I’ve already mentioned a poster that caught my attention as a small child in the grocery store my family frequented, but what’s important here, important enough to repeated that anecdote, is that it was the poster for this film. Imagine you are a child with a love for comic books and superheroes and movies related to them. Look at the poster for this film: a musclebound body in a tutu holding a mop with a disfigured head atop it, punching a big green dragon with enormous wings. Come on. That’s pretty exciting. It’s probably ridiculous to you now, but that’s your loss, not mine.
Toxie, the affectionate name for the Toxic Avenger (Ron Fazio), is settled well into Tromaville, NJ with his “seeing impaired” girlfriend Claire (Phoebe Legere) and his mother (Jessica Dublin), so settled that he has run himself out of a job. There’s no more evil to clean up anywhere, and he’s not very good at stopping the “bad” things like old women cheating at cards and children who won’t eat their lima beans (can’t blame them there, personally). He’s concerned about his inability to get a job, trying with the IRS (becoming the “Taxic Avenger”…oh dear) and failing. Claire receives an offer to get her eyes fixed, but it will cost $357,000, which is difficult with Toxie’s inability to get a job. Apocalypse, Inc., however, remembers Toxie’s tendency to clean up their messes, and the Chairman (Rick Collins) plans to get around this by hiring the rather dim-witted hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. Toxie doesn’t note the return address on the job offer and gets Claire her sight, failing to notice the anti-Apocalypse signs and hatred of the townspeople who once loved him, until Clair forces him to face his change into, well, a hduppcossasie. Then he returns to kick Apocalypse out of town, only to discover the Chairman’s true identity as–yes, The Devil.
I have seen this movie many, many times. Honestly, I’m not sure how much–or what–is the difference between the unrated and rated versions of this film, because it is actually the least gory of all the Toxie films. The beginning videostore robbery/vandalism (stopped by Toxie, of course) is probably the only exception to both the completed tonal change (begun in the prior film) and to the absence of gore (generally speaking, at least). There’s a decent bit of gore to Toxie’s typically ridiculous method of bad guy disposal (making full use of both his mop and items in the store). After that, though, deaths are fewer and further between, and most remaining are non-gory or non-human.
The spirit of the second film is continued quite nicely, but this is hardly a surprise when they were originally a single movie and thus filmed simultaneously. The wonderfully out of place but literate quotes of Patrick Henry and Shakespeare–as seen in the prior film, too–are continued and fit the Troma sensibilities perfectly, swinging performances like Phoebe’s from ditzy overly-blind (ie, she swings wildly and does things no real blind person would simply by being blind) tart to the strong firebrand who brings our wayward hero back to the light. Rick Collins is malevolence in caricature as the Chairman, asking that Toxie kneel down and “work for him” (or something…) and cackling evilly with great gusto but intentionally ridiculous melodrama. This is all very much to be expected from a Troma film, but exhibits some of the strongest swings toward more generally acceptable fare Troma ever wandered into, especially once Toxie becomes his form of yuppie.
The real downfall of the film as a Troma film is the disappearance of Toxie toward the end, as the Devil reduces him to Melvin Junko again–but Mark Torgl declined (or wasn’t asked, no one seems sure) to reprise the role (luckily he changed his mind for the fourth film) and so we’re left with Michael J. Kaplan’s performance. As Lloyd himself notes, Kaplan is actually pretty good, but this is the point where the characters in the film disappear from Troma-style “person as caricature” completely into “caricature.” Where Torgl was a guy who could play a believable schmoe of a geek you might stumble across, Kaplan is played up as the caricature of one, with red mullet, buck teeth, fake pimples and Jerry Lewis mannerisms. This is distracting even in youth (but then I’ve always had a firm stance against actor replacement, wherever possible to avoid it), but the reality is that we’ve already changed Toxies, and now we have nothing left to tie this to even the preceding film, let alone the original. Rick Collins does a fair job at distracting from this in a pretty good looking green devil costume, but it’s hard to notice when we’ve got neither Toxie nor Melvin to root for. This Melvin (“Little Melvin” as the characters and credits call him) is annoying and obnoxious, with a falsely nasal voice and little to like.
This isn’t the dregs of film, though, as folks who don’t get Troma will surely believe, but also as hardcore fans of early 80s Troma will likely agree. It’s one of the weakest, to be sure, but really not all bad. It stays entertaining, bringing Toxie a little more into the “superhero” and “comic book” realms, as the second film began things.
But I liked the second Class of Nuke ‘Em High, so what do I know?
*No, I didn’t fall asleep on my keyboard: Hideously Deformed Urban Professional Creature of Superhuman Size and Strength.