"I take orders from the Octoboss."

The Toxic Avenger Part II

THE TOXIC AVENGER didn’t catch on right away. Troma had trouble finding many takers, but the Bleecker Street Cinema in Greenwich Village showed it as a midnight movie and it was so successful they ran it for more than a year. This secured a cult reputation that helped it become an actual hit on video. But according to the book All I Need To Know About FILMMAKING I Learned From THE TOXIC AVENGER by Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn, Kaufman never really considered a sequel until a misinformed buyer approached him at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival to secure the German rights to the sequel and he just went along with it.

(Like most of that book I suspect that story is exaggerated, but we know at least that they didn’t rush one into production. In Prince terms, part I is the year of PURPLE RAIN, part II the year of BATMAN. Entirely different eras.)

THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II (1989) picks up where THE TOXIC AVENGER left off, sort of, with the city of Tromaville now peaceful and happy thanks to the Toxic Avenger’s crime fighting. Melvin now has the last name Junko instead of Ferd (no explanation), is nicknamed “Toxie,” and is both played and voiced by Ron Fazio (BASKET CASE 2), except in some scenes where he’s played by John Altamura (“Muscle Man,” YOUNG NURSES IN LOVE) before he was fired for allegedly being a pain in the ass. Toxie’s blind girlfriend Sara is now named Claire (also no explanation) and is played by another musician, Phoebe Legere (MONDO NEW YORK, KING OF NEW YORK). In narration, Toxie explains how he became a “hideously deformed monster hero of super human size and strength” and that the people of Tromaville now enjoy “dancing in the streets, tattooing, manufacturing orange juice, exterminating vermin (this is literally referring to cockroaches and stuff, not Toxie stuffing mops in people’s faces), and watching excellent movies,” which of course is illustrated by a marquee saying “TROMA FILM FESTIVAL,” even though they presumably live in a world where Troma’s best movie does not exist.

No idea who the lady with the uzi is, but this is a great poster.

Unfortunately this proud way of life will soon be interrupted by the openly evil corporation Apocalypse Incorporated, who want to buy up the land to build chemical plants. They start by blowing up and immediately setting up shop at the Tromaville Home For the Blind, but Toxie emerges from the rubble to fight them. The chairman of Apocalypse Inc. (Rick Collins, SNAKE EATER) and his lustily wicked assistant Malfaire (Lisa Gaye, STATE OF MIND) sit and watch from a limo that also acts as a clown car full of henchmen who stream out a few at a time to fight Toxie while the keyboard score by Barrie Guard (INDIAN SUMMER) jauntily plays “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”

Note: As is my policy, I would like to mention that the “Digital Native Dance” synth sound is used on this score.

The thugs include a Klansman and a dwarf who seems like he might be a wrestler, but I couldn’t find him in the credits to verify. Toxie picks him up and crushes him into basically a Madball and shoots a basket with him, which is questionable on two levels because is that supposed to be a racial comment? If not the sculpt of the basketball is not helping its case. A better death is when Toxie puts a guy in a wheelchair and then folds the wheelchair. This guy can walk, it’s somebody else’s wheelchair who he blew up, so it’s okay.

The most impressive looking opponent is a nunchaka spinning martial artist…

One “Michael White” in his very first movie – that’s somebody often forgotten in discussions of people given their start by Troma. He does some good moves but gets scared and runs away. From what I’ve been able to gather he seems to have helped choreograph the fights in this scene as well.

So the bad guys blew up all the blind people in town except Claire and a baby that Toxie finds in a tree. Pretty fuckin evil. We see their board meeting, a gigantic affair like a cross between a cult ritual and the gang meeting in THE WARRIORS. The board members all wear suits but some of them look like your typical Tromaville street thugs – in fact, part 1’s cop-castrators Cigar Face and Nipples are shown as board members! And MJW is there, as well as a guy with a dog face named Dog Face (Elliot Weiss).

The company plans to destroy the ozone layer so they can sell everybody domes to live under, but to do that they say they have to take over New York, and to take over New York they have to take over Tromaville.

To get Toxie out of the way they have his psychiatrist (Erika Schickel, THE RUNESTONE), who works for them, convince him that the father who abandoned him as a child, Big Mac Junko, lives in Tokyo, and that he should go find him. So, after a sex scene with Claire where steam comes out of his ears and he whistles like a kettle, Toxie windsurfs to Tokyo. Yes, this is a PART II that mostly takes place in Japan, following in the footsteps of Kaufman’s friend and collaborator John Avildsen’s THE KARATE KID PART II.

Wikipedia claims the budget of this sequel was $2.3 million, the book says just over a million. So it was either more than twice or more than four times the budget of the first movie, and more than some of the other 1989 b-movies including PUPPET MASTER, CYBORG, and SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND.

