• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

The Toxic Avenger

TITLE: The Toxic Avenger

YEAR: 1984

GENRE: Superhero/Comics and Horror

Back in the early 1980’s Troma Studios was a struggling independent film company producing low-grade sexy comedies for the exploitation and drive-in markets. While at the Cannes Film Festival, Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman read an article in Variety magazine that stated that “horror films are dead”. Knowing that the article was incorrect, Kaufman decided to create his take on the horror film that combined his sexy comedy experience with a half decade old idea of a scary movie in the confines of a health club. The final result of this amalgamation of ideas is one of the great independent films of all time, the creation of the mascot for the studio, and the beginning of a new direction for Troma that later became their bread and butter. The Toxic Avenger was one of the very first over the top socio-political bloodbaths ever created and has become one of the foundation pillars of the independent nerd film world.

Melvin Furd (Mark Torgl) is a literal 98 pound weakling who mops up the messes at the Tromaville Health Club. Health club customers Bozo (Gary Schneider) and Slug (Robert Pritchard) find Melvin to be disgusting and bully him around as much as possible, but when Melvin accidentally sticks his mop into their hot tub Bozo becomes enraged. Bozo plans a simple act of revenge: to have his girlfriend Julie (Cindy Manion) seduce Melvin and make him wear a pink tutu and make out with a goat in front of the rest of the health club patrons. Embarrassed, Melvin ends up jumping out a second story into a barrel of radioactive waste. As a result, Melvin ends up mutating into The Toxic Avenger (Mitch Cohen), a seven foot tall deformed mutant who becomes enraged at any sign of evil or crime and has to kill the immoral perpetrators. The locals start calling The Toxic Avenger “The Monster Hero” and “Toxie”, and the citizens embrace their new superhero of tremendous size and strength. Mayor Belgoody (Pat Ryan), who also is the leader of the local crime syndicate, is annoyed with the superhero’s impact on his profits and sends his group of thugs to end Toxie’s war on crime. Along with his blind girlfriend Sarah (Andree Maranda), the superhero moves to a secluded location but continues his assault on crime including extracting revenge on Bozo and his gang of thugs. When Mayor Belgoody calls in the National Guard to eliminate the deformed crime fighter once and for all, it is up to The Toxic Avenger to defend his girlfriend and to eliminate the mayoral crime syndicate from his beloved Tromaville once and for all.

What makes The Toxic Avenger unique among many independent films of the same timeframe would be the gleefully ridiculous violence and situations that have been copied by numerous film makers but never topped. The film is literally filled with insane violence that at the time was revolutionary film making that made The Toxic Avenger obligatory late night viewing: the fight scene with flamboyancy bi-sexual gang leader Cigar Face (Dan Snow) and his group is insanely entertaining especially when Toxie stuffs Cigar Face in a garbage can and uses his testicles as a punching bag; the scene where Toxie visits Sarah’s home and is inadvertently nailed by the blind lady in the nutsac on several occasions is also entertaining; and the fight scene with some select thugs in a  Mexican restaurant (complete with samurai swords on the wall) and beats one of the thugs with his own dismembered arm is strangely hysterical. Most of the characters are gleefully hilarious and hammy, especially two gay hair dressers who swoon at the sight of the military rolling into town and Cigar Face and his gang who just have to be seen to be believed. The storyline is also well written and the unique coupling of a deformed superhero and a model-quality blind woman is quaint and adds to the insane storyline. There are also some morals about the evils of bullying people and the environment, but the storyline and over the top violence is in the forefront and is subdued enough to keep the film from being preachy. The production values are acceptable although nothing spectacular, but the special effects by Jennifer Aspinall (who later did effects for Street Trash and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull as well as the makeup on the TV show “MadTV”) are revolutionary and include crushing heads, dismemberments, and of course the classic look of the main character.

Academy Award winning Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinnie, In The Bedroom, The Wrestler) has a small role in The Toxic Avenger as a health club member in a towel in her big screen debut. A Hollywood remake is currently in production as of this writing and should see the light of day in 2013 as a more family friendly PG-13 production. When chasing down the original make sure to find the unrated version as much of the historical violence is edited out of the R-rated version. It is also amazing that The Toxic Avenger with all its violent and sexual content spawned a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon called ‘Toxic Crusaders” and an animated film that was more or less the first four TV episodes edited together. Troma films are an acquired taste, but The Toxic Avenger is an obligatory viewing for B-movie fans and holds up to this day as one of the greatest over the top superhero films of any era.

* * * * *

–Mark

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