Monday, September 10, 2012

The Toxic Avenger Part II and III (1989)

Title: The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989) and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989)

Directors: Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz

Cast: John Altamura, Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, Rick Collins

Today I’ll be reviewing both of these Toxic Avenger movies together because the ‘plot’ of both films is interconnected and they where both filmed back to back with a budget of 2.3 million dollars, which by the way is a lot when talking about Troma Films. So watching both of these movies back to back (which I’ve just done) is sort of like watching one gigantic Toxic Avenger Epic. For all intents and purposes, Troma fans should love both of these films, yet, there seems to be some disdain for both of these movies, even from the perspective of Troma fans and the filmmakers behind these films themselves! For example, CitizenToxie: Toxic Avenger IV (2000) starts out by giving us a summary of Toxic Avenger’s origin then they warn us “then came two shitty sequels, sorry about that. This is the real sequel!” This is something that I cannot understand because Toxic Avenger II and III are in my book, same as most (if not all) Trauma movies,  they are really no different in terms of content and style than parts I or IV, so why the hatred? The Toxic Avenger II and III have everything a Troma film should have; they are purposely imperfect, as if they revere the fact that they are cheap. These films are loud, incoherent, perverse, childish, cartoonish, and offensive to the max. They are also grotesque, gory, violent, and nonsensical with tons of bad taste to spare; but thankfully they can also be fun. When you pay for a Troma film, this is what you are going to get! In my book, both Toxic Avengers II and III are exactly what Troma films are all about.

The Toxic Avenger II starts out by showing us how The Toxic Avenger has successfully eradicated evil from Tromaville, he’s done such a good job that he has no villains to fight. People are so happy in Tromaville that they literally dance in the streets all the time! Out of happiness! The way The Toxic Avenger’s body works is, he has these cells called “Tromatons” and they start acting up whenever evil is near. As soon as these Tromatons detect evil, Toxie can’t control it; he simply goes on a destruction binge until said evil is destroyed. And said evil is a corporation known as Apocalypse Inc., a corporation that tries to take over Tromaville. But thanks to the protection of Toxie, Apocalypse Inc. is effectively kicked out of Tromaville, or so he thinks. For a moment there, at least in the Toxic Avengers eyes Tromaville is safe. Problem is that since there’s no evil for him to fight, Toxie feels as if his life has lost all sense of direction. He is so depressed and bored that he ends up visiting his shrink, who suggests that Toxie should try and find his long lost father, who apparently calls himself ‘Big Mac’ and resides in Japan. So off goes Toxie to Japan! Will he find his father? Will Apocalypse Inc. make a come back and try and take over Tromaville?

The Toxic Avenger Part II is in my book a fun sequel; it has all the zaniness and nuttiness one could want from a Troma movie. Have you ever seen The Toxic Avenger turn an evil black midget into a basket ball? And then slam dunk said midget? This happens on this film, and it is not the craziest of ideas you will see in this movie! In the huge action sequence that opens the film (well huge for Troma standards) Apocalypse Inc.’s evil minions attack a home for the blind! And blow it up! If you know anything about these movies, then you know that blowing up a home for the blind is just a way of getting warmed up. Both of these Toxic Avenger movies are a barrage of gags and ideas that never stop. Like a Sam Raimi Evil Dead movie, these Toxic Avengers never give you a break, the gags just keep coming and coming!

The problem for me with The Toxic Avenger Part II is when Toxie goes to Japan. Now, here’s a cool idea, send Toxic Avenger to Japan! The idea alone makes you think that you’re going to be seeing something totally different. And you do, it’s kind of funny seeing this monstrous deformity known as The Toxic Avenger roaming the streets of Japan as Japanese people freak out and run the other way. For a whole segment of the film, we simply see Toxie walking around all these Japanese landmarks, posing, as if someone was taking a Polaroid of him. Unfortunately, after a while you realize that the film sort of looses its steam. Where in its first half we get an avalanche of non stop craziness, once Toxie reaches Japan the film kind of comes to a complete halt. There is a moment in which Toxie fights some Japanese goons, but it comes so late in the Japan segment that by that time you feel bored. It’s not until Toxie returns to Tromaville that the film picks up its previous frenetic, coked up pace. This in my book is the films only true fault, the Japanese segment is sort of a let down, it’s kind of boring, if you ask me, it should have been crazier.  But fear not my friends, once Toxie gets back to Tromaville things get nuts again! The whole film ends on a high note for me, with this nonsensical car chase in which Toxic Avenger commandeers a taxi driven by a latino, so he can chase down one of Apocalypse Inc.s minions. The whole thing is made even more hilarious because a pair of old timers are riding in the back seat of the car, screaming their heads off! This was a very fun way to end the movie.   

