the Monster Hero to be taken care of. One night, Cigar Face returns (covered in bandages and casts) and brings along a new group of Belgoody’s goons to surround the Monster with guns. Before they fire on him, he jumps up to a fire escape and they end up shooting and killing each other. The Monster Hero returns to the health club again and attacks Julie (another one of his tormentors responsible for what happened to him). Soon afterwards, he confronts the last of his tormentors Bozo and Slug who have attacked an old woman and stolen her car when Julie doesn’t show up. Bozo and Slug try to run him over, but the Monster jumps on top of the car and grabs Slug crushing his neck and throwing him out of the moving car. The Monster then confronts Bozo by grabbing him by the face and terrifies him by revealing himself as Melvin from the accident to a horrified Bozo. After several accidents that occur because of Bozo’s driving, the Monster tears off the wheel to the car causing Bozo to drive off the side of a cliff. The car crashes and bursts into flames burning Bozo alive but unaffecting the monster. One day, when the Monster Hero kills a seemingly innocent old woman in a dry cleaning store (it is later revealed that she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade), the Monster Hero wanders back to his junkyard home revealing his true identity to Sarah and feeling terrified and guilty for what he has become. Sarah however tells Melvin that she still loves him no matter what he looks like and the two decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods.

However, Belgoody finds out about the Monster Hero’s „mishap“ and uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard in hopes of finally killing him. Soon Sarah and the Monster are discovered in the woods and now surrounded by both the National Guard and the townspeople. The Mayor comes intent on killing him (whereas the National Guard’s request was originally for capture). But thanks to the Monster’s kind duties to the town, the people of Tromaville including the Monster Hero’s mother will have none of it. The Mayor’s evil ways are exposed after he threatens to kill O’Clancy for trying to take his gun away from him, and the Monster Hero proceeds to rip out Belgoody’s organs to see if he has „any guts“. The film ends with the townspeople’s celebration at the Monster’s acceptance and a reassuring epilogue that wherever evil brews in Tromaville, Melvin the Monster Hero, now dubbed the „Toxic Avenger“, will be there to protect the town.

The Toxic Avenger was the film that „built the house of Troma,“ 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.

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. Kaufman wrote the script with the help of writer Joe Ritter.

Several cut scenes are viewable on the film’s Director’s Cut DVD. Some of these scenes involve Bozo and his gang at the Health Club, Melvin (as the Monster) and his growing relationship with Sarah, conversations between Belgoody and his henchmen, and the real cause of Wanda and Julie’s demise.

The Toxic Avenger has been adapted to other media:
In My Big Fat Independent Movie, Toxie is seen in the far back in the orgy scene.
From April 1991-February 1992, Marvel Comics published The Toxic Avenger comic. The comic was written by Doug Moench, drawn by Rodney Ramos, and Val Mayerik, and lasted for 11 issues. The series focused on Toxie battling against the evil Apocalypse, Inc. and its demonic Chairman. The title was a mix of traditional superhero storytelling and satire, including the phrase „hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength“ being repeated many times, and Toxie’s „Tromatons“ erupting when he was in danger similar to Spider-Man’s spider-sense. Marvel’s series also contained much in the way of „over-the-top,“ cartoonish violence. No other Marvel characters ever appeared in the series, and Toxie never made his way into any other Marvel comic, although a crossover with Marvel’s RoboCop title was planned before that series was cancelled.
In July 2000, Troma published an extremely rare comic book entitled The New Adventures of the Toxic Avenger. This comic was offered to people who donate $75 or more to TromaDance 2007.
Lloyd Kaufman and Adam Jahnke wrote a novelization entitled The Toxic Avenger: The Novel. It was released on May 10, 2006, and was published by Thunder’s Mouth Press.
In October 2008, the world premiere of Lloyd Kaufman’s The Toxic Avenger debuted at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey becoming the highest-grossing musical in its 34-year history. The show was written by Tony Award winners Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi’s David Bryan and directed by Tony Award winner John Rando. The show has its New York premiere at the New World Stages in April 2009 and won the 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and an additional 18 nominations from the Drama League, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel Awards (including Best Musical) and five Dora Award Nominations (the Canadian equivalent of the Tony Award) including Best Musical and a win for Best Actress in a Musical. The show was presented by Dancap Productions in Toronto in October 2009 and by Shownote and CJ Entertainment in Seoul, Korea in August 2010.
Earlier stage productions of the film include Toxic Avenger: The Musikill, with lyrics by Ira Kortum, who also directed and starred in the production, which premiered in Portland, Oregon. The music was composed by Martin J. Gallagher, with the assistance of Marc Rose. Kaufman reportedly had nothing to do with the production, although he did verbally support Kortum’s adaptation and attended the production on Opening Night. Excerpts from Toxic Avenger: The Musikill are featured on the 21st Anniversary edition of the original film. Toxic Avenger: The Musical was presented at Omaha’s Blue Barn Theatre in 2004. This production was written and directed by Rob Urbinati, with music by Kevin Saunders Hayes.
A graphic novel about Toxie and other Troma properties, Lloyd Kaufman Presents: The Toxic Avenger and Other Tromatic Tales, was released in 2007 from Devil’s Due Publishing.
A French electronica DJ has also dubbed himself „The Toxic Avenger“.
Australian band Regurgitator mention The Toxic Avenger in their song „I Couldn’t Do It“.
Punk rock band The Dickies paid tribute with the song „Toxic Avenger“ on their album Idjit Savant.
The film Slither has a scene where a woman is watching The Toxic Avenger while babysitting.
In an episode of The Boondocks, Uncle Ruckus references The Toxic Avenger amidst trademark derogatory remarks.
In Tiny Toon Adventures, Plucky Duck has an ecology-themed superhero identity called „The Toxic Revenger“.

According to Kaufman, due to the remake Mother’s Day, major motion picture companies are interested in doing remakes of other Troma films. Among the titles currently in negotiations is The Toxic Avenger. On April 6, 2010, a remake of The Toxic Avenger was announced. The remake was said to be aiming for a family-friendly PG-13 release similar to the Toxic Crusaders.

The film is to be co-written and directed by Steve Pink of Hot Tub Time Machine.

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