Film Review: Troma’s War (1988)

Also known as: 1,000 Ways to Die (alternative title), Club War (Germany)
Release Date: October, 1988 (Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Michael Herz, Samuel Weil
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman
Music by: Christopher De Marco
Cast: Carolyn Beauchamp, Sean Bowen, Michael Ryder, Patrick Weathers, Jessica Dublin, Ara Romanoff

Troma Entertainment, 87 Minutes, 104 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You try chopping Siamese twins apart with a machete and not change.” – Nancy

I love everything Troma stands for, always have. However, I don’t enjoy a lot of their movies because even if they’re intentionally bad, it is often times too much and despite a few funny moments, here and there, their films get buried too deeply in their own schtick.

However, there are some films that they’ve made that are really damn good for what they are. While Troma War isn’t their best offering, it is definitely one of their better ones and I probably rank it in my top five.

This movie is absolutely insane but that should be expected considering this came from the mind of Lloyd Kaufman during his peak. Plus, it was directed by Michael Herz, who has been behind the camera for three of the Troma films I’d rank above this one: The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

The story here is bizarre but basically this picks up after a plane has crashed on an island. The survivors then have to fight a war against the madmen that occupy the island. But this is a Troma film, so things can’t be that simple and cookie cutter.

Troma’s War is a movie that gets more and more bonkers as it plays on. The two craziest bits being the stuff surrounding the Siamese twin character and the stuff surrounding the guy with AIDS. But the over the top, violent and gory action is also insane.

Honestly, it’s a hard movie to describe and it sort of has to be seen to be believed.

Like all things Troma, one should expect terrible acting, questionable direction and the cheapest practical effects imaginable. However, this is just as much imaginative as it is offensive and that makes it much better than the standard Troma schlock.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Troma’s other ’80s and ’90s movies.

Film Review: Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

Release Date: December 12th, 1986
Directed by: Richard W. Haines, Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky, Stuart Strutin
Music by: Ethan Hurt
Cast: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan

Troma Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“But what about the Fellini festival?” – Warren, “Warren – fuck the Fellini festival!” – Chrissy

Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a diamond in the rough from the massive catalog of films made or distributed by Troma Entertainment. Being that Troma’s modus operandi is making really awesome shitty films, this one can be expected to follow suit. Well, it follows suit and then exceeds the distinction that is its birthright.

The Toxic Avenger is considered to be Troma’s masterpiece and the foundation of their bad filmmaking empire. By many of the Troma faithful, Toxie’s first flick is like their bible. In my opinion, Class of Nuke ‘Em High exceeds it.

Here you have a school, next to a nuclear power plant, which leads to 80 minutes or so of insanity. The Honor Society has evolved into a ruthless gang of cretins, called the Cretins, that buy weed from a guy who grows it on the nuclear power plant’s property. This “atomic weed” becomes the catalyst for all the crazy things that happen in this film – leading up to climax where the Cretins take over the school on their motorcycles and a beastly toxic creature brings terror to those still left in the building.

If you want over the top, and I mean severely over the top 80s camp, gore and something so ridiculous it’s just fun, this is a great film to throw on.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

Release Date: 1990
Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Andrew Osborne, Jeffery W. Sass
Music by: Bill Mithoff
Cast: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden

Troma Entertainment, 105 Minutes

Review:

“I was depressed, I was confused and I was turning Japanese.” – Sgt. Kabukiman

Having recently watched and reviewed several old Troma films (some of those to be posted soon), I figured I’d also revisit the single film of one of my favorite Troma characters, Sgt. Kabukiman.

This is probably my third favorite Troma movie, after The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s violent, it’s graphic and it gives a person everything that Troma has become known for. It doesn’t stray from the pack, it just reignites the formula and brings something different to the table.

Yes, this film is bizarre as hell and it is extremely low budget but like The Toxic Avenger those challenges produced great results. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz proved once again that they can be masters of no-budget film and that they are inventive and ingenious when it comes to the right sort of project.

I kind of wish that this had spawned a franchise ala The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High but it never really did. Maybe Troma will make a proper follow-up at some point or maybe we’ll get another team-up movie with Toxie like what they did with the Citizen Toxie film.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is Troma at its best and if those films are your cup of tea, this movie will probably be your thing.

Rating: 5.75/10

Film Review: ‘The Toxic Avenger’ Film Series (1984-2000)

Few films are as bizarre and gore-filled as those within The Toxic Avenger series. Other than other pictures made by Troma, I can’t really think of anything else that compares. And since I’m starting to rewatch the films in my Troma collection, I figured I’d start with those movies starring Toxie, their company’s mascot and first big star.

The Toxic Avenger (1984):

Release Date: May 1984 (New York City theatrical release)
Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Joe Ritter
Music by: Mark Hoffman, Dean Summers, Christopher Burke
Cast: Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl, Andree Maranda, Pat Ryan Jr.