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie is a better film in my book. It never leaves Tromaville, the town where people never stop dancing in the streets! Once again Tromaville is at peace. There’s no evil to eradicate and again, Melvin Junko a.k.a. The Toxic Avenger falls into a depression. Things are so happy in Tromaville that all Toxic Avenger ends up fighting is an old lady who is cheating in a card game and making sure a baby eats his veggies. With no true evil to fight, The Toxic Avenger gets depressed, unfortunately, Melvin is also unemployed! He has no income! But wait, here comes a letter offering The Toxic Avenger a job at Apocalypse Inc! In order to help his girlfriend (who is blind!) regain her eyesight, he decides to take the job so he can pay for her eye operation. Unfortunately, this means that now Melvin will be working for Apocalypse Inc. Will his soul become corrupted? Will greed take over The Toxic Avenger? Yes my friends, this is yet another film that hates Big Business, huge corporations hell bent on taking over the world. At one point when Melvin is offered the job at Apocalypse Inc. the chairman of said company offers it all to him as if it was Satan, offering Jesus the kingdoms of the world. But unlike Jesus, who refuses Satan’s offerings, Melvin takes the job and so unknowingly sells his soul to the devil.

Basically Toxic Avenger III: The Last Temptation of Toxie turns Toxie into a Yuppie, which at first Toxie thinks is totally okay because he’s making some money, but then realizes is a mistake, because he is now a slave to an evil corporation that wants to enslave the citizens of Tromaville. The only reason why Toxie agrees to work for Apocalypse Inc. is because he wants to make enough money so that his blind girlfriend Claire can get an operation that will restore her eyesight. It’s kind of funny seeing Toxie walking around, dressing up like a yuppie, jogging while listening to his walkman, using a suit and a tie, reading The Wall Street Journal and talking the yuppie lingo.

Toxie's girl, Claire

Something I’ve always enjoyed about the Toxic Avenger films is that they have this “made by the people for the people” feel to them. Aside from the fact that the production of these film itself involves a lot of “real people” and not Hollywood robots, in these films, The Toxic Avenger is always going after some evil corporation that either wants to turn everyone into slaves, or wants to privatize everything. Toxie is there to protect the people against these evils, which is funny because ‘the people’ always end up becoming a part of the action. Both of these Toxic Avenger movies start and end with the whole town present, standing up against the evil, right next to The Toxic Avenger and we always get to see their facial reactions to the gruesome ways in which The Toxic Avenger takes care of business. So these films are cool in that way, ‘the people’ always stand up for themselves as well. Another element that sets The Toxic Avenger Part III apart is that Toxie ends up fighting against Satan himself! When Satan decides to finally fight against The Toxic Avenger himself, ‘mano a mano’ as they say, he chooses to do so as if he was in a videogame. You see, old Beelzebub knows that Toxie likes playing a video game called “The Five Levels of Doom” so Satan decides that he’ll go up against Toxie as if they were in this video game, each level a bit different then the next. Nifty idea!

There’s something to be said about The Toxic Avenger himself. Here’s a guy who used to be a nerd of gargantuan proportions, he got dumped into a vat of toxic waste and now he is hideously deformed, yet has gained super strength! It's one of those the worm turns sort of stories, where the one who used to  get picked on, now gets to pick back! His new found powers enable him to fight evil! It is a very strange character because even though he takes bad guys and rips them apart (literally!) he has a certain nobility to him. He isn’t a complete ass, in many ways he is in fact a good guy. He protects the people, even if he does go to extreme measures to do it. In fact, Toxic Avenger fits the description of a rebel, a true rebel. A person who hates those that abuse humanity, and takes manners into his own hands to protect the innocent, he is a rebellious leader, no doubts about it. He’s methods are just a tad too extreme, but sometimes that’s what it takes.

