Tag Archives: Lloyd Kaufman

CAPSULE: TROMA’S WAR (1988)

DIRECTED BY: , 

FEATURING: Sean Bowen, Carolyn Beauchamp, Patrick Weathers, Rick Washburn

PLOT: After a plane crash on a Caribbean island, stranded citizens of Tromaville organize to defeat an army of terrorists.

Still from Troma's War (1988)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Working with their largest budget ever, the Troma team loses focus on their signature brand of transgressive comedy with War. Between firing thousands of blank rounds and bursting hundreds of blood squibs, blowing up watchtowers and lighting up stuntmen in flame-retardant suits, War occasionally fools itself into thinking it’s a real action movie rather than an absurd spoof.

COMMENTS: Survivors of the Tromaville flight that crashes onto a not-so-deserted Caribbean island include a lisping flight attendant, a used-car salesman/Vietnam war vet, a busty feminist, an optimistic priest, a sleazy Wall Street financier, a British guy who appears to be a secret agent (he carries curare darts, at least), and the three girl/one guy punk band “The Bearded Clams,” among many others. Their antagonists are “the cream of the crap”: Cubans, the IRA, the PLO, a squad of HIV-positive rapists, a snorting pig-faced colonel, and military-industrial Siamese twins. With a cast like that, just wind them up and let the carnage begin, right?

It’s not quite that easy, it turns out. While War never lags, it never really heats up, either. Troma conceived of War as their opportunity to break into the (relative) mainstream after scoring low budget cult hits with iconic titles like The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986). The resulting project seems to want to be too many things to too many different audiences: it’s a spoof of Rambo and other anti-Communist 1980s action flicks, while at the same time it tries to put together legitimately thrilling, bullet-riddled action scenes. It takes a stab at serious anti-authority satire with the claims that the political left and right are two sides of the same greedy coin, and that the powers-that-be have an interest in cultivating public hysteria, whether it be over Communists, terrorists, or AIDS. But that serious message is undermined when it panders to its horny male teen demographic, with gratuitous female nudity and dirty diaper jokes. The film has ludicrous surreal touches, like the literal Fascist pig and the twins conjoined at the face. (There’s also a strange bit where a hysterical woman looks out from the wreckage and sees crash victims running about on fire, their flaming bodies lit up against the night sky; the problem is, her scenes are shot in the daytime. It’s not clear whether it’s supposed to be a flashback, a joke, or if it’s one of the worst continuity errors of all time, but it appears to be a low-budget first: night-for-day photography). Still, for most of its running time it’s the most “realistic” (relatively speaking) movie Kaufman and Herz ever shot. Other than the farcical firefights where our heroes mow down dozens of terrorists per Uzi burst while the bad guys return fire with Stormtrooper aim, the oddest thing in the film may be its deadpan camp dialogue.  “I have just about had it with you terrorists!” screams a mom-turned-commando as she stuffs a baby’s jumpsuit into a guerrilla’s mouth. War actually does what I’ve been saying Troma should do for years—play it straighter, not indulging in the “we’re deliberately making a bad movie, it’s funny!” jokiness—yet it doesn’t really work this time out. Making bad movies is harder than it sounds.

Troma’s 2015 Blu-ray release is nothing special visually or sonically (not a big surprise given the source material), but as usual the studio packs on the extra features. Several featurettes are ported over from the 2010 “Tromasterpiece” DVD, but there is a new introduction and about 30 minutes of new interviews. In the included commentary, Kaufmann comes across as extremely bitter about the cuts demanded by the MPAA before they would grant the film an “R” rating. He seems to legitimately believe that War was his masterpiece, torpedoed by censorship. Nonsense. Tromeo & Juliet was his masterpiece, and has the Certified Weird laurel to prove it. Even in its uncut state, War is not the glorious adventure it’s made out to be.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Military movies just don’t get any more deranged that Troma’s War. All mega-munitions claims aside, this is one completely crazy entertainment.“–Bill Gibron, Pop Matters (Director’s Cut DVD)

LIST CANDIDATE: FATHER’S DAY (2011)

This review first appeared in a slightly different form at Film Forager.  Alex Kittle’s complete coverage of the Toronto After Dark festival can be found here.

