Posts Tagged ‘Troma’

Movie Reviews 436 – Graduation Day (1981)

May 29, 2020

If you were to believe the cover of my DVD (not the poster shown here) then Vanna White, the letter flipping goddess of night time game show Wheel of Fortune, was the star of the film Graduation Day. In actual fact, she barely makes opening credits, being literally the last person listed, which should prepare you for the fact that her role – if you can even call it that – is one of those ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ ones. And true to form, I did miss her while watching, but more because she was so young compared to how she later looked on the show. So right out of the gate, the expected, yet clearly misguided marketing had me wondering what I was in for.

My next surprise was to see that this was a Troma production. While the name of schlockmeister producer-director extraordinaire Lloyd Kaufman was nowhere to be found, the good folks at Troma are the ones who gave us such low brow classics as The Toxic Avenger, Father’s Day and Tales from the Crapper among the dozens of other B-film delights. Now I’m not averse to watching Troma movies, on the contrary, I believe that everyone should indulge in their brand of mindless entertainment on occasion, but I just wasn’t expecting that here.

You don’t have to be a genius to infer from the title that this film is probably about a bunch of school kids that will be ceremoniously killed off, and such turns out to be exactly the case. And for all the other flags encountered in those first few minutes, I must say that I had little hope for the rest, but I trudged on.

The film begins with a group of girls running in some high school race at track meet as they are cheered on by a grandstand of students and coaches. When one girl suddenly falters mid-stride suffering from some medical emergency and then dying right on the spot, she inadvertently sets in motion a serial killer among the student body. Taking a page from the Giallos that preceded it, the film then employs a black gloved killer point of view, stopwatch in hand, for the mounting pile of teen bodies, each death being ceremonially X’ed off from a team photo.

Included in the range of suspects is the runner’s elder sister (Patch Mackenzie), a knockout military officer who comes back home to pick up her graduation award and armed with many questions even before the spree begins. Then there is her stepfather who seems more interested in any insurance proceeds. Is it the overbearing coach (Christopher George) whose drive for athletic supremacy may not only have led to the girl’s death, but also resulted in his firing? And what’s up with the sleazy, lounge lizard, toupee wearing music teacher? The principal with the switchblade collection? The spineless cranky cop? The mystery is spiced up by a string of crude, sometimes laughable, yet still fun, student demises, mostly with some sort of sport or sport equipment involved.

I have to admit that the nostalgia factor for myself was not merely tied into the fact that this was an 80’s slasher, but the entire look and feel of the school and students brought back memories of my own high school (Go JFK!), right down to the green and yellow school colors of the skin tight gym shorts and tees. Throw in retro oversized radio headphones, roller skates, a peach colored suit, and last but not least, scream queen Linnea Quigley and I was sold. While the reveal was far from a surprise (some of the kills give it away) it does end with a nice Psycho-esque ending.

So what is my rating for this movie? I’d like Vanna to reveal the letter B please!

Movie Reviews 282 – The Toxic Avenger (1984)

December 23, 2016

The Toxic AvengerThe Toxic Avenger was not only an indie horror sensation, it was what made Troma Entertainment a household name in the B-movie industry and introduced us to the straight-laced but dark minded Lloyd Kaufman, producer and frontman for the enterprise. The character of the toxic avenger, now revered and affectionately nicknamed Toxie by fans, became the de facto mascot for the company and spurned a number of sequels over the years, but it all started right here.

Melvin Ferd (Mark Torgl) is a mop slopping human punchbag at the gym he works in, the perennial butt of jokes and target of muscled jocks and workout leotard wearing prima donnas alike. After one particular incident Melvin gets chased by the entire gym and thrown through a second storey window only to land in a barrel of toxic waste that is conveniently located on a parked truck out front. With oozing and bubbling skin he then transforms into a toxic monstrosity taking another dent in his already pathetic social life and any chance of getting a hot chick like those who surround yet despise him.

But things take a turn for the better when he rescues Sarah (Andree Maranda) from a bunch of thugs robbing a restaurant, an act that not only begins his career as a vigilante but ends his search for love and acceptance. From that point he begins to clean up the town of all evil, moving into a dilapidated makeshift home in a junkyard surrounded by bubbling slime and puffing swamp gases. But for a time he is happy as long as Sarah doesn’t accidentally kill him with her cooking.

Unfortunately his efforts to cleanse the town does not sit well with the evil mayor and his crony councilors who practice all manner of illegal activity and strong arm tactics backing their embezzlement and narcotics operations. Worried that Toxie will eventually get to them, they decide to throw all their resources to taking him down while he continues to aid the poor, the elderly, the downtrodden, and any victim of crime.

Pushed to the limits, the mayor manages to get the US army tanks and troops staring down their barrels as Toxie stands in front of his home as the town dwellers, friend and foe stand as an audience to the final showdown.

Like a modern day Frankenstein, Toxie is the embodiment of the outsider who only searches for acceptance in society. But instead of dark gothic drama The Toxic Avenger delivers the story amidst blowups, boobs, and flying bodies. The effects, while decidedly low budget are effective, but most of all fun.

The success of this movie gave rise to three sequels, a Saturday morning cartoon and even a musical. I especially looking forward to watching The Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie if only for the numerous celebrity cameos. And you may want to keep a lookout for Marisa Tomei as she is in this first film. My 15th anniversary DVD was chock full of goodies including a whole bunch of clips showing the Troma studio digs in Manhattan and what other goods lurk in the offices and corridors. I think I spent as much time checking out the Extra Features as I did watching the movie.