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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Import Corner: The Toxic Avenger (88 Films) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots


The Toxic Avenger is one of my favorite films from the 80's and from Troma.  The film is instantly quotable and fun as hell to watch. 88 Films has done a great job with the blu-ray, giving us a great picture and lossless audio and the Japanese cut of the film, along with a ton of special features.
Released by: Troma





Release Date: April 11th, 1986 (Theatrical)
                        November 17th, 2014 (Blu-ray)

Region Code: REGION FREE

Run Time: 1h 21m (Director's Cut)
                   1h 31m (Japanese Cut)

Audio: English DTS-HD 2.0

Video: 1080p (1.78:1 Aspect Ratio) (Director's Cut)
            480p (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio) (Japanese Cut)


All right everybody, drop your tacos or I'll blow your brains out. -Leroy

THE FEATURES [3.5 out of 4]



Audio Commentary with director Lloyd Kaufman

Lloyd Kaufman always gives great commentary tracks. (Except for the one found on the 21st Anniversary DVD that included the Tromamorphic Widescreen. That commentary was painful to listen to, but it was not the fault of Kaufman.) He is full of information and doesn’t let any topic go by the wayside. If you are a Troma fan already, then you know this track front to back and all ways around. If you are new to Troma then this track gives you a good starting point.

Introduction to the Japanese Cut (4m 55s, SD, 1.33:1)

Played as a fun, hosted show, this intro, taken from a VHS, which looks terrible, is fun and worth a watch. The entire thing is subtitled and the subs don’t match what is being said.

Japanese Cut (1m 31s, SD, 1.85:1)

Until 2012, this cut of the film was only available in Japan and it was a very sought after version of the film for Troma fans. Sure we could find a bootleg somewhere, but we wanted an official release. Troma did just that in 2012, but they left it off their blu-ray release for some reason. 88 Films has come to the rescue and provided on this release. The quality is that of a VHS. It isn’t terrible, but the film has looked better in standard definition.

To say this cut of the film is a disappointment would be the right thing to say. There isn’t any added gore or nudity, just added character scenes and extensions to scenes that already exist. This is not the definitive version of the film (that would be the director’s cut that is the main feature on this disc, but it is worth a watch.

15th Anniversary Intro by Lloyd Kaufman (2m 21s, SD, 1.33:1)

This is the intro for the first time the director’s cut was made available from Troma.

30th Anniversary Intro by Lloyd Kaufman (4m 43s, SD)

This is the blu-ray intro. It shows Lloyd “surfing” and talking to Michael Herz (played the Troma staple Joe Fleischaker), who is in the hospital. The banter is worth a few chuckles.

This intro is for the blu-ray of the film, but for some reason , is in standard definition. Why would Troma do this? I know that they aren’t the best when it comes to their dvds and blu-rays, but come on. The first intro that Troma ever did, which was for their first blu-ray release Poultrygeist, was in high definition. This should have been a sure thing.

The Radiation March (53s, SD, 1.33:1)

An interpretive dance number about pollution killing kids. This has been a staple on every dvd and blu-ray that Troma has released since their first dvd.

Intro from the Toxic Crusaders Cartoon (1m 2s, SD, 1.33:1)

This is exactly what you think it is: the opening title song to the short-lived cartoon series. One of the many 80’s, R-rated films to be turned into a kids cartoon series.

Toxie: 15 Years Later (3m 53s, SD, 1.33:1)

A mockumentary about Toxie after the films have been completed. Not really worth the time.
Troma Café: Death of Toxie (4m 54s, SD, 1.33:1)

An episode of Troma Café. Again, not worth the time.

Troma Studio Building Tour (9m, SD, 1.33:1)

Since this is a tour of the building that Troma owns, then you know that this is not going to be a serious tour. There are naked women showering in the exec’s bathroom, half naked women running through the studios, even the penis monster is introducing segments of Troma Café.

Mopboy Secrets with Commentary by Mark Torgl (5m 3s, SD, 1.33:1)

Torgl played Melvin before he became the Toxic Avenger and he provides some nice stories about his time on the set. He talks about having fun for most of the shoot. He, at one point during the film, felt exploited by Troma and refused to shoot the rest of the day. He also talks about the lamb having lice and that is the reason that he isn’t kissing it. Many more stories in this far too short featurette.

Why is Lloyd in a Refrigerator Box? (2m 25s, SD)

This is an ad for Troma’s On Demand offering of their films.

Public Service Announcement (3m 29s, SD)

Here you find a video about jerking off in a hotel room and not paying for it.

Arom Du Troma (2m 2s, SD)

A promo reel of Troma’s films.

Toxic Slideshow (:45s, SD)

Played to music from the film.

Theatrical Trailer (3m 12s, SD)

I love 80’s trailers, so this one was right up my alley. It gives us everything that we need to about the film without giving away too much. Trailers were made with more care back then.

Toxic Trailer Reel (8m 51s, SD)

Here you will find trailers for the rest of the series. The Toxic Avenger Part II, The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV.

Watch the first two trailers (Part II and III) and then watch the trailer for Citizen Toxie. Notice the difference between the ones from the 80’s and the more recent one. There is a care for the craft found in the first two. The Citizen Toxie trailer feels like it was made by someone who doesn’t know how to edit trailers.

88 Films Trailer Reel (21m 55s, HD)

This reel is found on the main menu. The films included are:

-Puppet Master, The

-Pit and the Pendulum, The

-Demonic Toys

-Bloody Birthday

-Two Moon Junction

-Dollman

-Blood Sucking Freaks

-Puppet Master 2

-Puppet Master 3

-Tourist Trap

-Castle Freak

THE PACKAGING [4 out of 4]


88 Films has put together a wonderful package. The steelbook is very nice, if a little plain. The front cover is all white, with the Toxic Avenger found in the center. This image, along with the title of the film and the American flag behind Toxie, is from the theatrical poster.



