Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV

After the one-two punch of THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE in 1989, the live action Toxic Avenger sat out the entire 1990s. He missed grunge, the rise and fall of Death Row Records, Hypercolor shirts, everything. During that time Lloyd Kaufman oversaw The Toxic Crusaders cartoon, went to court with New Line Cinema, and directed three non-Toxic movies: SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (1990), TROMEO AND JULIET (1996) and TERROR FIRMER (1998).

By now Troma had become some sort of institution, with a younger generation working for them for little or no pay because they grew up on the movies. It was also a harder time to create humor more tasteless than what was popular. Kids had seen Tom Green pretend to hump a dead moose on cable, the whole world had been charmed by Cameron Diaz with semen in her hair, and Jackass started airing a month before CITIZEN TOXIE came out. In 1996 Troma had given a limited release to a 1993 indie called ALFRED PACKER: THE MUSICAL (retitled CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL) by young filmmakers Trey Parker & Matt Stone. The following year, Parker & Stone’s South Park started on Comedy Central and became a pop culture phenomenon. It was during South Park season 4, while the two Troma-boys-made-big were being canonized as the edgy provocateurs and envelope-pushing satirists of their era, that the fourth TOXIC AVENGER movie finally hit the screen.

CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV (2000), like Part III, opens with trailer style narration explaining the backstory of The Toxic Avenger. But this time they actually got Stan Lee to do it! That’s obviously an attempt to align “the first super hero from New Jersey” with Spider-Man, etc., but you may be surprised to know that Kaufman and Lee go way back. In his book Kaufman mentions “the script I wrote with Stan Lee in 1971, NIGHT OF THE WITCH, where the witch only kills bad people” as a precursor to THE TOXIC AVENGER.

The big twist of the intro is that after describing the origin story Lee says, “Then, two rotten sequels were made. Sorry about that. THIS is the REAL sequel.”

Yes, despite the numerical title this is a David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN approach where they ditched the events and changes of all previous sequels and only acknowledge the first one. He’s once again Melvin Ferd instead of Melvin Junko. She’s Sarah instead of Claire, and she’s still blind – no surgery. He’s got a comically deep voice again. Apocalypse Inc. and sumo wrestling are not mentioned.

On the other hand, he is married, and has the nickname Toxie, and refers to Tromatons, all things introduced in– oh well, let’s not think about that stuff.

I disagree with Stan – Part II and even Part III are hardly “rotten,” at least not by Troma standards. And I’m very sorry to say that rotten doesn’t come close to describing how fucking ghastly part IV is, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not that it’s misjudged, necessarily. It’s clearly intentional; they’re trying to violate all boundaries of decency, humanity, aesthetics, and entertainment. But if somebody shits in your face on purpose you’re not obligated to say “Great aim!” To each their own, but personally I found CITIZEN TOXIE to be a vile, torturous slog that should make the entire concept of shock value humor slink home in embarrassment if it somehow survives this grueling 109 minute trudge through every type of puerile trolling Kaufman and co-writers Trent Haaga (CHEAP THRILLS), Patrick Cassidy (TERROR FIRMER) & Gabriel Friedman (POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD) plus additional material writers Sean Collins & Matt Levin managed to barf out at the time.

It opens with Mexican jokes – white people wearing sombreros for “Take a Mexican to Lunch Day.” But there’s no time to discern whether they’re trying to provoke you or sincerely satirize racism before you realize this classroom we’re entering is full of kids played by adults doing what can only be called r-word impressions. I won’t use the word (as the movie does dozens of times) but I sort of have to refer to it because there’s no way for sensitive language to convey how these characters are portrayed.

Like the Mexican restaurant in part I or the video store in part III this special ed school is the site of an attack by Tromaville’s unique brand of face paint wearing, machine gun toting, scenery chewing street thugs. But to make it less fun and more disgusting this time the thugs are called “The Diaper Mafia” and they’re adults dressed as babies and speaking in baby voices. Also they have topless tattooed ladies with them who rub their boobs in the students’ faces and stuff.

The particular gross feeling I got from this classroom scene reminded me of the adults playing children in FORBIDDEN ZONE, and the leader of the Diaper Mafia even kinda looks like an Elfman (he’s actually co-writer/assistant director Trent Haaga). The difference is that FORBIDDEN ZONE made every frame of its cardboard-and-poster-paint sets and thrift store costuming into something stylish and beautiful, while every single thing in this movie just looks shitty and repulsive – the sloppy hand drawn set decorations, the lighting, the film stock, the framing, everything.