DIRECTED BY: Astron-6

FEATURING: , Conor Sweeney, , Mackenzie Murdock, Amy Groening, Lloyd Kaufman

PLOT: A crazed cannibalistic killer goes after fathers in his rape/murder spree.  One-eyed


assassin/maple syrup maker Ahab, young priest Father John Sullivan, paranoid streetwalker Twink, and mystery-solving stripper Chelsea all seek revenge, teaming up for a strange and scattered mission.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: An eye-patched vigilante, a topless stripper with a chainsaw, a nearsighted cannibal rapist, incest, demonic possession, trips to both heaven and hell, a non sequitur commercial for low-budget sci-fi “Star Raiders,” hallucinogenic berries: Father’s Day has a lot of weirdness to recommend it. It starts off as a fairly standard (and insanely gory) grindhouse throwback, but evolves into a bizarre and fantastic adventure that just might be weird enough for the List.

COMMENTS:  Known for their impressive output of horror and comedy shorts, Winnipeg-based collective Astron-6 combines DIY filmmaking with a sick sense of humor and unadulterated love for 80’s straight-to-video schlock.  After making a trailer for the fake exploitation flick “Father’s Day,”  offered the group $10,000 to produce a full-length feature of the concept.  At the start it seems like a standard, and completely gruesome, grindhouse throwback with grisly close-ups of penis mutilation and sickening rape/murders set alongside over-the-top character archetypes and an enthusiastic score.  As Ahab (Adam Brooks), Father John (Matthew Kennedy), and Twink (Conor Sweeney) team up in the wake of several close-to-home father murders, it begins to take a turn for the ludicrous and eventually plunges into all-out wacky fantasy, seeming to forget its initial narrative and stylistic leanings—and becoming better for it.

With real pig intestines, buckets of fake blood, and a well-laid green screen, Father’s Day maintains a dark, grungy aesthetic that works well with its 70’s appropriations while exuding DIY innovation that sets it apart from some of its peers.  Steven Kostanski’s stop-motion hell creations and an extended trip around the world for Father John are among the many segments that vary in style and tone.  There’s even a goofy commercial for a fake Star Wars rip-off thrown in about two-thirds of the way through (the feature itself is introduced as a “midnight movie” tv program).  Astron-6 seems to have hundreds of ideas and little interest in streamlining, resulting in a surprisingly dense 99 minutes as myriad references, off-kilter jokes, side-trips, and subplots arise and descend.  Luckily, most of them work, but the ones that don’t result in some unevenness, especially in the overall tone.  The noticeable shift towards the middle is somewhat jarring, but not a dealbreaker.

Father’s Day may be sick and twisted in many ways, but it manages to be most of all fun.  The Astron-6 gang looks like they’re having a blast just being silly together as the plot becomes more and more ridiculous.  The whole cast is great, injecting equal amounts of parody and imagination into their roles, and I especially enjoyed the main three male leads, who have excellent comedic chemistry.  The film’s biggest flaw is its tonal inconsistencies, but for many viewers the inclusion of so many ideas and exploitation references will likely be appreciated.  Astron-6 decided to really go all-out for this film, and by holding nothing back they will impress many and alienate those who wouldn’t get it anyway. And I have a feeling they’re fine with that.

Father’s Day official site.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“With a surreal plotline, exceptional acting, a host of hilarious one-liners, and a large, beautiful cast of many many almost naked women this is one highly recommended giggle & gorefest you really shouldn’t miss.”–Rick McGrath, Quiet Earth (festival screening)

CAPSULE: TRAILERS FROM HELL!, VOL. 2 (2011) (WITH THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS)

DIRECTED BY: None credited

FEATURING: Roger Corman, Joe Dante, , Ernest Dickerson, Mick Garris, Jack Hill, Larry Karaszewski, Lloyd Kaufman, Mary Lambert, John Landis, Josh Olson, Michael Peyser, Brian Trenchard Smith

PLOT: Industry professionals deliver commentaries on twenty movies as their trailers play.

Still from Trailers from Hell Vol. 2 (2011)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: In itself it’s not weird, though it features some occasionally weird directors discussing some occasionally weird films.