The embossing is hard to see in this pic, but it is there.
There is some nice embossing found on Toxie’s hands and the mop he is holding. Some more embossing is found on the title of the film. Very nice looking front cover.


The back cover shows Toxie standing on the New Jersey shoreline, looking out at the New York skyline. The World Trade Center is in full view and towers over everything in the picture except for Toxie himself.


The inside has a picture of Toxie standing at a crossroad. This image is taken from the trailer and the film. It is from the montage of when Toxie uses his newly found powers for good.


The disc art is the same art that is found on the front cover. Here is where you will find the only ratings tag on the entire package.

The disc is REGION FREE

THE PICTURE [3.5 out of 4]


Troma provided 88 Films with a brand new scan of the film and it looks really good. There is a fine grain throughout the film and no DNR applied. The detail is adequate and the color reproduction is nice. The film has always looked a little bit faded, so that being reproduced is the right way to go. I hear that the encoding is better on this release than the Troma release, but I couldn’t tell you because 
I don’t own the American blu-ray. There are instances of dirt and scratches from time to time, but 88 Films has gone through the transfer and tried to fix what they could. Troma has done a nice job with this film and 88 Films has done right by the film as well. This is probably the best the film will ever look and that is fine by me.

THE SOUND {3.5 out of 4]


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 offered here is very nice. Dialogue is clear and there are no audio distortions. The film isn’t heavy on action, so there was no need for a surround sound track. This is how the film was made and 88 Films did a fine job of recreating it.

THE FILM [4 out of 4]



The Toxic Avenger is one of the best 80’s films through and through. Even though this is a Troma production, it doesn’t feel like one at times. In fact, this would be the last “normal” film the company would make.

I say “normal” because Troma is known for their outlandish and cheap films. The Toxic Avenger doesn’t feel like it cost nothing to make. The film looks great. The film was photographed by James London (James A. Lebovitz) who plants the film firmly in the real world. Earth colors are the dominate colors here and it lends to the realism of the film. The muted colors add brevity to the film, which allows the gritty and the sleaze to really shine.

This is the last Troma film that would look like this. The rest of the Toxic Avenger series look like cartoons more than anything else and they are what made Troma who they are today. Had Troma stuck with the look of this film, I don’t think that they would have been as popular. By the end of the 80’s, everyone wanted more color and that is exactly what Troma gave them. It also helps the animated series as well. Dark, gritty, and sleazy would not have made for an enduring children’s cartoon.

The acting is really good too. We feel for Melvin Ferd (changed to Junko in the later films.) and we hate the bullies. Melvin comes off as a normal teenager and I think that we can all relate to that. We have all had those dorky moments, even if we don’t want to admit it. When Melvin falls into the vat of toxic waste, left in front of the health club by two truckers who wanted to get high, he turns into the Toxic Avenger, an ugly overgrown man, but he doesn’t lose his heart. This is important to the film. You can’t have a good guy who is an ass. Well, you can, but the audience isn’t going to like the character very much. The fact that Melvin is still a growing man at this point in his life allows the character a charm and vulnerability that is played on in later films.

Andree Maranda, who plays Sara, is the best actor in the film. She accepts Melvin for who he has become, even after she finds out who he is. Maranda brings a sense of class to the film and she can charm even the most hardened bad guy. I wish that she kept going with the series because the actresses that they got after her couldn’t hold a candle to her. They play the role goofy and dimwitted.

Troma has always been known for having great effects work and this film is no exception. This being the first horror film for the company should not deter you from seeing the film. The look of Toxie is brilliant and still the best he has ever looked. The look is more realistic than the rest of the series and once we see his face (which is not shown until later in the film) we are not scared off by it or look away. The effects people have done a great job at making Toxie’s look acceptable by the audience.

The effects work on the gore effects are the true star of the show. Arms get ripped off, heads get bashed together until the skulls burst open, and guts get ripped out from people’s stomachs. 

Everything here looks really realistic and I can see how audiences may have turned their heads when the gorier effects happen. This is not a film that kids should be watching. The gore does fall into the “fun gore” category and not the “disgusting gore” category so many films nowadays fall into.

There are two scenes that involve a head being crushed. The first one is that of a child and it was probably revolting at the time. The fact that the bad guys get out of the car to take pictures of it drive home the fact that the effect was well done.

The other scene takes place inside the health club. Toxie finds a man on the leg lift machine and decides to put the guy’s head underneath the lifted weights. Toxie then drops the weights onto the man’s head. It is a very convincing effect and one that I still wince from. The MPAA made Troma cut this effect and I think that they might have been right. I know that it is sacrilege to say something like that, but the effect is really good and I don’t think that the audience back then would have been able to handle it. Nowadays, it can be shown uncut on channels like Syfy, El Rey, and Impact.

The Toxic Avenger is one of my favorite films. The comedy aspects work well with the horror aspects, creating a film that has stood the test of time. Troma did a great job with the film and I wish that they would make a film like this again. Toxie has become a cultural icon and this is the best film in the series.

OVERALL [3.5 out of 4]



The Toxic Avenger really comes alive with this blu-ray by the overlooked 88 Films. They have done a great job bringing this film to the blu-ray market. The picture and the sound are great. The inclusion of the Japanese Cut was a smart move as got people like me to choose it over the American version. The only thing that I wish was on here is a documentary about the making of the film. I wish that Troma would do a doc for their more important films like The Toxic Avenger. There are still stories to be told and there needs to be someone to document them. Still, this is a great blu-ray that every Troma fan should own. 
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