It’s a good 10 minutes before the Toxic Avenger (now portrayed by David Mattey [later in Jesse V. Johnson’s CHARLIE VALENTINE] and voiced by Clyde Lewis [NIGHTFALL]) shows up. This might also be the movie’s first semi-amusing idea, as he arrives somehow disguised as the famous bikini model the terrorists demanded (Carla Pivonski, TERROR FIRMER) and then transforms into Toxie (no, he does not say “Honey Flash!” to do it). He looks slimmer than previous Toxies and the shiny, plasticky makeup looks like something they’d use for a convention appearance instead of actual movie makeup, but oh well. My favorite way he attacks a terrorist is sharpening the guy’s finger in a pencil sharpener and then stabbing him with said finger. My least favorite is smooshing a poopy diaper in a guy’s face. It was kinda funny though when he dropped a guy on his head and then the head went all the way through his body and tore out of his diaper.

Toxie now has an official sidekick insensitively named Lardass and portrayed by Joe Fleishaker (the Troma regular who weighed about 500 pounds and played one of the Apocalypse Inc. executives in the “rotten” Toxie sequels). Lardass almost saves the day by eating a bomb that’s about to go off, except it makes him fart just as a terrorist and a student who had been fucking the whole time light up cigarettes, so there’s an explosion anyway. I would have to say that the post-coital-cigarette-fart-explosion is this film’s most successful fusion of tasteless and funny. So congratulations to everyone involved.

And the premise of the movie is kinda cute. The fart explosion is so powerful it causes a dimensional rift, so Toxie ends up in an alternate reality where everyone is different and Tromaville is called Amortville. His best friend Kabukiman (Paul Kyrmse, who played that character in various Troma materials but not the feature length movie) is a criminal in this reality rather than a sergeant in the NYPD. (Note: the so-called good version of him in Toxie’s reality is implied to rape somebody off screen.)

Meanwhile, the evil version of Toxie called Noxie (short for “the Noxious Offender”), who has a little hair on top and wears a black shirt with a gold N necklace, is in Tromaville, enjoying the spoils of being mistaken for a beloved hero. (So it’s kind of like FACE/OFF I guess.) The CITIZEN TOXIE title comes from a sequence done in black and white newsreel style where Noxie is living it up in a mansion called Tromadu. Not very funny at all, but worth it for the punchline where instead of “Rosebud” he says “nose blood.”

Although Toxie’s wife goes back to being named Sarah like in part I (not Claire like in parts II and III or Yvonne like in the cartoon), it’s yet another actress, a newcomer named Heidi Sjursen. She does a decent facsimile of the original Sarah’s sweet cluelessness (plus some parts where she yells at Toxie), but I definitely missed Phoebe Legere’s eccentric accordion playing Claire. (They do pay tribute to Claire by using the name for Sarah’s double in Amortville. She can see but is deaf and has bad teeth.)

If by some technicality CITIZEN TOXIE is not the most ableist movie ever made, it’s not for lack of trying. They have the usual blind jokes with Sarah and now deaf jokes with Claire, plus all of the awful special ed stuff throughout the movie, and a scene where James Gunn (writer of TROMEO AND JULIET) plays astrophysicist  “Dr. Flem Hocking,” doing a voice. And I haven’t even mentioned that two of the special ed students, the rebellious Tito (Michael Budinger) and childlike (if that’s something you can call a child character played by an adult) Sweetie Honey (Lisa Terezakis, two episodes of Strangers With Candy) end up being main characters in the movie.

Having been a life long Toxie fan I obviously saw CITIZEN TOXIE when it came out 20+ years ago. But I somehow forgot about one of my most hated aspects: Tito. It’s not just that it’s a guy doing an r-word voice and r-word movements and playing off of the idea of wouldn’t it be funny if an r-word thought he was cool and wore a leather jacket even though he’s an r-word. That would be more than enough, but what makes it even worse is that the guy is transparently just imitating a South Park voice for his entire performance!

What kind of a comedy has a main character who’s just doing the same shitty imitation of a popular cartoon that all your dumbest friends do, and tries to pass it off as a character? I don’t know if Kaufman didn’t notice it or if he thought it was okay because of his connection to Parker & Stone, but it’s like if a new comedy came out where one of the main characters is just some dude doing a shitty Borat or Austin Powers impression. Somebody should’ve stopped this guy. What the fuck?

The worst character in the worst Toxic Avenger movie

I hate hearing the fucking voice, but since I’m definitely retired from ever watching this movie again I’m kind of glad it’s there as a marker of where we were at as a culture in 2000 and why this movie is like this. I don’t deny that South Park was original and could be very funny and clever, but I always thought their satire leaned toward mocking people for giving a shit and pretended that nihilistic apathy is the most reasonable answer to any situation. I got this feeling of “you right wingers who are out there being fascist, you’re dumb, and you hippies who are mad about the fascism, you’re just as bad for some reason, the only sane people are the ones here in the middle with me, not doing anything about any of it.” And I hated how long that attitude passed for smart and rebellious.

