Lloyd Kaufman’s Guardians Of The Galaxy cameo has been 30 years in the making.
Obviously the direct cause is the schlock svengali’s relationship with director James Gunn – mentoring him through his first film for Kaufman’s company, 1996’s Tromeo And Juliet, and in return hooking him up with cameos in Super and Slither – but more than sharing a lovable huckster persona with Stan Lee, Kaufman has provided the R-rated, ooze-flecked answer to Marvel Comics for three decades.
Arguably the first straight-up subversion of Lee, Kirby and Ditko’s playbook of Silver Age tropes, skinny mop-wielding weakling Melvin is bullied by the muscular Charles Atlas-ad sociopaths of Tromaville Health Club.
Plunging from a first floor window into a conveniently parked truck filled with toxic waste, Melvin’s skin boils and bubbles until he is reborn as the seven-foot, crime-fighting mutant behemoth known to B-movie fans the world over as the Toxic Avenger.
He’s kinda like the Hulk, with the backstory of Peter Parker, and he even gets a blind girlfriend able to see past (figuratively, obviously) his deformities like Ben Grimm. There’s a sort of shared universe too in Tromaville, the cartoonishly grim New Jersey town that acts as the basecamp for Toxie’s adventures as well as Class Of Nuke ‘Em High, Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead and more.
Left at that, The Toxic Avenger would simply be a spoof but there’s so much more dripping readily from the movie like Toxie’s own pustules to anchor it to one genre.
There’s plenty of low-brow comedy and boobs, a dash of body horror and gross-out ick, plenty of straight-up weirdness, smirking anti-authoritarianism and a wedge of satire aimed at the neurotic narcissism and faddish self-indulgence of the mid-Eighties.
It’s one of the most punk-rock movies ever made. That’s the Troma ethic in a sentence, and its at its absolute best in The Toxic Avenger, now on uncut (the full ‘director’s cut’ that is, not the ‘unrated extended cut’) Blu-ray from Troma’s own remastering.
While much of the studio’s output has to come prefixed with apologies from those already immersed in Kaufman’s delirious worldview to those who aren’t, you can just set anyone up with Toxie and they’ll have a blast.
If that isn’t the making of a truly great film, what is?