A few weeks ago, I started watching this series of movies again and decided, what the heck, why not review them as well. So let’s get right to it as I rewatch my first introduction to the Troma Universe. I remember seeing the video case for this movie at video stores all the time but was never able to convince my parents to rent it for me. When we got cable TV, I remember catching this one night during some late night TV binge watching and thoroughly enjoying it. So lets have a bot of fun with today’s movie, The Toxic Avenger.
The plot: In the small New Jersey town of Tromaville, the toxic waste capital of the world, a young nerd named Melvin Ferd works at the local health club but is mocked by everyone there, especially Bozo, Slug, Wanda, and Julie. One day, the 4 bullies pull a prank on Melvin, with Julie seducing him into wearing a pink tutu and having him meet her in the pool area, where Melvin is tricked into kissing a sheep. As the bullies, as well as the other health club patrons, laugh and taunt him, Melvin runs from them and ends up jumping out a window, landing in a barrel of toxic waste that was in a truck parked outside. A crowd forms as Melvin reacts in pain from the toxic waste and as two police officers try to disperse the crowd, one of them touches Melvin and his hands catch on fire, while Melvin, now on fire himself, runs down the road and out of sight. Melvin makes it home and douses the flames in his bath tub but the toxic waste has caused his body to start mutating into a “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.” That night, a drug dealer named Cigar Face and his 2 flunkies attempt to bribe Officer O’Clancy but O’Clancy, one of the few honest cops in the town, refuses. The drug dealers then attack him and prepare to shoot him when Melvin appears and attacks them. Melvin kills Cigar Face’s two flunkies, shoving mops in their faces when he is done, and chases Cigar Face away, then helps O’Clancy to his feet, apologizing for his actions as he does. Later, O’Clancy tells reporters what happened, dubbing the monster a hero, but as the mayor hears of the incident, he is upset as Cigar Face works for him. Melvin attempts to go home but when his mom sees his appearance, she screams and slams the door in his face so Melvin begins making a home for himself in the local junkyard. The next day, three men (Frank, Leroy, and Rico) rob a Mexican restaurant; killing one of the patrons when he tries to stand up to them. Seeing a blind girl named Sara sitting there, Frank has Leroy kill her guide dog, then attempts to rape her when Melvin shows up to stop them. Melvin kills the three robbers then goes to check on Sara, who asks him to help her home, where Sara invites him inside and offers him a sandwich. During a press briefing, a scientist theorizes that the monster is somehow drawn to criminals due to some need to destroy evil. Melvin heads back to the Health Club and kills a drug dealer that works for the mayor, then later attacks Wanda in the sauna, burning her butt on the hot rocks. As Melvin continues to help people and stop criminals, he begins to become beloved by the citizens but the mayor, afraid Melvin will eventually attack him, decides to try and have him killed but his men fail. Meanwhile, Melvin also continues his relationship with Sara, with the two becoming more romantically involved and Sara moving into his home. Melvin returns to the Health Club to get revenge on Julie, chasing her down into the basement and cutting all of her hair off. The next day, Bozo and Slug steal a car so they can go on a hit & run spree but Melvin shows up and attacks them, throwing Slug from the car as it is moving and causes Bozo to drive off a cliff. Some time later, Melvin kills a little old woman and, feeling guilty over the incident, decides to head out to his private spot with Sara so he can avoid killing anyone else. In town, the mayor is happy to hear about the incident, as he feels he can use the attack to ensure Melvin is killed but when the chief of police tells him that the woman was the head of a white trafficking, the mayor covers up the story to ensure the people don’t learn the truth. The chief of police conducts a search for the monster and when his men spot Melvin and Sara in a field, the report back to the mayor, and the mayor calls the governor for assistance, who sends out the National Guard. As the National Guard surround the camp site, several of the citizens, including Melvin’s mom, and people that Melvin saved stand in front of Melvin, begging with the mayor to spare him. The mayor tells the National Guard and police to get the children out of there and fire but the refuse to do so. The Mayor attempts to kill Melvin but when he fails, he begs for his life and offers to cut Melvin in on his criminal business but Melvin kills him. Melvin then rejoins Sara and as the crowd cheer them, they head back to their home in the junkyard, with Melvin continuing to protect the citizens of Tromaville as the Toxic Avenger.
The Toxic Avenger met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A silly and ribald superhero spoof, Toxic Avenger uninhibited humor hits more than it misses.” The monster Melvin turns into was never actually referred to as the Toxic Avenger by any actor in the film besides the narrator. They did not have a name for the character as the film was being made. This is proved further by the kids in the film wearing t-shirts that say “I love the monster hero”. The movie was minimally successful in theaters, earning $800,000 off of a $500,000 budget, but it would gain cult classic status due to late night showings and home video rentals, resulting in 3 sequels and a short lived cartoon series.
This movie is still as ridiculously 80’s as I remember it, and just as fun to watch. The acting was pretty decent, with Mitch Coheen doing a good job as the Toxic Avenger, with Andree Maranda and Pat Ryan doing equally good as Sara and the mayor respectively. The story was pretty much a spoof of some of the more popular comic book super heroes, where someone is accidentally exposed to radiation, in this case toxic waste, and mutates into a super strong being as a result. While making him a crime fighter was obviously the logical process, adding the part about his being drawn to and seeking out evil was a nice twist, almost making him like Ghost Rider in a sense. The special effects were pretty graphic at times, such as the kid’s head being squashed by Bozo when he runs him over, and at other times they are so totally cheesy that they make you laugh, but that blended together for a nice but of fun. An absolute staple of 80’s B-movie goodness that everyone should watch at least once.
Rating: 4 out of 5