In the Ain’t It Cool days I would occasionally try to articulate that thought, and the response was not what you would call understanding. By now many others have made the argument much better than I ever could. CITIZEN TOXIE is not South Park’s fault, but it’s a perfect time capsule of what was going on. I think it’s fair to call Troma somewhat countercultural, outsider artists, with kind of a punk rock type reputation. And here in the year 2000 – on the precipice of George W. Bush, 9-11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA-Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib, etc. – their big concern was rebelling against the uptight people who don’t want them making fun of the r-words for being so r-word all the time, and really if you think about it they’re not making fun of them, in a way they’re celebrating them, I mean they make fun of non-r-words also. Equal opportunity offenders. And besides why does everything always gotta be so politically correct, there’s a scene where they make fun of anti-abortion protesters so it’s both sides, etc.

In the movie there’s a news report where the anchors (played by the comedians the Sklar brothers) blame the Diaper Mafia attack on heavy metal, rap, video games and violent movies. It’s the same point made later in Vin Diesel’s xXx, but not given the same credit by the cultural elites since it rejects the crutch of being mildly entertaining.

The one thing I did remember from that first viewing, that I found so offensive it made me forget all that other stuff, is the comical gore scene where racist rednecks tie a Black man named Pompey (Barry Brisco, “Trombone Player [uncredited],” DREAMGIRLS) to the back of their truck and drag him until his body falls apart. I knew this was inspired by a real life hate crime, and I still can’t fathom what would possess somebody to think ha ha, won’t it be mischievous fun to joke about that unspeakably barbaric murder those white supremacists did recently? I get that you’re trying to break all the taboos, I just don’t get what you’re trying to achieve by it. If it was somehow possible to make a movie that finds out traumatic incidents or losses suffered by viewers and taunts them about it, would you do that? Is it just a contest to see who can be the shittiest, most heartless fucking asshole on the block?

I don’t really understand the thinking. However, I do at least see the absurdity of a severed head still being alive, saying “Thanks again for saving my life” and then being able to go purchase a new body. So this absolutely vile subplot is arguably more defensible than the r-word stuff that dominates the movie.

It’s important to give credit where credit is due, so I will say that it’s cool that the title logo explodes at the beginning, that the art of Toxie on the movie poster is pretty good, and that it’s funny when they use MORTAL KOMBAT or BLADE style techno in a couple of the fight scenes. Peppered throughout is the occasional silly shit that you hope for in this series. Noxie rips off a cop’s arms and uses them as weapons and the cop yells “Stay back everybody. He’s armed!” Part I street thug Cigar Face has become a cop (or at least the actor Dan Snow has) and he has a Hitler mustache and seems to be an actual Nazi. And I can sort of see the nasty appeal (or whatever you want to call it) of some of the grossout stuff, like Toxie puking green slime when he cums or Noxie having a giant penis with a puppet face on the end of it. There is some good gore and a scene where two children portray fetal Toxie Jr. and Noxie Jr. having a mop fight inside their mother. Many of these little bits are kinda funny or cool, but for me they’re not nearly strong enough to overcome the interminable parade of juvenile shit-throwing that precedes and follows them.

I’ve really enjoyed writing this review series, so I’m glad I didn’t remember much about part IV here. It might’ve scared me off. This is easily the worst movie I’ve ever watched a second time, though in full disclosure I must have glazed over at some point, because I didn’t notice it was Corey Feldman playing the gynecologist, or Eli Roth as “Frightened Tromaville Citizen,” or Hugh Hefner as the President of the United States, and I couldn’t bring myself to put the blu-ray back in to try to spot them. This is why many filmmakers would prefer you watch their movies with the full theatrical experience, so you will be able to soak it all in and not be distracted. It did play theaters (in a limited, event screening type format that suited it) and I believe was pretty well received – incredibly, it has a 67% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (remember, Part II has a 0%!). I guess you had to hear the head going through the poopy diaper in Dolby Digital to really get it.

CITIZEN TOXIE was obviously a transgressive movie at the time, and it was too much for me then, but also every single thing about it plays worse for today’s sensibilities. Often when movies like that are discussed it’s in the context of “oh man, they could never make a movie like this today, they would be cancelled.” So I can’t believe I’m saying this but let’s talk about “cancel culture” for a bit. I’ve always been and will continue to be suspicious of people who bring it up all the time, especially my fellow white men. They claim to be against sex creeps and bigotry just as much as you, yet the amount of passion they dedicate to opposing their ills is approximately one seven thousandth of a percent of what they dedicate to the theoretical possibility of being falsely accused of them. “Look, somebody could potentially get it wrong, therefore we must shut down anyone trying to do anything. Tough luck, toots.” That’s how it comes across to me.

But we do have a funny case here of someone who was in this movie who went on to great success and then was disingenuously (semi) cancelled, and things turned out better for everyone. I do not think this is a representative case or anything that will ever be repeated, but I do think there’s something for us to learn from it.

