Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Toxic Avenger: The Director's Cut (1984, Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz)

Anyone who attended the 35th Anniversary of Troma event at the New Beverly theater in Los Angeles this past Thursday April 22nd enjoyed the rare experience of viewing a 35mm print of the very rare director's cut of The Toxic Avenger. This cut included not only the deleted scenes which have been relegated to DVD bonus features and censored TV or foreign cuts (to compensate for the shortened length of the film without its violent scenes) but also rare extensions of certain scenes and two surreal extensions of montages which are so Ed Woodian in nature that they seem to be the work of a prankster editor.

Although my beloved Robert Prichard and Jennifer Baptist were not in attendance, Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma entourage (Tromantourage?) of Gabe Friedman, unpaid interns (of which I was once in the illustrious ranks) and porn star turned sometime actor Ron Jeremy all came out to introduce the film and even do a question and answer round between Toxic and the second film on the bill, Troma's most recent original production Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006, Lloyd Kaufman). Unfortunately Lloyd preferred to answer questions about Poultrygeist before the film was even screened, which put the audience in an awkward position. The few questions asked were about Toxic Avenger and the recently announced remake thereof, which Kaufman was skeptical about the actual fruition thereof and especially tired of answering questions about Troma's sole bonafide hit after 25 years. He did however take the opportunity to announce the 4th Toxic Avenger sequel.

There was only one question asked in regards to the rare extended cut which had just been accidentally screened, regarding the ludicrously extended montages - one of which incongruously incorporated scenes from earlier in the film while the other blatantly repeated the same shots over and over - to which Lloyd Kaufman replied you should never edit a film on acid. While these extended montages certainly indicate some kind of drug influence, this was probably a joke on Lloyd's part. However, another question about Lloyd's decision to change Toxie's voice in the sequels prompted an admission that he simply could not remember his own logic at the time, which helps supports my theory that the raw power of the hit-and-run head crushing scene in Toxic Avenger to disturb was partially accidental.

Here for the first time on the Internet is a detailed summary of the unrated director's cut of The Toxic Avenger. All differences from the unrated 1 hour 22 minute cut are noted in italics and scenes which have previously been included on DVD releases are noted in bold type.

This summary is simply to the best of my recollection and if there are any corrections to be made by readers who were at this screening or have seen this cut I would greatly appreciate them.


Opening narration and main titles

Introduction of Melvin, Bozo, Slug, Wanda, Julie at Tromaville Health Club

Slug and Wanda's locker room sex scene, with additional nude shots of Jennifer Baptist and build up of Mark Torgl being drawn to the sound of her and Robert Prichard making love

Hit and run driving scene

Melvin leaves home the next morning to go to work. He kisses his mother goodbye and lingers on the kiss so long she has to push him away.

Slug puts a snake down an aerobics instructor's shirt

Mayor Belgoody plays golf with a toxic chemical company associate

Melvin gets tricked by Julie into wearing pink tutu, chased out the window and lands in toxic barrel

Melvin runs home and transforms in the Toxic Avenger

Alleyway fight scene, Toxie saves Officer O'Clancy from Cigar Face, Knuckles and Nipples

Officer O'Clancy describes the "Monster Hero" to the press

Police Chief Himmel and gangsters wonder if it was Officer O'Clancy who beat up the thugs

Mayor Belgoody and Chief Himmel discuss drug money losses

Wanda and Slug sauna scene - "I am not an animal, I'm Melvin the mop boy!"

Toxie comes home, scares his mother, makes his new home in the city dump

Mayor Belgoody's new bimbo secretary doesn't speak English

Mayor Belgoody and associates discuss toxic dumping - "Here's to better living through chemistry!"

Mexican restaurant holdup sequence

Toxie fights Mexican restaurant robbers, with extended hand to hand combat choreography against one robber before he takes out nunchucks and grabs a sword from the restaurant wall

Sarah takes Toxie to her home, and makes him a Draino sandwich, which he tosses out the window

Chief Himmel and the police check out the aftermath at the Mexican restaurant

Taco restaurant employees describe Monster Hero to police sketch artist

Dr Snodburger explains to the press that the monster is "compelled to destroy evil"

Julie and Wanda look at photos of hit and run victim in health club, fat girl asks what they're looking at, gets pushed away, then gets Julie to pull her finger and she farts

Toxie enters health club and crushes drug dealer's head with weights

Toxie forces Wanda onto hot sauna rocks - "Let this be a lesson to ya, hot ass!"

Toxie fights a pimp and his goons

Toxie cleans up Tromaville montage

Toxie and Sarah love montage w/ "Is This Love" ballad, extended with shots from previous action scenes in alleyway and Mexican restaurant during their sex scenes. This is hilarious. Also additional shots of Toxie and Sarah rolling around on their bed, playing with hula hoops and dancing in the dump.