So that’s my take on these two Toxic Avenger movies. In my book, they are both fun times and on a technical level they are superior then the sequel that followed Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000) which somehow manages to look even cheaper then these two films. In fact, if I am not mistaken,  The Toxic Avenger II and III are the most expensive Toxic Avenger films Troma ever produced! All other Toxic Avenger films cost less than 500,000, including the latest one! And to be honest, you can tell they had more money. There’s more explosions, more stunts, more gore, more make up effects. All in all, these are a fun pair of films, I mean, they aren’t Shakespeare (that would be Tromeo and Juliet!) but they sure are fun to watch. You have to get into a certain ‘low budget’ mindset to watch these films. If you don’t like excessive violence, b-movies, foul language, nudity, sex, gore, vomit (and other bodily fluids) decapitations or cheap production values in your movies…then don’t bother with these, but if in the other hand you are easily amused and enjoy, silly movies that don’t take themselves to seriously, then indulge! A dip in Tromaville’s pool of cinematic toxic waste is fun every once in a while.

Rating Toxic Avenger Part II: 2 out of 5
Rating Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie: 2 ½ out of 5  


venoms5 said...

I remember being overly excited to see these two when they were announced and being devastatingly disappointed after finally watching them.

Troma had went mainstream at that time with their overblown TROMA'S WAR which is their biggest budgeted movie ever. Somewhere between 15 and 20 million if I remember right. It bombed in theaters as did these two TOXIC sequels. The second one was drastically cut for an R as was TROMA'S WAR which suffered massive cuts for violence. It also got A LOT of flack for being offensive especially with its AIDS jokes.

To me, right after CLASS OF NUKE'EM HIGH from '86, their style changed slightly. You could definitely see a difference between films like WAITRESS!, STUCK ON YOU, FAT GUY GOES NUTZOID, TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE'EM HIGH and everything that came after TROMA'S WAR.

Their bigger budgeted movies look even cheaper than the earlier ones, imo. For me, their best stuff is pre 1986. Everything after that is hit or miss, but mostly miss. TROMEO & JULIET is about as close as they got to capturing the air of their earlier stuff, although I have seen little of their more recent movies to make a fair comparison of the newer fare.

Nice, energetic write ups, Fran!

Franco Macabro said...

I'd never heard of Tromas War, so I guess that shows how well versed I am in the world of Troma films! Wikipedia says the films budget was 17 million, I never even knew that Troma films had produced anything that high! It doesn't fit them to do expensive films like that, TROMA should always be low budget in my book!

I've only seen the Class of Nuke Em High movies, The Toxic Avengers..and I'm about to watch Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD in the next couple of weeks. Tromeo and Juliet, Terror Firmer and Poultrygeist are also on my list, so I guess I'll be going to Tromaville for the next couple of days!

Dentist Saratoga Springs said...

Oh my gosh I gotta see this movie. Thank you so much for the post.

Franco Macabro said...

No problem, glad you found it informative!

Jack Thursby said...

Never got around to watching these two despite having watched the 1st and 4th one. Sounds like I will have to rectify that - I always enjoy a stupid/silly Troma movies every now and then.

Franco Macabro said...

They are amusing! Toxie smashes villains heads to smithereens, sometimes so much happens in these movies in such a small amount of time that you feel as if a lot of time has passed, then you check your watch and realize only ten minutes have gone by!

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Well done for sitting through these! I have a friend who is obsessed with Troma movies.

Franco Macabro said...

I plan on watching a couple more in the next couple of days, so come back and read more about the Troma films I'll be watching; I'm not an expert on these, but I'm exploring Lloyd Kaufmans films; he represents in my book the embodiment of true independent filmmaking.

Thanks for commenting!

venoms5 said...

I've not seen as many of their post 86 movies, Fran. They get on my nerves for the most part. I have one of Kaufman's books, EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT FILMMAKING I LEARNED FROM THE TOXIC AVENGER, I think is the name of it without me going to get it off the shelf, lol. It was really funny and a good read.

Franco Macabro said...

I've been meaning to get a hold of that book, I love reading books like that one because they motivate me in my filmmaking, I've had that one on my wishlist for a while, I think it's time I picked it up. His insights must be good, considering he makes his films with such low budgets, its the kind of film I will most likely end up making in the near future, something with a really small budget, but hey, sometimes the best creative juices come out of films with very little money! I will be watching another Troma film soon, I'll be posting the review possibly next week, their films are fun and mindless which is what I need sometimes.

Thanks for commenting Brian!


Related Posts with Thumbnails