James Gunn, the now very successful director of the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series, famously got his start at Troma. He wrote and produced TROMEO AND JULIET (1996), he created and directed The Tromaville Cafe (1997) (a BBC show that presented Troma films), he co-wrote the frequently-cited-in-this-review-series book All I Need To Know About FILMMAKING I Learned From THE TOXIC AVENGER. He is not responsible for CITIZEN TOXIE, but he does appear in it and, one would imagine, might’ve thought it was funny.

It was a few years later that he made it in Hollywood, writing SCOOBY-DOO (2002) and DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004), and became kind of an underdog studio horror director with SLITHER (2006). But by the time of his violent R-rated super hero comedy SUPER (2010) he still seemed like some douche who would play a parody of Stephen Hawking in CITIZEN TOXIE. His 2011 blog post “The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With: 2nd Annual Poll Results” was roundly criticized as misogynistic and homophobic, and later caused him to send an apology to GLAAD:

“A couple of years ago I wrote a blog that was meant to be satirical and funny. In rereading it over the past day I don’t think it’s funny… I’m an outspoken proponent for the rights of the gay and lesbian community, women and anyone who feels disenfranchised, and it kills me that some other outsider like myself, despite his or her gender or sexuality, might feel hurt or attacked by something I said. We’re all in the same camp, and I want to do my best to make this world a better place for all of us. I’m learning all the time. I promise to be more careful with my words in the future. And I will do my best to be funnier as well.”

Years after that, in 2018, a right wing troll and conspiracy grifter targeted Gunn for criticizing Lord Trump, found some of his tweets from 2008 that made gross jokes about child molestation (I’m surprised CITIZEN TOXIE never hit on that topic), and launched a bad faith campaign to cancel him over it.

Gunn apologized again: “It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over… I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today.”

After Disney took the campaign at face value and fired him from THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3, which was about to start filming, Gunn wrote, “Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today… I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then.”

But Warner Brothers saw an opening and hired Gunn to direct THE SUICIDE SQUAD. And while he was at it he made the spin-off HoBoMax series Peacemaker. And in the middle of that Disney realized they fucked up and hired him back, so now he’s doing GUARDIANS 3 after all. No matter how that turns out, THE SUICIDE SQUAD and Peacemaker are my favorite things he’s ever done, so I’m indebted to that fascist Pizzagate shithead for freeing up his schedule to do them.

Now, there is no part of me that relates to a grown man – or even a young man! – writing all that shit that people got mad at Gunn for. If a person I hung out with made those kind of jokes all the time they would quickly transform into a person I used to hang out with. And I understand the hesitance, even stubbornness, that people usually have about accepting celebrity public apology statements like those above.

But I’m grateful that in this case people did, because I think THE SUICIDE SQUAD and Peacemaker are both great works of popular entertainment and examples of how Troma-bred irreverence can evolve into something beautiful. Gunn hasn’t cut down on obscenity, dudes saying stupid things about fucking or flippant, graphic gore, but he employs them in a story that’s full of genuine love. The Suicide Squad are super villains guilty of what in our world would be unforgivable crimes, but in the cartoonish DC Comics world they’re a metaphor for all the misfits and fuck ups of the world making friends and seizing an opportunity to do something right for once. Peacemaker does similar while also finding the vulnerability and goodness beneath the overcompensating shell of a macho asshole raised by an abusive bigot he hates but can’t help seeking the approval of. These are stories that disregard literal realism but put a high premium on the authentically human, and I love stories like that.

What I’m trying to get at is that when I judge something like CITIZEN TOXIE to be actually toxic it doesn’t mean I’m passing judgment on or writing off the people involved (or who like it). I don’t like what they made at that time, but people change, people have different sides to them, people are complicated.

Many people who are criticized or pushed back against don’t know how to be gracious about it. They dig their heels in, they play victim, they pretend that freedom of speech means nobody has the freedom to speak in response to their speech, they go make movies with B*n Sh*piro. I don’t have time for those ones. And obviously different situations require different levels of accountability. But I hope in some of these cases where somebody makes or says something stupid that pisses us off, that I and others can have space in our hearts to accept those who genuinely have regrets and try to learn new things and become better people. Everybody fucks up at different things and I think there needs to be room for people to actually be sorry and for others (at their own discretion) to forgive them. Tromaville welcomes freaks, you know.

That said, if Toxie won’t apologize for this horrible fucking movie he can get fucked

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 9th, 2022 at 2:43 pm 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.

30 Responses to “Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV”

  1. When this opened in LA in early 2001 I covered the premiere. It was a major franchise sequel as far as I was concerned. I spent all night with the Troma gang as they got kicked out of 3 clubs for wearing Toxie and Kabukiman costumes. 1 club let them stay. Apparently Lloyd’s assistant supposedly cleared it with all 4 clubs but either the managers weren’t quite clear what it entailed, or more likely the whole stunt was designed to get them kicked out so that they could play the underdogs banished by mainstream Hollywood.