What really struck me now that never occurred to me as a teenager watching my VHS dub of this over and over is just what an epic low budget production it is. The Tromaville scenes at the beginning look much slicker than the first film – the sculpt of Toxie’s makeup is improved and he has a remote controlled eyeball (although it reportedly broke and they had to puppeteer it), his house set has much more style to it, as if actually designed and not just tossed together (I like the slanted angles and the color added by the lawn flamingos and sunflower pinwheel), that Apocalypse Inc. meeting has such scale to it, etc.

And now Toxie goes to actual Japan, and the whole middle section of the movie is shot on location all around Tokyo. A guy named Binbun Furusawa (who later produced the J-horror movie ORGAN) acted as producer in Japan, and showed them how to not alienate the locals the way the crew of BLACK RAIN had recently. You get the impression from the footage that they were welcomed and everyone had fun.

Toxie wanders around cluelessly with a piece of paper with his dad’s name on it, asking people if they know him. Of course they have a joke where he roars like Godzilla as he comes ashore and everyone runs away. I thought that was corny but there are other scenes where he’s just walking around and doesn’t notice people running off in the background, and some of those made me laugh.

Toxie befriends a woman named Masami (Mayako Katsuragi, ANGEL TO BE SACRIFICED), who helps him ask around about his father. Along the way he sees many local activities and customs, occasionally having to fight street criminals because his Tromatons act up. He goes to a pachinko parlor, attempts to eat plastic window display food, goes to a bath house and cooks some yakuza like a giant batch of soup – I’m surprised they don’t have any jokes about those capsule hotels, but they have everything else.

Do you know what taiyaki is? Those delicious cakes, usually with red bean paste in the center, molded into the shape of a fish? Masami introduces Toxie to them and then she gets attacked by a gang, so Toxie takes the hot mold, clamps it onto a guy’s nose and melts it into taiyaki shape.

Another good one is when Toxie sees some street musicians, one of those rock ’n roll bands who have kind of a ‘50s American leather jacket style, and he says, “Hey, let’s go ask that street smart youth gang over there.” As a Tromavillian he relates to all the dancing in the street. I’m not sure but it really seems like they just found this band playing and asked them if they could film some scenes with them. Much of the Tokyo footage seems pretty improvised, and there are definitely parts where he’s walking around in public and regular people see him and do a double take.

There’s also a whole thing with a TV reporter filming human interest segments around town and repeatedly crossing paths with Toxie. One of the people he interviews is a food critic who’s an expert on a food called Tsukudani, and for some reason he’s played by the famous manga and anime artist Gô Nagai, creator of such well known characters as Devilman and Cutie Honey.

When Toxie is finally reunited with his father (Rikiya Yasuoka, SISTER STREET FIGHTER: HANGING BY A THREAD, WOLF GUY, TAMPOPO, BLACK RAIN) he’s devastated to feel his Tromatons acting up and realize that this man runs a drug smuggling empire. It turns into a battle where Big Mac sends a series of gimmicky gang members (such as “Kabukiman,” who evolved into a different Troma character) after him, and some weird cartoon villains like on a tokusatsu show – one guy has a swordfish for a head. The entire swordfish, including tail.

When they finally face off, Big Mac strips down to sumo gear and reveals that (because he’s working with Apocalypse Inc.) he has a vial of “anti-Tromatons.” Also he calls him “Smellvin,” which is pretty mean (though we have seen Melvin receive harsher bullying in the past). Melvin manages to defeat Big Mac, who gets hacked into slices by a fishmonger who gets distracted by a naked lady (long story).

Still, the anti-Tromatons weaken him… so Masami brings him to a sumo gym, where the sumos help him heal and train him how to fight. I mean, that’s pretty cool, right?

But wait, there’s more! When Toxie returns to Tromaville there’s a whole battle to be had with Apocalypse Inc., and then after that seems to be handled Toxie explains in narration that “the evil chairman summoned his craziest and most violent henchman… THE DARK RIDER!” (Stunt coordinator Scott Leva.) There’s a whole sequence about Melvin riding in a taxi with some old people chasing the Dark Rider to stop him from suicide bombing city hall, and that’s cool and all, but I mostly approve of this part just because it’s funny to out of the blue introduce a villain called “THE DARK RIDER!” this late in a movie.

Just so it’s not too depressing, it turns out Toxie did not really kill his own father… there was a misunderstanding and that was Big Mac Bunko. He manages to meet the real guy (Jack Cooper, “Ballroom Bartender,” RETURN TO ME) who reunites with Toxie’s mom (Jessica Dublin, TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME).