Troma Entertainment, 79 Minutes

Review:

“And you can tell all your scum friends that things are gonna change in this town. I’m not just another pretty face.” – The Toxic Avenger

The first film is the best by far. Now I am in no way calling this a Kubrickian masterpiece but for what the filmmakers (Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz) were able to create with the extremely limited resources they had, this was pretty amazing.

The film was violent, silly, comedic, bad ass and charming: a weird combination that was sewn together like some fucked up Frankenstein tapestry.

Retrospectively, the formula worked beautifully and gives the film a respectable level of ingenuity, originality and even intelligence. Yes, intelligence. And what I mean by that, is that Troma was like South Park before South Park, in that it was offensive, over the top, ridiculous and out for shock value. But underneath all of that, Troma films, at their best, carried a brilliant political or social message. Troma paved the way for others like them in this regard and The Toxic Avenger is their magnum opus, still to this day.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989):

Release Date: February 24th, 1989
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Gay Partington Terry
Music by: Barrie Guard
Cast: Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, John Altamura, Rick Collins, Rikiya Yasuoka, Tsutomu Sekine, Mayako Katsuragi

Troma Entertainment, Lorimar, 96 Minutes, 103 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“…worst of all… if Tromaville was destroyed, there’d be no Toxic Avenger 3!” – The Toxic Avenger

This film was the immediate start of the decline of The Toxic Avenger franchise. It was nowhere near as good as the original and overall, it was a huge step down.

I know it is hard to step down from the bottom of the barrel, but even though the filmmakers joke about their films being shit, the first one in this series was awesome, as I stated above.

This film, was not awesome. It had some awesome bits but all in all, it took the acceptable ridiculousness of the first movie and magnified it even further. It didn’t need to be magnified.

The new girl playing Toxie’s girlfriend was insanely annoying but luckily she had minimal screen time due to this film taking Toxie to Japan for the majority of the story. In fact, the Japanese trip is actually what made this film somewhat unique and fun. Some of the fights were greatly done but other than the action parts, this was hard to watch.

Rating: 4/10

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989):

Release Date: November 24th, 1989
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Music by: Christopher De Marco
Cast: Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, John Altamura, Rick Collins, Lisa Gaye, Jessica Dublin, Michael Kaplan

Troma Entertainment, 102 Minutes

Review:

“It’s an old sumo trick. They use it whenever they’re on a runaway school bus that plunges into deadly, murky, muddy water.” – The Toxic Avenger

And then… it got even worse.

The Last Temptation of Toxie sees our hero basically fighting the Devil. It is horrible.

Where the first film is fantastic and the second film had some endearing moments, this film loses all of that and gives us a noisy and stomach-churning mess that was hard to sit through.

The awfulness of the film was enhanced by the constant screaming of Toxie’s girlfriend. Never have I hated a character more, which sucks because the actress that played her in the first film did a great job of making her lovable and cute. This actress made her the worst human being I have ever seen on or off the screen.

I’ve really tried to like this film but I just can’t. All the magic that worked in the original is gone. Maybe it’s because the second film and this film were shot back-to-back and the filmmakers ran out of juice. I don’t know.

You know how some films are so bad that they become great? Well, this isn’t one of those films. There’s nothing redeeming about it and it is kind of depressing considering the high note that was the start of this series.

Rating: 2/10

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV: (2000):

Release Date: October 8th, 2000 (Sitges premiere)
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Gabriel Friedman
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz, Patrick Cassidy, Trent Haaga, Gabriel Friedman
Music by: Wes Nagy
Cast: David Mattey, Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse, Joe Fleishaker, Debbie Rochon, Ron Jeremy

Troma Entertainment, 109 Minutes

Review:

“I had a bad feeling about that crack dealer from day one! I guess you can’t trust school kids these days!” – Evil Kabukiman

Then there is the final film. After an 11 year break, the filmmakers had sufficient time to charge their creative batteries and return to the series with something great and compelling, ending the series on a high note: redeeming itself from the previous two outings. Did they succeed?

Yes and no.

This film was the best since the original but it still wasn’t on that level.

The inclusion of Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD was kind of awesome but that was really the biggest high point.

The plot was interesting, as it put Toxie in an alternate universe and an evil doppelgänger in his universe. Granted, it is a formula that has been used to death but it still gave this series something different.

There were cameos galore but nothing incredibly noteworthy. The fight scenes were decent, the gore was probably at its highest level in the series and at least Toxie’s girl was less annoying. Granted, she was still annoying. And while there is nothing respectable about these films from a high society standpoint, the constant retard jokes and use of people shitting themselves was way overdone and pretty senseless, even for a film that at its core is senseless.

I don’t dislike the movie, I just don’t have much urge to ever watch it again. As for the original film in The Toxic Avenger series, I could watch that again and again.

By the way, it is worth mentioning that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn got his start with Troma and he worked on this film. As a thank you, he gave Lloyd Kaufman a cameo in the first Guardians movie.

Rating: 5/10