    It was only showing at midnight at the Sunset 5. I haven’t seen it since then but I liked it at the time and can imagine reacting like Vern to a revisit. Perhaps this is when Troma crossed the line from transgressive to trolling though I might argue that was already Troma’s War.

    Anyway it was a fun night and I think Lloyd and the gang appreciated a legit journalist having the interest in them.

    Really appreciate your section on cancel culture? Vern. There’s always been people dropped from platforms before this buzzword and there’ve always been those who grow from it and those who don’t. It’s strange how people can feel so entitled to say whatever they want when that’s never been reality.

  2. I wish I could remember what it was exactly but I noticed your byline on something when I was researching this!

  3. Lloyd’s been trying for years (decades?) to have Toxie remade, as a big-budgeted Hollywood production, and, unfortunately, it seems that Gunn may help that happen. Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t, though it probably will. There were even names being mentioned a while ago, including, I think, Marky Mark. (As producer, I believe, not as a cast member. He’s hardly the kind who’d associate with Toxie, after all. He’d be more likely to play one of the punks. “Hey, that serial rapist’s life sounds cool, I should totally play him in a movie about him!” – and if you think I’m joking, that’s actually more or less what he said when he optioned the life of serial killer, rapist and drug dealer Jon Roberts for a movie, because he found him so cool and likeable. Perhaps it was Roberts’s stories of torturing Asians to death in Vietnam that spoke to Marky Mark so much).

  4. They already shot the remake. Directed by Macon Blair, starring Peter Dinklage as the Toxic Avenger, Kevin Bacon and Elijah Wood are in it playing villains, I believe. Taylour Paige, who just won an Independent Spirit Award for ZOLA, is in it, and Jacob Tremblay plays the Toxic Avenger’s son (?).

  5. The Allusionist

    March 9th, 2022 at 8:26 pm

    Whoa, Kevin Bacon and Elijah Wood? I guess we’ll see if they have any guts.

  6. I’ll admit the name I did a double take on in that is actually Macon Blair.

    Too late to petition they bring back Go Nagai, I suppose

  7. The thing about early James Gunn was that despite his tendencies to be an edgelord, he also seemed very nice. I followed him back in the MySpace days and for example when he did one blog post that had a few jokes that went for my taste way too far, I mentioned that in the comments and he actually replied with a really honest sounding apology, acknowledging how having a lack of a filter isn’t always a good thing. (Compare that to Eli Roth who blocked me on MySpace because I told him that I thought HOSTEL was flawed although I liked it a lot.)

  8. You wouldn’t have found my Citizen Toxie coverage because About.com (which no longer exists) scrubbed all that in 2006. It could’ve been my interview with Lloyd in Cannes 2013!

  9. Wikipedia cites an article you wrote called “Toxic DVD Shows Ups, Downs of Indie Films” from hivemedia.com, but the link doesn’t work.

  10. Oh wow, Hive Media would’ve been Videostore Magazine but I can’t even remember what I wrote about Troma DVDs.

  11. Inspector Hammer Boudreaux

    March 9th, 2022 at 11:50 pm

    I love a good-hatchet job, but I appreciate that Vern is a positively-minded person. So I got a kick out of Vern being mean. Don’t make a day job out of it, bro, you’re not very good at it. Too reasonable, less sexy.

  12. I’ve mentioned a couple of time already, but might as well mention here, that I saw this recently and was pretty repulsed, and even more embarrassed by imagining how I would have tried to justify it to myself if I’d seen it around c.2005. I’d have said (to myself, I don’t think I’d have many conversations about CITIZEN TOXIE in any timeline) “well actually it’s a positive portrayal of disability because [SOME BULLSHIT]”, a bit like I tried to justify mainstream comedies at he time having 90 minutes of homophobic jokes, because at the end they’d show the gay character smiling or some shit.

    Personally not a fan of Gunn’s art or public persona, but I’m not here to dissuade anyone who is. I just wonder what will win out when GAURDIANS V.3 comes out; the internet’s hate-boner for Chris Pratt, or their, um, love-boner for Gunn.

  13. I think Kaufman took the criticism of him being a sellout and softening with his older age with the goofy TOXIC 2 & 3 and KABUKIMAN* to heart. So starting with the Gunn-penned TROMEO & JULIET, he’s gone full libertarian edgelord. TROMEO, TERROR FIRMER, and TOXIC 4 are the worst offenders, Kaufman isn’t saying anything, just trying to provoke. “Just a joke, man, geez”

    POULTREYGEIST at least has the fast food conglomerates laser focused in their sights to say something. Still not consistent enough to recommend.
    Even the two awful and unwatchable RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH kinda have a narrative purpose (though it takes a backseat to the libertarian edgelord nonsense that populates TROMEO and TOXIC 4)

    Oh yeah, if you hated the performance the actor gave for Tito, do not listen to the actor commentary. About half way through he just starts doing his portion in character and you can tell he thinks the bit is hilarious.