Newspaper ad courtesy of the Teenage Outlaw Vern Scrapbook Collection

There was a while in my life when I watched this movie often, and liked it even more than the first one. I don’t quite feel that way anymore – the first one is just such a compact distillation of drive-in nastiness and goofy humor, while this is more like a live action, R-rated Saturday morning cartoon, and while it’s only about 15 minutes longer it feels a little tiring by the end. Still, I really appreciate what a unique movie it is. I don’t even know what to compare it to. For a character and world like this to randomly turn into this Tokyo travelogue – that’s unprecedented as far as I know.

Technically everything is done on a little more sophisticated level without betraying its fringe, outsider, indie status. And that includes having, in my opinion, the best cast of the series. Fazio apparently plays Toxie’s body in all of the Tokyo scenes, and he’s a great lead – I’m impressed that this big, physical guy can also do the funny, nice guy voice. And as much as I liked Andree Maranda as Sara in part I, Legere as Claire is even better. She’s some sort of eccentric composer/playwright/performance artist and she brings that to the character. She has distinctively cartoonish fashion from her sunglasses to her garters and she’s frequently playing accordion (for real) for no reason. There’s a scene in church where she’s playing and singing “Amazing Grace” and just belting it out. It’s just funny to find someone that seems both overqualified and absolutely perfect to play the Toxic Avenger’s girlfriend.

And Claire is just one of the movie’s impressive collection of weirdos, between all the henchmen, the Apocalypse Inc. board members and the gangs and monsters Toxie fights in Tokyo. That’s a higher volume of strange characters than most movies.

Whatever this is, there’s nothing like it. I don’t mean that in a “you will be shocked” sort of way. This is more like a friend you have who does their own weird thing and can’t be faulted for it. Apparently this friend has not been accepted by society, though, judging by the movie’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

0%!? I guess there aren’t very many reviews of it there, but it’s very rare to have no positive reviews. I can’t figure out how it happened. I suppose there are other movies I like that are at zero – JAWS: THE REVENGE, HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING, SIMON SEZ – but this one really doesn’t seem disagreeable like those. I honestly would’ve guessed that it would’ve gotten at least some half-assedly positive reviews from some of the papers in the 15 cities where it played. In fact, I think maybe it did in Seattle? But not from an official citizen of the Tomato empire, I guess.

Oh well. If not Seattle, we know they accept him in Tromaville and some parts of Tokyo.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 28th, 2022 at 7:35 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “The Toxic Avenger Part II”

  1. I feel like Vern’s lifelong scrapbooking habit is an underrated component of his Badass Juxtaposition.

    This sounds a lot better than I’ve always assumed, since even Lloyd himself talks shit about it. I really ought to check it out one of these days.

  2. I am of the very small group who prefers this goofy sequel to the predecessor. I love the original and it is the better movie but there is something about the goofy cartoony world of this one that I really love.

  3. Time keeps going on and I keep wondering why there is no published compilation of your best reviews. I mean, I imagine that screenshots and music videos and reproductions of pages from FANGORIA have a lot to do with how hard it is to publish a book of your work.

    But. Your best reviews belong in a book. You understand?

  4. You’re in luck, Major. There have been two collected editions of Vern reviews: FIVE ON THE OUTSIDE and YIPPE KI-YAY, MOVIEGOER! The former is long out of print but the latter is available through the Books By Vern widget on this very page.

  5. Thanks for saying that, Major. It’s true, Yippie Ki Yay Moviegoer is a good one, but I’d like to think I’ve evolved since then. I would like to do more collections.

  6. The Dark Rider humming the Barrie Guard score during the chase is one of my favorite meta gags ever.

    Kaufman describes splitting the overlong cut of Toxic Avenger II and III into two separate movies but I honestly can’t imagine how it was ever conceived as one. He’d go to Japan and then have a whole other crisis about going to work for Apocalypse? The Dark Rider seems maybe left over from the long cut, especially how randomly part II climaxes, but other than that this hardly seems like a Kill Bill situation.

    A shame they never saved the long cut for comparison.

  7. A former colleague of mine was offered to play Toxie for a live stunt during the release of movie #4 on dvd. He didn’t do it. Not a job with a bright future, I imagine.

  8. Fred: Agreed. Neither audio commentary or any book or interview by Kaufman I’ve read explains how the original 3-hour epic Part II would have worked narratively. Both movies have a beginning, middle, and an end. Plus, it’s Kaufman, so, ya know…, on some days I take his story of him splitting the movie up into 2 with a grain of salt. Then again, the movies co-writer, says they were hired to write one movie and was surprised when it became two so maybe he is being truthful that it’s accident 2 became a 3 hour epic.