COMMENTS: Schlock movie fans who came of age in the pre-YouTube era of the 80s and early 90s remember the VHS phenomenon of the “trailer tape”: feature-length compilations of “coming attractions” that showcased just the “good parts” of some bad movies.  With titles like Terror on Tape and The Best of Sex and Violence, these tapes always covered B-movies (I never saw a compilation tape dedicated to tear-jerking British coming-of-age-dramas, but there were plenty packed with grindhouse-era sexy shockers); they often featured footage from obscure, otherwise unavailable titles.  They were a nice way to spend an evening when you couldn’t find something that caught your fancy at your local VHS venue, and, if you were like me, you’d jot down “must-see” titles from the most bizarre and salacious trailers (which almost always turned out to be letdowns when you saw the real thing).  Director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Amazon Women on the Moon) remembered trailer tapes, too, and decided to resurrect the dormant phenomenon with a 21st century twist: he added DVD-style commentary on the films from an array of his knowledgeable Hollywood buddies.  Launched as a website in 2007, the Trailers from Hell project has now annotated hundreds of films, mostly B-movies, but with a sprinkling of classics like Casablanca and even the occasional weird art film like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.  The free trailers on the website are representative of what’s available on Vol. 2—although these selections are exclusive, there’s nothing especially premium about the ones chosen to be burned to disc.  Each pundit provides basic background on his or her movie, some trivia, some opinion, and a lot of enthusiasm: John Landis cracks himself up remembering how he responded with awe to the British Godzilla ripoff Gorgo as a kid.  If you don’t like it when loudmouths yammer over the coming attractions, you can turn the commentary off for a true circa 1989 trailer tape experience.  Films covered include several Hammer films, creature features, and the occasional overlooked mainstream film or blockbuster hit like Jaws.  The trailer of most interest to weird movie fans will be ‘s reverent analysis of Dario Argento’s Deep Red (“a very strange movie made by a very strange, and thin, man… doesn’t make logical sense, but makes lyrical sense.)”  Other commentaries you may want to check out are writer Larry (Ed Wood) Karaszewski’s take on Polanski‘s The Tenant, Lloyd Kaufman discussing his own Terror Firmer in his typical carnival barker style (he provides the collection’s only trailer with graphic violence and nudity), and Mick Garris on Flesh Gordon, the only-in-the-70s porn parody mixing silly sex with some remarkable Ray Harryhausen-inspired stop-motion effects (leading Garris to the odd observation, “the great god Porno and the penisaurus really [stand] out”).  Trailers from Hell defies recommendation: you’re either a B-film geek who finds this stuff fascinating, or you have no idea why anyone would actually spend money and waste an hour watching experts discussing ads.

Many people will find the “extra” feature more intriguing than the main feature.  It’s a remastered version of Roger Corman’s cult classic man-eating plant horror comedy The Little Shop of Horrors, presented (for the first time on DVD) in its original widescreen format.  It’s unclear just why Little Shop has never been released in anamorphic widescreen before—it seems whoever had access to the original prints would have thought of putting it out a long time ago to stand out from the glut of full frame public domain copies made from old TV prints.  I guess a widescreen Little Shop wasn’t considered economically feasible as a standalone release, but as an extra, it’s horribly cool.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…these movie-mad merry pranksters make a bunch of mostly forgotten sci-fi and horror curios sound a whole lot better than they really are.”-Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly (DVD)

DISCLAIMER: A DVD copy of this film was provided by the production company for review.

CAPSULE: CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER 4 (2000)

DIRECTED BY: Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: David Mattey, voice of Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse

PLOT: An explosion inexplicably causes the Toxic Avenger to switch dimensions with his

Still from Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger 4 (2000)

evil Bizarro-world opposite, the Noxious Offender.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: None of the other Toxic Avenger movies made the List, so the fourth installment would have to do something different to break the pattern.  Unfortunately, it follows the same path as the previous entries, showing no ambition other than to out-gross its predecessors.  Fans of the series will want to watch to see more of the same; the rest of us will continue to marvel at how Troma continues to make unfettered anarchy seem so dreadfully formulaic.