    I hate this debate and think it’s stupid but since you brought it up… Kaufman is a walking posterchild to give losers who argue film is better than digital are right. His pre digital movies had at least an air of professionalism around them. His digitally-shot movies are downright ugly to look at. I still think the debate is stupid and if your digitally shot movie looks bad it’s because you suck not the technology but seeing what digital did to Kaufman and Dario Argento, maybe there is something to be said there? Or they only hire crap cinematographers and light people now. Regardless, the argument is dumb.

    I used to enjoy this movie for it’s provocativeness but upon last rewatch a few years ago, I had little use for it’s edgelord nonsense. Greatly prefer the goofy masterpiece that is II and even the unevenness of III that supposedly suck. Which gets me onto another tangent: the main guys who helped make this one and had hate-boners for 2 & 3 pat themselves on the back for making the real sequel here. But, ya know, this movie in no way shape or form recaptures the ‘magic’ of the original. The original was a monster movie that happened to be funny. As much as they hate 2 & 3, they made the same decision here: make a comedy first. In fact, just like 2/3, it’s a superhero movie, not a monster movie. It’s only by accident that part 1 ended up being a superhero movie. So forgive me, if like most asshole fans, they didn’t really understand the first one and I argue probably didn’t even like it outside of it’s scenes of ‘Dude dats so f—-ed up!’

    Viva Part II. And 1. 3 can join. And CUTEY HONEY is always welcomed.

    *Thought for sure KABUKIMAN would be reviewed. That’s how you keep us on our toes I guess. KABUKIMAN NYPD doubles down on the goofy from Toxie 2/3 and isn’t nearly as ‘good’ as either as those but has moments. Plus it came real close to getting a Sega Genesis video game because it was a Japanese co-production but the near sighted idiots at Sega America blocked it

  14. *ALFERD* Packer, not Alfred.

  15. I can’t say how this one holds up because I haven’t seen it in 20 years, but I rewatched TERROR FIRMER last night and still think it’s great. You know, this is unquestionably a privileged position to come from, since I have no skin in the game, being a straight male hi key who gets to be mocked for his life choices and personality instead of any particular quirk of my birtr, but I tend to find each of Lloyd’s individual transgressions kind of forced and certainly indefensible, yet the cumulative effect is undeniably life-affirming. It is a very curious alchemy that Troma’s #1 son James Gunn has elevated to an art form. I think he was a good influence on Lloyd, as the movie became more ambitious and heartfelt after his tenure there.

    Also, I gotta disagree on the aesthetics of this era of Troma. I LOVE the shitty film stock and trashy production design. It feels scrappy and raw, but not in a lazy mumblecore way. They worked their balls off to pack this much hideousness into every single shot. I’m no film fetishist but I have to admit this stuff looks so much more vivid and real than any of the much fancier digital photography that has taken over the low budget world. Sure, movies look ”better” now, but is “better” always better? Some movies deserve to look crappy and would not be improved by looking good.

    Besides, keeping that legit 16mm grain means they can keep reusing the footage of that same amazing car crash from TOXIC AVENGER 1. Cut it into a digital movie and it’ll just look like stock footage.

  16. This made me laugh pretty hard: ‘But if somebody shits in your face on purpose you’re not obligated to say “Great aim!”’

    Great piece, Vern.

  17. If all the Toxies are done, even the cartoon, it’s time to take on all the “Classes of Nuke’em High” and Tromie the Radioactive Pissing Squirrel.

  18. Great review series, fingers crossed for a review of “Apocalypse Soon: The Making of Citizen Toxie” as a capper. I’ve seen it accurately described as an ‘anti-hagiography’, and it is incredible that Troma released it considering how poorly it reflects on the production, even by scrappy low-budget standards. Very entertaining though!

  19. Oh, I guess I should’ve watched the extras. I was so disgusted with the whole thing I didn’t think I’d want to.

  20. Since their mid-90s renaissance, Troma has carefully cultivated a reputation for both outrageous transgression and humorous incompetence.

    In that time, Kaufman has written further books that put more emphasis on inspiring their readers to become filmmakers. They are padded with funny nonsensical digressions, such as Kaufman arguing with his co-author in the footnotes. Kaufman’s filmmaking lessons often take the form of telling an anecdote about a time a Troma production did something disastrous, as a comedic example of what not to do.

    One of these books included a lengthy sidebar with the headline “There’s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity, Except When You’re Filming a Scene of an African-American Being Dragged Behind a Pickup Truck”. That title made me laugh with its sheepish undertone of “yeah, maybe we pushed our luck on that one.” The tale in that sidebar was about how the sight of that scene being filmed got on the locals’ nerves and Troma more or less got ran out of town.

