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.


surfdaddy said...

Hey Chip,
Just saw this. Matt Mitler forwarded the link. Wow. You really are too kind. Thank you!
If you get a chance check out "Cracking Up".
These days I run a small live event production company called Surf Reality... and we've been noticed by webster's on line dictionary ( scroll to the bottom of the defination )

Is that cool or what?

Our next show is at The Bowery Poetry Club
Thurs. Sept.28 @ 8PM

Thanks again.
Rob Prichard

Chip Butty said...

Hi Robert!!!

Surf Reality sounds awesome. I will try to see it when I am next in New York and until then I'll somehow get my hands on "Cracking Up" and maybe "Thrill Kill Video Club" if I'm lucky.

If you wouldn't mind responding to a few questions about your film performances, please just send me an email...

Be well, and thank Matt Mitler for me!

surfdaddy said...