COMMENTS:  There’s little point to debating the merits of a Toxic Avenger film: you either admire Lloyd Kaufman’s dedication to offensive insanity, or you find it  juvenile and annoying.  You either “get it,” or you like it.  What can you say about a movie that begins with a gang of automatic-weapon toting teenagers clad in diapers (the “diaper mafia,” a reference to the disaffected teens of the “Trenchcoat Mafia” who committed the Columbine Massacre slayings) taking a class of “retards” hostage—on “Take a Mexican to Lunch” day, no less?  It ain’t Jonathan Swift; there’s only the feeblest and most obvious satirical point to the reference.  More to the point, it ain’t Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, although the gag-a-minute pacing is an attempt to mimic the style of the Airplane! auteurs.  It’s the kind of thing the Zuker-Abrahams-Zucker would come up with if they spent six months sniffing paint while working on the script.  The problem is that Kaufman and his co-writers spend a lot more time and energy trying to think up ways to be offensive than they do trying to be funny.  A lot of the gags—like superheros named “Master-Bater” and “The Vibrator”— are the kind of things that are screamingly funny if  you’ve never actually heard a dirty joke before, but when they appear halfway through Citizen Toxie, you can’t possibly avail yourself of that defense.  We’re supposed to be amused on a meta-level, thinking about how “funny” it is that Kaufman would trot out lame joke after lame joke seemingly aimed at twelve year-old boys but wrapped up in a movie filled with “adult” content.  But of course, bad taste fans don’t want to hear the grumblings of a highbrow spoilsport; they want the list of anarchic atrocities documented in Citizen Toxie.  A brief survey: farting; retards shooting up heroin; a cow superhero with squirting udders; a blind woman seduced/raped by lesbian art student; a morbidly obese particle physicist turned gay prostitute; a topless interpreter for the deaf; a human slaughterhouse; the Retarded Revenger and his sidekick, a severed head; a Citizen Kane parody; God as a foul-mouthed drunken dwarf; testicles ripped off and presented to the victim; a pump-up monster- faced penis; and about 100 jokes leftover from 1961, when Jerry Lewis rejected them as too corny.  On the other hand, I did admire the originality of the scene with the twin fetuses battling to the death in the womb.  And, in a movie with this many jokes, some funny lines have to land, to wit: “heroes don’t double amputate police chiefs and hurl 12-year olds into brick walls!” and “this film is respectfully dedicated to all those who have lost their lives facing down their own evil doppelgängers.” Still, the overwhelming take home message from this film is that Ron Jeremy needs to fire his agent for landing him roles that are beneath his dignity.

Besides Jeremy, who appears as the mayor of Tromaville, other offbeat celebrities who lent their talent to the film included Hugh Hefner, Al Goldstein, and Lemmy from Motorhead—who used their real names—along with Marvel comics magnate Stan Lee (who provides narration under the pseudonym “Peter Parker”), washed-up former child actor Corey Feldman (under the pseudonym Kinky Finkelstein),  identical twin stand-up comics Jason and Randy Sklar (under the pseudonyms Foofy and Skippy Applebaum), and the Howard Stern Show’s “Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf” (who is a living pseudonym).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…imagine the zaniness of Mad magazine folded into the satire of ‘South Park’ with the grotesquery exponentially multiplied into free-for-all farce.”–Stephen Holden, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE (1989)

DIRECTED BY: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: John Altamura, Phoebe Legere, Rick Collins, Ron Fazio

PLOT:  Apocalypse Inc. and their literally diabolic CEO dupe New Jersey superhero Toxie into working for them as a spokesman/executive so he can earn money for an operation to restore his fiancée’s sight.

Still from Toxic Avenger 3: The Last Temptation of Toxie

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  For the same reasons that The Toxic Avenger, Part II won’t make it.  The Last Temptation of Toxie is actually a bit weirder than the previous sequel; unfortunately, it’s also quite a bit worse.

COMMENTS:  There are two huge problems with this third installment in this mediocre series.  The first is that there is way too much plot: Toxie doesn’t kick ass from start to finish.  Instead, having completely rid the town of Tromaville of evil in the first two movies, he’s put himself out of work and has to find odd jobs to make ends meet.  He worries about financing a sight-restoring operation for Claire, hires on with Apocalypse, betrays his core values and becomes a soulless corporate suit… and it takes forever for the mutated avenger to find his moral compass again and get back to tearing off transvestite punk gangsters’ limbs.  This leads to the even more devastating second problem: the reason the movie seems so interminable is that, with no action sequences for most of the way, Temptation is forced to rely on it’s sense of humor to keep the audience from tuning out.  Although Toxic Avenger movies always get off a memorable one-liner or two (there’s a quotable and unexpected shot here at the Chevy Nova), the series isn’t capable of sustaining long stretches of comedy without resorting to gory sight gags.  Desperate to manufacture yuks, the producers resort to a “comic” trick they also used in Class of Nuke ‘Em High 3: they insert cartoon sound effects to accompany mundane actions (there’s a sound effect when Claire scratches her head, Toxie points his finger and we hear a bullet ricochet, etc).  The script also makes multiple self-aware references, e.g. “I’ll mop up Tromaville and make room for The Toxic Avenger 4!,” that suggest the writers were running out of gags fast.  All of this is a shame, because the two “temptation” fantasy sequences in Part III are actually well done, with nice budget art direction and memorable costuming: the dog-faced demon and the dancing girl in lurid blue body paint are suitably cheap demonic denizens of a bargain-basement Hell.  There’s also a nice transformation scene where the devil pops out of an executive, which is effective rather than campy, and a live action video game finale that’s just crazy enough to work.  It’s too bad that these few promising sequences are wrapped up in a uninvolving plot with lame humor substituting for the missing action. Also of note to some (you know who you are!) is the fact that this is the only Toxic Avenger entry without abundant nudity. It seems that, even though Phoebe Legere was signed for the back-to-back sequels, the contract with her breasts expired sometime between Part II and Part III, making this third entry a shockingly hooter-lite affair.