    I do recall the book saying that this scene was inspired by a real incident. So like the villains’ point-scoring of hitting pedestrians in THE TOXIC AVENGER, it seemed to be intended as a topical commentary on how much awfulness there is in the world.

    In the finished movie (which I hadn’t seen at the time), the scene is comedically sped up like a badly projected silent movie, and I had to assume that for that reason (as well as safety to the actor) the scene was filmed with the truck s-l-o-w-l-y pulling the actor for take after take. I can well imagine this image grating on the locals’ nerves after a while.

    1990s comedy in general was generally nihilistic and insensitive even at a mainstream level. Remember how much of a comedy industry was built around the O.J. Simpson murder trial. In fact so much of the 1990s ethos labeled “Generation X” was based on that kind of detachment, whether it was Jerry Seinfeld making a show about nothing or R.E.M. naming a song about that time Dan Rather got assaulted or Quentin Tarantino finding humor in a helpless captive being mutilated or killed.

    I’d say the major change is that back in the pre-9/11 era there was more of a sense that racism and bigotry were something old and lame that only stupid people in uncivilized backwaters still practiced, that the assumed “we” in hip civilized college-educated areas could laugh about as not being real.

    Even in somewhat more recent times, Seth MacFarlane could host the Oscars and have a performer randomly appear in Nazi uniform for no real reason other than shock value, because that image hit the edgy-comedy sweet spot of being uncomfortable without being meaningful. The audience was assumed to share the assumption that this image is inappropriate and therefore funny (I didn’t find it funny at all, but I understood the intent).

    So not that long ago, comedy could use imagery such as Nazis, blackface, etc. with the assumption that the audience recognizes these images to be inappropriate and unpleasant and embarrassing, and so the awkwardness of encountering them was the basis for the humor.

    So it’s not a case of “we didn’t realize this was bad” so much as “we didn’t realize this still had power.” And it seems the backlash against transgressive humor is a direct result of the Trump-era realization that racist and sexist attitudes still wield a terrible amount of potency and that the moral decency of the audience cannot be taken as read. It’s the WOLF OF WALL STREET syndrome – it’s gotten harder to trust the audience to understand the joke and recognize that this is supposed to be wrong.

    I thought CITIZEN TOXIE’s barrage of bad taste was funny, but to each their own. I’ve never seen parts II and III but it sounds like I should change that.

  21. I saw “Apocalypse Soon” when it was on Prime a while back, so it should still be available independently of “Citizen Toxie” thankfully! My girlfriend worked on a Troma production in the 00s and only lasted a day. Having seen the documentary, I understand why

  22. Good analysis, Curt, and it reminds me of something I meant to mention at the end of this series: I was at a Lloyd Kaufman signing at some point (I thought it was for that book, but my copy isn’t signed) and I found it very endearing how big he was on encouraging everyone’s creativity. Each person he talked to he would ask if they were some kind of filmmaker or artist and sign that Toxie loves their work.

  23. All the Troma stuff that was on Amazon Prime in 2020 when I watched CITIZEN TOXIE was taken off or paywalled, including APOCALYPSE SOON, I don’t know if it was just following suit from the US site or if they’re still on there though.

  24. So I rewatched this one the other night, and I have to admit that it’s easily the least of Lloyd’s post-TROMEO & JULIET work. It doesn’t really feel like it has an angle on any of its risque subject matter the way POULTRYGEIST or TERROR FIRMER did, and consequently its provocations feel more desperate than usual. But I just dig that Tromatic chaos, so even when I know it’s all just scattershot edgelord posturing, the energy and commitment to the bit always wins me over. The best I can come up with to defend the indisputably unacceptable humor is that it comes off to me as more exploratory than belligerent. They’re looking for where the line is. Is this the line? What about here? Is this too far? Those answers will be different for every viewer. But while I can maybe excuse it as a product of its era, quite frankly, I am happy that this era is over and we’re able to deal with transgression in a less cruel way nowadays. This kind of envelope-pushing is part of the Troma brand but it’s far from my favorite part. I just like the scrappiness and the anarchy, and it’s possible to have those without going out of your way to offend. There’s a sweetness underlying all this dickheadery that is far more appealing to me.

    The real gem of the DVD is the aforementioned making-of doc, APOCALYPSE SOON, which is an unrelenting, teeth-gritting panic attack fever dream of what it’s like to work for a small business owner with delusions of grandeur and poor managerial skills. The first AD/screenwriter/leader of the Diaper Mafia who was perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown dealing with both the slack-jawed incompetence of the dilettante cast and crew and head in the clouds/up his ass Lloyd’s mercurial moods, pointless grandstanding, and lack of attention span brought me right back to those 15 years I spent as the head editor of the world’s biggest independent booty magazine and all the shit I had to shovel from the underpaid, underqualified morons below me and the overconfident, undereducated moron at the top. I’d imagine this is what UNCUT GEMS is supposed to feel like.