  9. #TeamDigitalNativeDanceIsCool

  10. There’s no reason for Lloyd to lie about originally planning to make two movies though…he’s famously honest. You’re not taking in account that he’s a nutcase and not hard to believe he went so nuts he wrote way too long of a script…he has talked a bit about what scenes he moved to part three that were originally in two. Also notice, hardly anything actually happens in part 3. At least action-wise, Lloyd would not have been so skimpy with a lack of incident in a movie. It’s basically a sitcom with one big action scene in the end. Also, he did the same thing with Return to Nuke Em High 1 and 2, and those REALLY needed to be one.

    As for these sequels, I hate them. Just way too much bad comedy, at least the second part came closer to feeling like the first because there’s a lot of fights and action and gore, but 3 is just a horrendous piece of shit slog.

  11. I saw part 4 in the theatre and was pleased with the return to form in that one. Also was really impressed that it looked so good, watching a 35mm print of a Troma movie was s much different than seeing the shitty VHS transfers. Looked like a real movie!

  12. At least Return to Nuke ‘Em was planned as two from the beginning. I actually still haven’t seen part two. Whenever it came out it had no fanfare and little publicity.

  13. I hear both sides to that. When the movie was first announced, it was announced as A sequel being done with Starz, not two movies. I don’t think they wanted to wait for 7-8 years for it all to be done. I know some people who worked on it and none of them knew it was going to be two movies. I wonder if somewhere in the middle Lloyd has this idea…maybe not after everything was shot, but somewhere in the middle or maybe right before shooting. I never saw part 2 either, didn’t seem worth it.

  14. And here’s Troma’s press release about wrapping…only talks about it like one movie. I remember it was much later that the idea of a two part thing came up. Knowing Troma’s style of promotion, why weren’t they selling the idea that they made an EPIC TWO PART EVENT? Cause I think they didn’t know that’s what they made.


    Greetings from Tromaville! Troma Entertainment is proud to announce that principal photography has wrapped on Return to Class of Nuke ‘Em High, directed by Lloyd Kaufman. Produced in associat…

  15. Digital Native Dance will never die!

    Scatter Brain (Digital Native Dance Remix)

    Listen to Scatter Brain (Digital Native Dance Remix) by Walker Sexist Mangler #np on #SoundCloud

  16. Huh. I only heard about it as two because part 1 happened to be at Cannes the only year I covered it. And of course I was the only press excited for a Troma movie there. So by the time I heard of it it was 2, but with part 2 being barely over an hour it seems suspicious.

    Never heard about Starz potentially being involved.

  17. Mr Majestyk, I salute you for fighting the good fight.

  18. Starz was the genesis of the project. They approached Lloyd to do a sequel and gave him total control over it. Notice how, after doing obviously lower budgeted movies like Terror Firmer and Poultrygeist, suddenly there was real production value in a Troma movie again? Guys falling off railways in plants, big fire stunts, it actually looked slickly shot…felt closer to the old days where in the first movie you’d have a guy going out a high window, landing in goo and then catching fire and that seemed interesting. Then…suddenly it was two movies and it’s not like I give a shit about the narrative so no reason to see it, figured it would just be more lame comedy shenanigans.

  19. Muh’s story checks out. The Blu-ray of VOL. 1 was an Anchor Bay release, but then Starz shut down Anchor Bay so I assume Lloyd’s funding went with it. That’s why VOL. 2 took forever to come out and, when it did, it was your typical busted-ass in-house Troma release.

    I saw the first part in the theater and thought it was great. Having to wait so long for the second part only for it to not quite measure up took some of the shine off it but I’ll always remember that theatrical experience fondly.

  20. Think this was the first Troma film I ever saw and probably still my favourite. That stupid gag with all the guys getting out of the limo is a favourite and, honestly, I feel sorry for the person who,takes no joy from ridiculous shit like: “ The company plans to destroy the ozone layer so they can sell everybody domes to live under”

  21. If I recall, Troma had to do crowdfunding to finish part 2. They probably got a budget to shoot and do post on a movie..they spent it like normal, but the problem is, that only paid for the funding of one flick. Then no more Anchor Bay (I didn’t know they were Starz but makes sense) and technically, they did their part…paid for one movie. Problem is now Lloyd had to edit another one that hadn’t been planned. If Anchor Bay was still running they probably would have picked up the tab, technically that makes for a cheaper pick-up. But without it, they couldn’t even finish the flick until they asked for cash.

  22. Achor Bay being owned by Starz makes SO much sense though…I always thought it was random a pay channel would want to pay for a Troma movie, like why? But with Anchor Bay suddenly the story clicks.

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