There’s a little field in the vaster valley of pop culture that’s just littered with puzzling kids entertainment based on thoroughly adult genre titles. Might you recall the Rambo and Robocop Saturday morning cartoons? Or the brighter, cleaner Aliens and Terminator action figures of the early 90s?
I suppose there’s no reason a concept can’t be tailored to kids in one iteration and then to grown-ups in another, but there’s always that scary scenario that plays out in the minds of a parents group. Picture, if you will, a seven-year-old boy watching Toxic Crusaders on TV and his attention resultantly being caught by the Toxic Avenger Part III on the shelf of the local tape store. He pleads his Mom to rent it and she hesitates because the tape’s unrated, but the lil' tyke still convinces her - - it’s based on a children’s show! It can’t be inappropriate! That little boy then watches the grotesque, vulgar, ultra-violent, sex-crazy VHS and his life is irrevocably warped from that point onward.
Unlike the fever dreams of watchdogs, that story’s true because I was that little boy once. And, now, look at me! LOOK AT WHAT I’VE GROWN UP INTO!! LOOK AT HOW PERVERTED I’VE BECOME!!!
Look, just compare...
The decision to turn an intentionally-crass midnight movie into an environmentally-conscious children’s program - - and the many, many development meetings that logically had to occur in between - - still confounds me. America may never know the true explanation of who had the first idea and why, but I tried to understand it a little better last December when all four Toxic Avenger movies were offered in the complimentary section of Time Warner's OnDemand programming.
Watching these as desensitized man instead of a callow kid, I was honestly less shocked by the signature Troma grotesqueries than I was by how… quaint the movies felt. Yes, quaint. Maybe the translation to a toon wasn’t actually that drastic of a departure, after all. Honestly, if you excised all the gore, boobies and dirty words (like basic channels tend to, anyway) you’d have something right at home in a block with Heathcliff and Rock 'N Wrestling. I mean... Part III has a montage set to a Brenton Wood song and Part IV's narrated by Stan Lee. All that's missing is a cheesy theme with a simple chorus.
As transgressive as these flicks want to seem, they're harmless at the core. Even when Part IV tries hard to be as politically-incorrect as possible to make up for the middle movies playing it safe.
Do I really need to detail the plot for you to get what they’re all about? I thought about featuring these in Serious About Series, but there's not much to talk about. The first one’s about a 98-lbs weakling, Melvin Ferd, who gets turned into a mutant vigilante after he’s thrown into some radioactive waste by a bunch of bullies. Part II’s about him going to Japan, Part III’s about him fighting the Devil and, in the fourth one, he encounters his evil alternate-reality doppelganger, the Noxious Offender.
And, oh yeah, Toxie has a lot of sex with his ditzy blind girlfriend, Sarah, throughout all of that. I bring that up because I got in trouble when my Mom walked into the TV room while I was watching the two of them make fireworks in Part III, both literally and figuratively. Thanks for that one, Troma.
There was a time when the Toxic Avenger was mandatory viewing for every self-respecting cult movie aficionado. You didn’t have to be a Troma fan, but you had to at least be aware of Toxie. However, I sense that the worm’s turned and a lot of you Screened Pups might not actually be too familiar with" the first superhero from New Jersey." If that’s the case, then I feel compelled to point your eyes and noses to this saga to demonstrate how a rude spoof that turns superheroic clichés upside down is a 27-year-old concept, at least. Even if fans forget that again, and again, and again.
Check out some previous "Weirdies" below...
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Videodrome
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Holy Mountain
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Bubba Ho-Tep
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Santa Claus
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Moonwalker
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Meet the Feebles
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Being John Malkovich
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Death Race 2000
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: A Scanner Darkly
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Buckaroo Banzai
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Twelve Monkeys
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Dark City
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Yellow Submarine
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Shadow of the Vampire
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Return to Oz
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Koyaanisqatsi
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Erik the Viking
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Altered States
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Repo Man
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Peanut Butter Solution