  25. This is the movie that returned Toxie to what he needs to be, not that softie part 2 and 3. I guess to me if Troma movies aren’t kind of offensive and ultra gory, I’m just left with a fairly lame movie with terrible jokes in them. It’s really all of that mix that makes these movies “work,” cause Lord knows it’s not the story or directing prowess of Lloyd.

    I did see this in it’s theatrical run and wow, amazing to see a Troma movie in the theater projected on film. It suddenly looked way more professional than ever before…probably lost a lot when put on DVD or Blu because I’m sure they got a shit transfer. People were with it, but you could feel the turn when you saw the black guy getting dragged by the truck…especially since not only was it based on a real murder, but even a really recent one. Although to the argument of being a Libertarian edgelord, I bet Lloyd in his lunatic mind thought he was somehow correcting that injustice through art. That’s the weird thing about Troma movies that set them apart from shit like South Park, those guys are just assholes being snide, but these movies never come off that way. There’s always that sincerety to them…like sure Lloyd is basically making r-word jokes (normally I’d just type it but I think y’all are much more sensitive than I), but at the same time he loves those characters and they have good hearts and help out.

    Here’s a good example of why I hate those South Park fuckers…I remember once some interview they were talking about making fun of an actor in the show a lot and later the actor met them and said they were a huge fan and thought it was funny. And they were like “what an asshole, are they so stupid they don’t know we’re making fun of them?” But then, when anyone got offended by what got said about them, Stone and Parker would be like “what an asshole, don’t they know this is just a show and why are they offended?” They basically had it both ways so no matter what any reaction someone got, that person was a loser and so less smart than them. They suck.

  26. Oh but agreeing with Mr. M…my friend HATES Troma movies but says he’s glad they exist so he can watch the making of docs. They’re fascinating to see…Lloyd goes cheap and hires inexperienced morons, as opposed to inexperienced smart people, then gets mad when the inexperienced morons fuck up constantly.

  27. This is a crazy flick for me. On the one hand, its quite repellent in an edge lord who’s trying too hard to be un-PC kinda way. It feels of that era of older artists trying to stay relevant and true to themselves but not quite making it.

    But the other hand is this is the first movie i ever worked on, so I have that nostalgic rose colored glasses that makes all red flags just look like flags. It was senior year of college, I was a Set PA, mostly doing set lockdown, but i did cut out all the windows on a picture of the school then held hair spray and a lighter behind it for the fx shot of the school blowing up.

    My best friend was going to the college down the street from filming, and he and a bunch of students were extras throughout. My friend would drive from our college tp his and crash at his place all weekend. (My friend is one of the special students in the beginning. Later we would be extras in Catch Me If You Can, because why not!)

    Nobody was getting paid, days we’re long, everyone was a late 90s punk rebelling against nothing but the indie film spirit of the time… It was a trip.

    I remember hanging at one entrance, smoking cigarettes with a bunch of extras, including the founder of Weekly World News (who has a total Stan Lee vibe and contends the Bat Boy is real) who was telling us all.off-color jokes, mostly at Yoko Ono’s expense.

    Later it was just me at the exit smoking, feeling strange because i had just broke up with my long time girlfriend, and Toxie comes out for some fresh air. We chat, I inform him of the break up, he told me it always feels that way when its fresh, it gets better, etc.

    Like i said, weird time.

    (I also remember my fellow film school classmates went to TFF that weekend and saw The Limey and American Beauty and all those awesome flicks while I was smoking with Toxie)

    So I have memories and knew even then that it could only go uphill from there in all aspects!

    Only watched the flick once, and was too high to pay attention beyond what I worked on. But I have fond memories of it, and I do have a wonderfully delightful story about Lloyd Kaufman I’ll share another time.

    Thanks for coming to my TED talk

  28. That’s awesome, Winchester. Were you in the documentary?

    You weren’t Lead Paint Boy, were you?

  29. Oh here’s some fun trivia for those who both enjoy and are grossed out by this movie that I forgot to mention, the guy who played Kabukiman got busted for screwing around with really young kids. I remember hearing that and just checked, yep it’s true!

  30. This movie is a perfect time capsule for the 2000s pushing the extremes of shock value. I loved it then and still do now, but it definitely doesn’t play well for certain tastes I am dubious of the claim of the rebel character doing a south park voice: I’m guessing it’s referring to Jimmy, but he didn’t appear on South Park until about a year after TA4, but it could be another earlier SP character I’m forgetting. I miss the nihilism and edginess, but it’s an era we’ll never get back. There’s always 70s grindhouse, 80s anime OVAs, and the Troma catalog to bring the feeling back when I need it.

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