PLOT: A desert wanderer in a post-apocalyptic wasteland discovers a relic. It’s the dismembered skeleton of a cyborg used by the government in the war that destroyed civilization, and when a man conveniently buys the creepy-looking thing for his metal sculptress girlfriend (!!!), she pieces it back together and unleashes a mechanical nightmare upon both of them.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Hardware suffers from a terrible bout of conventionalism. It’s essentially a post-apocalyptic version of Alien set in the confines of a ratty apartment complex. There’s nothing truly weird about it, other than the cast, which is lousy with hard rock stars.
COMMENTS: Well, it must be said outright that this movie wasn’t bad. It was breezy, very streamlined. This is a cyberpunk horror movie about a robot run amok, simple as that. Usually, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi likes to wax poetic and lament on our ever-dwindling lack of human compassion and kindness toward our Mother Earth. And I don’t have a problem with that, but when your movie is actually about a killer robot and not about the fate of man’s heart as we hurtle deeper into the future, perhaps being an armchair philosopher is not par for the course. The plot is based on a story in the British comic staple “2000 A.D”. called “SHOK! Walter’s Robo-Tale”, and it certainly takes the cyberpunk vibe from that series and really goes with it despite a $1.5 million budget.
Well, it’s the 21’st century (THE FUTURE!!!!), and America is devastated by an undisclosed nuclear disaster. People have to make a living any way they can, and many times that includes scavenging the technology of the past. One disturbing fellow, called a Zone Tripper, finds the menacing remains of a robot (it is called a cyborg, but since there there are no organic mechanisms implemented into the device, let’s just assume they wanted it to sound cooler than just a plain ol’ robot) in the distant, post-apocalyptic desert. This intimidating fellow comes to sell his scrap at the typical oddball junk broker Continue reading CAPSULE: HARDWARE (1990)→
FEATURING: David Mattey, voice of Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse
PLOT: An explosion inexplicably causes the Toxic Avenger to switch dimensions with his
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).
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.
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.