Film Review: Rome, 2072 A.D.: The New Gladiators (1984)

Also known as: I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 (original Italian title), Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions (Belgium, Finland), Fighting Centurions (Norway, Germany), Gladiators of the Future (Portugal), Rome 2072 A.D., The New Gladiators, Warriors of the Year 2072 (alternative titles)
Release Date: January 28th, 1984 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Elisa Briganti, Cesare Frugoni, Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Jared Martin, Fred Williamson, Renato Rossini, Eleanora Brigliadori

Regency Productions, Troma Entertainment, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Take a good look at these contestants, because for these men violent death is just seconds away.” – Commentator

I’ve seen several Lucio Fulci films but I never knew of this one’s existence until I really started going down the rabbit hole of European Mad Max ripoffs.

Sadly, this picture is pretty dull.

It does have two saving graces, though. They are Fred Williamson and the third act of the film that sets things right and makes this turkey end on a pretty high note.

First off, there’s really no one noteworthy here except for Williamson. And fans of Williamson should already know that he spent a big portion of his career married to schlock. This is no different but he helps to elevate the schlock when he’s onscreen. He’s just a bonafide badass and his presence in this film is no different. He owns this shit and he’s pretty unapologetic about how fucking manly he is.

Additionally, the last half hour of this picture is pure adrenaline. Once we reach the third act, we see these manly men get put into a violent game show, ala The Running Man, but in this picture, our heroes are on motorcycles and using any means they can to kill their opponents in an effort to ensure their survival.

There are some strong similarities to this picture and the David Carradine starring Deathsport from six years earlier but this is a better movie with a presentation that looks a wee bit more polished. It also sprinkles in elements of Death Race 2000 in how it employs vehicular violence in a reality TV format in a post-apocalyptic future.

One thing that I liked about the movie, which most people probably won’t, was the use of miniatures and models to create a futuristic looking Rome. You can tell that these sequences are miniatures but it has this otherworldly and dreamlike appearance that sort of drew me in.

Fulci is a better filmmaker than what this movie shows. He’s made worse pictures than this, though. If you’re interested in seeing his best work, Four of the Apocalypse, Massacre Time and Zombi 2 are much better examples of what he’s capable of.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other Mad Max ripoffs: Battletruck, Metalstorm and Megaforce.

Film Review: The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

Also known as: The Blood Demon, The Snake Pit and the Pendulum, Castle of the Walking Dead
Release Date: October 5th, 1967 (West Germany)
Directed by: Harald Reinl
Written by: Manfred R. Kohler
Based on: The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
Music by: Peter Thomas
Cast: Christopher Lee, Karin Dor, Lex Barker, Carl Lange

Constantin Film, Hemisphere Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“The blood is the life.” – Count Frederic Regula

I love Christopher Lee, that is not a secret. However, he is only in the opening sequence of this film and then doesn’t appear again until the last twenty minutes. That being said, the film isn’t a complete waste.

All the main actors are pretty decent with their material, although the material isn’t great. The story is based off of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum and we have also had a few adaptations of that story by the time this came out. This version is German and it takes some big liberties, which do set it apart.

For one, the story has a snake pit instead of just some long drop into nothingness. Also, the madman is pretty much a resurrected ghost – played by Lee in chalky white makeup. Plus, there is a whole horse and carriage journey that takes up the bulk of the film, until the people arrive at the haunted castle.

The sets look cheap and resembles a low budget spook house from the 1960s more than a real scary horror filled fortress. But hey, it still looks pretty cool and the wall paintings are neat. Also, the lighting is striking and vibrant and the film has a subtle giallo presentation to it.

Christopher Lee overtakes the scenes that he is in but there aren’t many. The leading lady had a very strong Barbara Steele vibe but wasn’t quite Steele. The main fellow was okay but nothing exciting. The guy who plays the priest/bandit was really fun though.

This was one of the few Christopher Lee films of the 1960s that I had not seen. Being that it was available on Amazon Video for Prime members gave me the opportunity to finally check it out. While I’m glad I did, it really isn’t anything that people who aren’t die hard Lee fans will enjoy.

Film Review: Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)

Release Date: 1987
Directed by: Peter George
Written by: Jon Ayre
Music by: Jon McCallum
Cast: Gail Neely, Barry Brenner, Robert Harden, Tom Demenkoff

The Institute, Troma Entertainment, 83 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“I am the Fuhrer of the beach!” – Adolf

As I’ve been watching through a lot of old school Troma films the last week or so, I have become reacquainted with Surf Nazis Must Die.

This film is shitty, even for Troma’s standard. It had a few things about it that felt somewhat commendable but never really developed into anything worthwhile.

The cinematography wasn’t as inventive and fine-tuned as the other well-known Troma pictures and for the most part, it doesn’t really seem to fit the same visual style that their other films had in this era.

Surf Nazis Must Die is more low budget looking than normal and the gore is severely toned down and a lot less gratuitous than say The Toxic Avenger or Class of Nuke ‘Em High. At the same time, it wasn’t produced by Troma, it was just distributed by them.

The premise is ridiculous, as it should be but I really couldn’t get invested in it. I really didn’t care, truthfully.

The thing is, the title of the film makes it seem like a bad ass post-grindhouse grind house film. I love films where Nazis are villains and I loved the old surf film era of the 60s. What seemed like a Tromaville parody of those two things, was just a mishmash of shit that quickly hit the floor.

So does this Troma picture get to go through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? Oh, yeah! As “Macho Man” Randy Savage would say. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

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.

Film Review: Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

Also known as: Sardu: Master of the Screaming Virgins, The Incredible Torture Show, The House of the Screaming Virgins
Release Date: November 3rd, 1976
Directed by: Joel M. Reed
Written by: Joel M. Reed
Music by: Michael Sahl
Cast: Seamus O’Brien, Luis De Jesus, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster, Dan Fauci, Alphonso DeNoble, Ernie Pysher

Alan C. Margolin – Joel M. Reed Prodcutions, Troma Entertainment, 84 Minutes (theatrical cut), 88 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Her mouth shall make an interesting urinal!” – Master Sardu

I’ve been slowly working through a lot of the cult classic grindhouse splatter flicks that all the gore hounds have raved about for generations. While most of them aren’t good pictures by any stretch of the imagination, I actually did find Bloodsucking Freaks to be entertaining and somewhat worthwhile by comparison.

Unlike Blood FeastThe Corpse Grinders and Last House On Dead End Street, which are hard to get through (and not because of the gore), Bloodsucking Freaks is at least humorous and a bit fun. The comedy of The Corpse Grinders wasn’t effective and it was an ugly boring mess.

I think that Bloodsucking Freaks works on some level because of both Seamus O’Brien and Luis De Jesus. Both of them were funny and had a good camaraderie. O’Brien was also a good showman and had an alluring air about him. Everyone in the aforementioned splatter flicks had no charisma at all.

Also, the humor is just better and it lightens the tone, even though you’re watching torture and dismemberment at every turn.

Now Bloodsucking Freaks is not a good film but it is more accessible if this sort of gore-riddled thing is your cup of tea. Yes, it is bloody and violent but it isn’t anything that should be too overly shocking. It is a very dated picture, as these movies tend to be, and it is kind of hokey.

It also has a better story than other similar pictures. There is some thought put into the story and there are a few twists and turns. The cop character is more interesting than any character I’ve seen in a splatter spectacle. You’re never really sure what he’s up to and he doesn’t just follow some stock character road headed directly into predictability.

If you want to experience a splatter flick, this is a good choice, as it delivers on more than just gratuitous gore.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.