Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz’s “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is that kind of zany superhero spoof that, with some watering down, probably could have been a Warner Bros. cartoon in the nineties. After having such immense success with Toxie, Troma makes a second grab for cult fame, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle once again. Thankfully, not only is Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. one of Troma’s most iconic and popular characters who stands proudly beside Toxie, but his movie is good to boot. “Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is filled with the typical Troma tropes that make it such a blast. The acting is iffy, the violence is gruesome, the humor is off the wall and original, and the pacing is break neck.
I would be lying if I said that “Troma’s War” is one of the best efforts from Troma. While it tries very hard to elicit some kind of political satire and tackle the idea of exploitation movies, it’s kind of a missed effort. Truth be told, “Troma’s War” is more of a chore to sit through than anything. It’s creative and a neat addition to a collection if you love Troma, but overall, it’s a loud, head ache inducing attempt at an action movie that can never quite put a finger on what it wants to be. It’s a disaster movie, a war movie, an action movie, an “Airplane!” style spoof, and then a political satire. It tries to roll all of these genre elements in to one frantic ball, but stumbles left and right with its intentions.
Carmine Capiobianco is the beloved star of such below-the-radar/over-the-top classics as “Psychos in Love,” “Galactic Gigolo,” “Land of College Prophets,” “Bikini Bloodbath” and “The Sins of Dracula.” Most recently, he starred in Debbie Rochon’s “Model Hunger” and the documentary “VHS Massacre.” On today’s show, Carmine discusses his illustrious career in underground cinema with host Phil Hall.
“BC Butcher” was made by Ms. Bowling when she was seventeen and she poured all of her resources in to making an hour long feature that paid tribute to the B movies of the sixties. Bowling has a clear cut love for drive-in trash like “Teenage Caveman” and “Eegah!” and delivers a schlocky indie film that also doubles as the first slasher film set during the caveman era. Filled with a lot of call backs to the sixties, and absolutely no attention to historical accuracy, Bowling has an obvious goal here, delivering a movie that’s more a practice in tongue in cheek, rather than straight up horror. You really can’t bash a film that features a supporting role by Kato Kaelin, and is narrated by Kadeem Hardison, too heavily.
The character that helped build Troma in to the company we know and love it as today, is still a wonderful and fun anti-hero who finds himself dropped in to fate’s door after a mean prank pulled on him one day. In Tromaville New Jersey, Melvin is a young janitor for a local health club dominated by a pair of muscle bound bullies. By day, the bullies roam around the club taunting Melvin and hanging around with their busty girlfriends, but by night they’re vicious hit and run murderers that take joy in killing children and helpless animals. After Melvin accidentally runs afoul one of the bullies, his girlfriend invites Melvin to a private rendezvous on the condition he wear a pink tutu.
After realizing he’s been the victim of a prank, Melvin crashes through a window and falls in to a drum of toxic ooze. Disfigured and transformed in to the muscle bound Toxic Avenger, he roams the streets of Tromaville murdering criminals and rapists, and laying down the law with his handy mop. Despite the very low budget, “The Toxic Avenger” works as a simultaneous superhero action tale and monster movie. A lot like “Robocop,” Troma’s superhero gets the job done in the most violent manner possible.
Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman are never above being as splatterific as possible, showing off a ton of gruesome moments including Toxie taking off a thug’s nose, and tearing another’s arm clean off. Of course a lot of the movie doesn’t reserve the grue for the bad guys, eliciting genuine cringe inducing moment when Melvin is turned in to the Toxic Avenger. Even for an indie film in 1984, the sight of Melvin’s skin pulsing and bulging from the toxic waste is grotesque and you hate to see such a goofy protagonist be reduced to this monster. Toxie is kept in the dark for most of his introduction, as he begins feeling his way around his strengths and weaknesses, and realizing his mutation allows him a chance to fight evil.
He begins to take on the bigger nemesis when he realizes the local police force is run by a corrupt chief and his sergeant whose attitude is very Nazi like. Herz and Kaufman give Toxie some time to even fall in love with a beautiful blond girl, and do battle with the villains from the gym. “The Toxic Avenger” is still a fun and off the wall action horror movie with its own twist on the superhero sub-genre. Leave it to Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz to take typical superhero tropes and twist in to something wonderfully gruesome and absurd.
The nineties were filled with superheroes created by lab accidents or green ooze, and Toxie was one of the better ones. You figure turning one of the most gruesome cult movies of all time in to a PG rated cartoon would be disastrous, but “Toxic Crusaders” actually works well. It’s a fun and funny take on the original source material that embraces all the madness and absurdity of the Troma movie series, and I find it to be a great little companion piece to the original film.
Any movie that begins with inexplicable opening narration from Stan Lee is an automatic win in my book. From the opening exposition from Stan “The Man,” to clips from the previous “Nuke ‘Em High” series, “Return Vol. 1” is really a return to form for people that appreciated the punk rock trash “Class of Nuke Em High” series that had no limits in bad taste and grue. It’s an entirely new generation with an entirely new subtext, and Lloyd Kaufman embraces those themes head on and without fear of controversy.
It should serve as no surprise that since its initial release, “Sell Your Own Dan Movie!” has sold big with aspiring filmmakers across the country, and it should also serve as no surprise that “Sell Your Own Damn Movie!” is probably the best how to guide for indie filmmakers on how to get their completed films out there and consumed for mass audiences. Whether you love Troma to death or hate Lloyd Kaufman like date rape, there’s no denying that the man has amassed decades of experience in indie filmmaking and has built an encyclopedic knowledge on the do’s and don’t’s on selling your film and how to get certain audiences aware of your creative work.
Co-author Lloyd Kaufman has a lot of wonderful and genius advice for indie flmmakers on how to sell their movies and get them in to festivals, and he does so with a ingenuity and humor that’s admirable. True, the book is mainly a how to guide, but it’s also laugh out loud funny. The chapters are filled with addendums that will make you giggle more times than you can count, and often times co-author Sara Antill adds her own addendums to Kaufman’s own anecdotes or false information that will spark some real gut busters from the reader. The list of ways you can raise money for festival entry fees is probably the funniest part of the book. While Kaufman and Antill definitely have their fun and lighten the mood with their dry wit and sharp humor, the book doesn’t hold back with its facts and truths. Getting your film seen is tough, getting it out there is even worse. Odds are you won’t get a distribution deal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try as hard as you can.