The Toxic Avenger Parts 2 & 3 were filmed back to back in 1989 with the same cast; there was enough extra footage from Part 2 that the studio decided to cobble together a third Avenger film from the leftovers.  Last Temptation is so badly conceived that it suggests that, even though Troma specializes in low budget guerrilla filmmaking, they can’t just go out into left field and wing it.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… this one doesn’t make any sense either. I loved it!–Joe Bob Briggs, Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THE TOXIC AVENGER, PART II (1989)

DIRECTED BY: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: John Altamura, Phoebe Legere, Rick Collins, Ron Fazio

PLOT:  Evil corporation Apocalypse, Inc., wanting to turn Tromaville into a toxic waste

Still from The Toxic Avenger, Part II (1989)

dump, lures the mutant superhero Toxie away to Japan to search for his father.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Films churned out by Troma Studios are low-budget affairs heavy on sex, violence and absurd comedy; they are weird compared to typical Hollywood fare, but they’re all similar compared to each other.  With the above-average effort Tromeo and Juliet representing the studio on the List of 366, it’s unlikely that any other Troma films will make it.

COMMENTS:  I am a contrarian.  I believe that The Toxic Avenger, Part II is actually a slightly better film than the original The Toxic Avenger.  The reason is the shift in tone from malicious teen revenge fantasy/comedy to pure comic spoof.   This sequel purges much of the mean-spiritedness from the original–such as the scenes where the audience is expected to identify with the Avenger as he stalks and kills half-naked girls from the upper crust of teen society–while still retaining it’s politically incorrect edge.  The original over-impressed viewers in 1984 due to its novelty and outrageousness, but viewed retrospectively, this sequel is just as bizarre and humorous (which is to say, very bizarre and mildly humorous).  The centerpiece fight scene comes early on, with Toxie dispatching and dismembering a seemingly endless variety of bizarrely costumed goons–a dog boy, a transvestite, a midget, and a number of rejected Village People characters–to the tune of “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing.”   The scene is more extended and over-the-top than the restaurant holdup sequence in the original Avenger, and should satisfy fans of absurdist violence.  Once Toxie reaches Tokyo, he meets even more strange characters, including briefcase carrying, mohawk-wearing Japanese businessmen, and fights ninja duels with ridiculous props, including “throwing starfish” and a swordfish-like creature with a functioning chainsaw in place of the horn.  The jokes are aggressively lowbrow, but every now and then the Troma writers throw in something clever to remind you they’re not as stupid as some of the shamelessly lame slapstick gags might suggest–there’s a sly insertion of a David Mamet “quote” that’s laugh-out-loud funny.

The producers shot more footage for this sequel than they could use, so the assembled cast quickly finished off a second sequel, The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie and released it the same year.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“What happens when you take a movie that’s good stupid fun and take out the good fun?  Usually, you get a sequel…  Other Troma Inc., films, including the original ‘Avenger’ and ‘Class of Nuke ‘Em High,’ worked partly because there was a silly, surreal energy coursing through them. This sequel seems less inspired than calculated.”–Richard Harrington, The Washington Post (Toxic Avenger 2, contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984)

DIRECTED BY: Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz

FEATURING: Mitchell Cohen

PLOT:  A nerdy teen janitor is tormented by his serial killer peers until he accidentally

Promotional card for The Toxic Avenger (1984) under it's working title, Health Club

falls into a vat of toxic waste and emerges as a mop-wielding, avenging mutant superhero.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: When a movie about a mutant janitor who fights transvestite thugs and, to add insult to injury, presses his wet mop into their heads after he disembowels them can’t find a place on a list of weird movies, you know you’re searching for a very refined brand of weirdness indeed.

