The Toxic Avenger Part II Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Troma Entertainment
Directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman
Written by Gay Partington Terry and Lloyd Kaufman
1989, 109 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on April 21st,, 2015
Ron Fazio / John Altamura as The Toxic Avenger
Phoebe Legere as Claire
Mayako Katsuragi as Masami
Lisa Gaye as Malfaire
Rick Collins as Apocalypse Inc. Chairman
Five years ago, Melvin the mop boy was a 98-pound weakling working as a janitor in Tromaville, but after a gang of thugs tossed him into a barrel of toxic waste, his body mutated and he became the Toxic Avenger, the first superhero from New Jersey. He successfully battled the criminal element and single-handedly removed corruption from the city. In doing so, he also won the heart of Claire, his beautiful buxom blonde blind girlfriend. An era of peace began in Tromaville and the citizens enjoyed such activities as dancing in the streets, tattoo artistry and producing delicious orange juice. Now, their tranquil existence has been shattered by Apocalypse Inc., the evil corporate conglomerate determined to destroy the city, turning it into a barren wasteland.
Toxie battles countless waves of hired assassins as the Center for the Blind comes under terrorist attack. His brutal display of power ends with a pile of bodies and a river of blood, but the criminal masterminds remain undeterred. Knowing they are physically unable to defeat the superhero, they instead find a way to distract him by arranging a trip to Japan in search of his father. Toxie arrives in Tokyo and immediately rescues Masami, a local girl from a gang of scumbags. She offers to help with his quest and together they face a new criminal element that includes ninjas and monsters and an array of unexpected surprises. His travels confirm his desire to do good things even by incredibly violent methods, and soon Toxie is ready to fight for himself, his country and his girlfriend.
In 1985, filmmakers Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz scored an impressive win with their violent superhero picture The Toxic Avenger. Mixing genre traditions with extreme levels of violence and gore, the film was a hit with audiences and created a new cinematic icon. Over the next fifteen years, the titular character would star in three sequels, an animated cartoon for kids and become the marketing mascot for Troma Entertainment. In 1989, the first inevitable sequel arrived and while it managed to include and expand upon all of the elements that worked in the original, this film stumbles in its excess. There is a lot of pausing of the action in order to run a joke into the ground. If the first movie is an over-the-top criticism of violence in cinema, this victory lap is simply more of the same, but without the creative push.
The Toxic Avenger Part II is the epitome of an “and then....” script where the plot unfolds one set-piece at a time without motivation. Toxie solves all the crime in Tromaville... and then he fights new bad guys... and then he goes to Tokyo.... The story points flow A-B-C-D down the line until the end scene. There is no character development or growth; we do not learn anything about the new villains beyond their label. The wandering plot is loosely held together by an abundance of goofy narration from the titular character, but fails to connect in any meaningful way. The weak script is further hampered by the “spaghetti on the wall” approach of throwing everything at the screen in hopes of getting a response. Nothing is held back, but it smacks more of desperation than the result of an overly intriguing idea mined for all substance.
Troma Entertainment is known in part for its extreme, over-the-top sense of humor, including an unapologetic devotion to slapstick comedy and ham-fisted acting performances. Kaufman and Herz frequently push the limits of bad taste with their (at times) raunchy content paired with unexpected levels of graphic violence. This approach is a turnoff to a lot of audiences, but fans that appreciate their style are ferociously loyal and have helped the company endure for four decades. In order to receive an R rating, The Toxic Avenger Part II was subjected to substantial cuts that removed almost every ounce of bloodshed. Several versions of the film have appeared on home video and cable television over the years, with the long-absent uncut release circulating in Japan. It is this complete cut of the film that first appeared in the “Tox Box” DVD collection (2002) that has been remastered for the Blu-ray debut. The film has a lot of problems, as stated above, and the new video transfer has troubles of its own, as detailed below, but if you have never seen a Troma movie, this is a reasonable place to start.
Video and Audio:
Troma Entertainment has long been known for their willingness to support new technology. As early adopters, their film catalog has been found on every home video format and now streams readily across the internet. Based on their unbridled support for DVD and the possibilities of including remastered transfers and a bounty of supplemental materials, I would have expected the leap into the Hi-Def world of Blu-ray would be a no-brainer. Sadly, my turn of phrase was more accurate than I could have predicted. Troma’s track record with the HD format has been troubling to say the least. Whoever is in charge of creating these discs needs to be replaced immediately.
The Toxic Avenger Part II appears to have been remastered, but a breakdown along the way to disc production has derailed this release, resulting in an image quality that is 480i rather than the expected 1080p. In layman’s terms, this is VHS picture quality on a Blu-ray disc. I would love to believe it was a simple mistake that will be recalled and corrected, but this is not the only case in which a Troma title has received a terrible video transfer.
Dolby Digital 2.0 was an awesome creation in 1995, but two decades later, Troma appears to be the only company still embracing it. The audio is serviceable and remains free of any significant issue, but is consistently muddy and lacks any power, thus failing to impress at every opportunity. English is the primary language in this film, but there is a generous amount of material set in Japan and sadly there are no English subtitles offered to translate the scenes spoken in Japanese.
Troma has switched out the supplements for this Blu-ray edition and ported over only some of the content previously available from the Tox Box DVD. Completists will want to consider hanging onto the earlier release for the full spectrum of bonus content.
Lloyd Kaufman’s audio commentary has been carried over from the DVD and is easily the highlight of the supplemental material found here. Kaufman has no time for sugar-coating stories, instead delivering a fast-paced, unvarnished account of the film’s difficult production.
There are two introductions to this disc; the first is a new segment featuring Kaufman in Copenhagen as he shares a few new jokes and bits of trivia about the picture (3 minutes). The other is a vintage DVD intro that finds Kaufman in high spirits as he proudly welcomes viewers to the digitally remastered disc (1 minute).
Fans will be happy to spend a few minutes catching up with their favorite mutated hero in the featurette At Home with Toxie (4 minutes), a goofy segment that plays on the traditional celebrity fluff piece. This appeared on the DVD originally titled Toxie: 15 Years Later.
A Word from Troma’s Villainess Lisa Gay (2 minutes) offers the actress a moment to reflect on her career and work with Troma. The segment is another carryover, evidenced by her request to appear in the upcoming Citizen Toxie (2000)
Unfortunately, Toxie on Japanese T.V. (3 minutes) remains untranslated despite long-available technology. The news piece offers an interview with Japanese star Mayako Katsuragi, and a look behind the scenes as Kaufman directs.
The original theatrical trailer is also included for a look at the film’s marketing campaign.
A few additional non-film specific Troma extras are included but remain irrelevant.
A DVD copy of the film is provided in this release and offers a handful of extras missing from the Blu-ray, including a behind the scenes photo gallery (17 images) and interviews with Fangoria’s Michael Gingold and Video Hound’s Mike Mayo.
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