Mayor Belgoody sees kids selling "I Love The Monster Hero" shirts, tells them to stop

At the Tromaville Health Club locker room, some guy hits on Julie and she knees him in the junk

Toxie chases Julie into the basement of the health club

Bozo and Slug beat an old lady, steal her car, Toxie kills them as the car speeds through town

Toxie throws a dwarf lady into a laundromat dryer

Toxie comes home to Sarah, scares her, and they decide to hide outside town

Mayor Belgoody gives press conference and announces that the monster must be killed

Fat girl from Tromaville Health Club tells police that Melvin is the monster, Julie and Wanda turn themselves in to police

Chief Himmel tells police he wants the monster killed, extended at the beginning with additional protests from Officer O'Clancy that the monster is a hero

Officer O'Clancy and kid from Mexican restaurant bemoan the decision to kill the monster over ice cream

The police find the tent where Toxie and Sarah are hiding out

National Guard is mobilized, extended into longer montage with shots of Mayor Belgoody overseeing the army jeeps on their way, plus re-using the same shots of tanks and jeeps on their way over and over, plus spinning newspaper headlines including one new one: MONSTER KO'S AUTO MANIACS. This is really poorly put together.

The army and Mayor Belgoody surround tent, extended by kid from Mexican restaurant and Officer O'Clancy protesting what's happening before Toxie and Sarah come out of the tent

Toxie kills Mayor Belgoody, everyone cheers, happy ending


According to IMDB, the Norwegian DVD titled Unrated Director's Cut runs 91 minutes and includes the full hit-and-run scene, Julie and Wanda turning themselves in, and the strange extended montages. No indication if it also includes the rest of the deleted/extended scenes.

In any case, seeing a version with so many extra scenes and the full gore scenes intact was one hell of a treat. I think I prefer this extended version, couldn't have asked for a better theatrical experience of the film. Long live Troma and the New Beverly theater!

Monday, April 5, 2010

An open letter to Robert Prichard and Jennifer Babtist

Read the interview that this letter led to here

Hello, Jennifer!

Hello, Robert!

Hopefully one of you found this Googling yourselves, so first of all welcome to my blog and brace yourself for heaps of adoration!

I don't need to tell you that your performances in The Toxic Avenger helped make the film a beloved classic which endures to this day. The hit and run scene - or rather, the taunt, hit, run, back up and hit again, stop and take pictures with which to later masturbate scene - is in my opinion the pinnacle of shock cinema in the 1980s and possibly of all time. The only real precedent was when Susan Blond threw a baby out the window in Andy Warhol's Bad (1977, Jed Johnson) and your scene is better.

So memorable were your bullies that stage actors have been attempting to replicate your magic in two of the three Toxic Avenger musicals to date. Slug and Wanda have had their backgrounds elaborated upon in the official Toxic Avenger novel. They are intractable parts of the film's legend, all due to the fearlessness with which you tackled such utterly amoral variants on 80s teen movie stock jocks, creating a ghastly hybrid that's yet to be equaled. While Bozo (Gary Schneider) and Julie (Cindy Manion) were in the front seat of that murderous vehicle, your backseat banter ("Ooh, he's a cute little boy!) and prior locker room hanky-pank dirty talk ("I love it when we go real fast and they never know what hit 'em") did an especially amazing job of believably establishing these young Tromaville denizens who somehow along the way in their lives discovered the joys of weekend thrill killing.

I have sooooo many questions. How did you begin to approach these roles? How did you get into the mood? What were your first thoughts when you realized what your roles would entail? What was it like, the night you actually filmed the scene which continues to live in infamy? How did Lloyd Kaufman tell you to play it? He's actually claimed that the scene was based on an article he read in the New York Post, did he ever share this with you? What was improvised? Did you think as your were filming that the scene would turn out as shocking as it did? Has anyone ever angrily accosted you for your participation in the most gleefully disturbing thing ever committed to celluloid?

I'm also a fan of your post-Toxic Avenger work.

Class of Nuke'Em High is the second greatest Troma movie ever made and for some inexplicable reason the least appreciated. Robert,  even moreso than The Toxic Avenger your performance as "Spike" is this film's lifeblood. There are expressions, gestures and line readings which are so damned great that they should have earned you a permanent place in every Troma movie for the rest of time and would have if Lloyd weren't too cheap to build a reparatory company (considering how many cast members from Toxic Avenger show up in Nuke'Em, including a cameo by Jennifer, he seems to have at least considered the idea.) Those expressions you make when tearing out textbook pages in the opening scenes? Brilliant. The goofy reading of "Yoooou still owe us money for the joints you bought yesterday?" double-brilliant hilarious.

I would kill to see your direct to video productions which followed the Troma films, especially the Robert-produced Dick and Jane Drop Acid and Die (1991) and Thrill Kill Video Club (1991), which in addition to being produced by both Jennifer and Robert was written and directed by Robert as well. I know this had a commercial release somewhere as it was written up in several cult film publications and video guides such as Psychotronic. Given that the exploits of Bozo, Julie, Wanda and Slug could have easily inspired their own film, Thrill Kill seems like the closest the world has ever come to fulfilling that promise. Geez, Video Violence has a special edition DVD and this doesn't?! Travesty!

I see that Matt Mitler's Cracking Up (1994), which has both of you credited as producers and co-writing/acting credits for Robert, was released on DVD in 2007 but has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Oh well, at least there's eBay.

Are there any copies left of this or Thrill Kill in your possession? Can we make a deal?

Also, Miss Baptist: I have a rare publicity still featuring you in The Toxic Avenger and would be honored to have your autograph adorn it if you have the time. All postage paid by me of course! By the way, if I had this Playboy photo of yours I'd want it autographed too:

Finally, I don't know if you guys know but this April 22nd at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles there's an anniversary screening of Toxic Avenger and if either of you were planning on attending, it would be a true delight to all us fans.

Thanks for the memories, guys. And the nightmares.