COMMENTSThe Toxic Avenger has just enough craziness going on to make it watchable, but it’s not nearly the classic its cult reputation might suggest. Although an absurd thread runs throughout to keep it sporadically interesting, its sniper-like focus on chesty chicks and cheesy kills keeps it squarely locked in on its target audience of males under 25. Others will find the goofy spoofery seldom funny and often offensive (for example, the hit and run killing of young boys and racial minorities for sport). There are few laugh-out-loud moments for grown-ups, although a scene in the middle of a crime-fighting montage where superhero Toxie helps a housewife with a stubborn jar lid does elicit a chuckle. The centerpiece hostage scene at a restaurant tells you all you need to know: a gang of robbers wearing performance art greasepaint burst in, shoot a blind girl’s seeing-eye dog, and prepare to sodomize her when Toxie arrives. Our hero fights a battle against a gangster with ninja skills who grabs a samurai sword off the wall (of a Mexican restaurant?), and in the end the mutant dweeb gruesomely and painfully dispatches them with a milkshake machine and a deep fryer. It’s a fantasy of nerd revenge against the upper crust of high school society, as Toxie dismembers obnoxious jocks (a justified act, since like all popular people, his tormentors are inhuman monsters who like to mow down kids in their cars and masturbate to the gory Polaroids afterward). The movie invites us to identify with and cheer for Toxie as, Michael Meyers-like, he stalks and kills half-naked girls (who are, of course, evil, and deserve to be dispatched for the good of Tromaville). Ultimately, this Columbine-esque wish fulfillment, where the beleaguered kid not only kills his bullies but becomes a beloved celebrity and gets the girl, creates a subtext that’s far more offensive than any of child killings or the pre-teen white slavery ring Kaufman and Herz try to shock us with.

The Toxic Avenger‘s blend of horror-movie gore, gross-out offensiveness, proudly lowbrow comedy, and absurd touches struck a nerve in the 1980s, when it bypassed the normal movie distribution channels to become one of the first cult videocassette hits. It was so successful that Troma studios has been remaking this same film, under a variety of titles, for the last 25 years.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Like Airplane! for the antisocial set, or a Grimms fairytale gone horribly, horribly wrong, this weird-ass peek into the past proves that some high concepts are indeed eternal.”–Bill Gibron, DVD Talk (21st Anniversary DVD)

12. TROMEO AND JULIET (1996)

“Body piercing.  Kinky sex.  Dismemberment.  The things that made Shakespeare great.” –Tagline for Tromeo and Juliet

DIRECTED BY:  Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: , Jane Jensen, Lemmy, Debbie Rochon

PLOT:  Alcoholic Monty Que and unscrupulous Cappy Capulet have a long running feud dating back to their days as partners in a low-budget sleaze movie studio, and they have passed on their personal vendettas to the next generation.  Monty’s son, Tromeo, falls in love with Cappy’s daughter, Juliet.  The two young lovers must overcome the bloody gangland antics of their friends and family, Juliet’s upcoming arranged marriage to a self-mutilating meat-packing heir, and Cappy’s tendency to beat Juliet and lock her in a plexiglass box, among other crossed stars.

tromeojuliet

BACKGROUND:

  • Original drafts of the script had the parts played by costumed characters from other Troma studio releases: The Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman, and so on.
  • Much of Shakespeare’s original dialogue was included in the rough cut, but most was removed after negative audience reaction.
  • Rock n’ roll cult figure Lemmy (of the band Motörhead) played the role of the narrator for free, and also donated the song “Sacrifice” to the soundtrack.  Several less famous bands also donated songs for free or for a nominal price.
  • Shakespearean actor William Beckwith played the role of Cappy Capulet under the pseudonym “Maximillian Shaun” because he was a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild and Tromeo and Juliet was a non-union film.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  Many of the more memorable images in Tromeo and Juliet are too obscene to be depicted in stills.  The best sequence is when Juliet’s belly unexpectedly and rapidly distends and splits open to give birth to…  a surprise.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Redoing a classic Shakespearean tragedy as a low-budget, offensive farce is a promisingly weird, if obviously gimmicky, premise. Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma team were inspired by the concept, however, and put more creativity into the project than they did in their usual formula schlock fare. The typical Troma anarchy and bad taste reign again here, but the producers add a healthy dollop of bargain-basement surrealism (Juliet’s disturbing sex dreams) and some on-the-cheap arthouse effects (the lovemaking scene in a plexiglass box against a starry backdrop). The result is a movie that’s completely unpredictable, despite a plot known to every high schooler. Tromeo is revolting one moment, and oddly sweet and beautiful the next, an incongruity that only adds to the weird atmosphere.

Short promotional clip for Tromeo & Juliet

COMMENTS: Troma is a low-budget film producer/distributor formed in 1974 to promote Continue reading 12. TROMEO AND JULIET (1996)