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  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

The Toxic Avenger Collection 4K UHD Review


Troma Entertainment

Blu-ray Release: October 24, 2023

Video: 1.85:1/2160p (HDR10)/Color

Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 82:10 (The Toxic Avenger), 108:39 (The Toxic Avengers: Part II), 103:30 (The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie), 108:52 (Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV)

Directors: Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz


I was sent this collection for review back in September of 2023 and only the first 4K disc would work on my player. There was a replacement program for some of the discs, so I decided to publish my review of the first film separately and wait for replacement discs. Those never came. As far as I understand, the replacement program mostly worked and corrected discs were included with more recent pressings. Recently, I got a new player and, to my surprise, every disc in the set worked in it. So please enjoy this very late, somewhat shorter than usual review of The Toxic Avenger 4K UHD collection.


Discs 1 & 2: The Toxic Avenger (4K UHD and Blu-ray)







Discs 3 & 4: The Toxic Avenger Part II (4K UHD and Blu-ray)

The hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength returns to battle the multinatural chemical corporation Apocalypse Inc. and takes an adventure to Tokyo in hopes of finding his long lost father. (From Troma’s official synopsis)


The first Toxic Avenger sequel takes the ‘more of the same and more of it’ approach to franchise building, multiplying the gags, stretching the runtime, and doing its best to out-offend the original film. Some of that surprisingly cinematic appeal has dissipated along with the focus, but it might be the best film in the franchise, assuming you’re looking for cartoonish spectacle and not raw, grotesque horror-comedy. At the very least, it represents a shift in the series’ identity that followed it into the unlikely creation of an animated series, The Toxic Crusaders (1991), and toy line, both aimed at children. And, like any Saturday morning cartoon, Toxic Avenger Part II is an episodic, one-thing-after-another type affair. This is by design, but also partially owed to the fact that it’s really only half of a movie. Apparently, Kaufman & Herz shot more than four hours of footage, then, in a state of panic, decided to cut those four hours into two separate movies.


Part II is more violent than the original film, at least in terms of actual on-screen carnage, but the violence is less objectionable. The opening sequence alone is a smorgasbord of mayhem that sort of functions as its own little short film. Toxie folds one man into a wheelchair until his intestines explode out of his body, shoves a rose into another’s eyesocket, decapitates another two by slamming their heads into each other, and squeezes a little person into a basketball shape, before dunking him in a hoop, among other slapstick murders that reference The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. This was actually the first Toxic Avenger film I saw as a kid and I can assure you that this was the height of comedy to a 10 year-old in the early ‘90s. 


You’d think that the attempts to out-offend the previous entry would mean that the Japan-set sequel was a hotbed of racism and mean spirited stereotypes, but Kaufman & Herz seem to really revere the wacky side of Japanese counterculture and shape a sort of mix & match travelog that isn’t too far out of step with what actual low-budget, absurdist Japanese filmmakers themselves were doing in the 1990s. The participation of Japanese actors and crew probably helped in this regard.  


Extras

Disc 3 (4K UHD)

  • Commentary by Lloyd Kaufman – This is the original DVD commentary track from 1998.

  • Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman (1:56, HD)


Disc 4 (Blu-ray)

  • Commentary by Lloyd Kaufman

  • Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman

  • At Home with Toxie (3:51, SD) – A satirical interview with the ‘real’ Toxic Avenger, who talks about his day-to-day life, post-franchise.

  • A Word from Troma's Villainess Lisa Gaye (2:15, SD) – A short promo interview with the actress.

  • Toxie on Japanese TV promo segment (3:07, SD) – Actress ​​Mayako Katsuragi chats about the film over a clip of behind-the-scenes footage.

  • Original DVD intro by Lloyd Kaufman (0:41, SD)

  • Radiation March PSA (0:56, SD) – A very strange modern dance piece that has been included with basically every Troma home video release since the ‘90s.

  • 40 Years of Troma montage (2:03, SD) – Ironically, this montage is already 10 years old.

  • Troma trailer reel









Disc 5 & 6: The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (4K UHD and Blu-ray)


What’s a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength to do after he’s eliminated crime from his hometown? Desperate to raise money for the experimental surgery that could restore his blind fiancée’s eyesight, Toxie accepts a lucrative job with the evil multinational conglomerate Apocalypse Inc. Now, Toxie’s transforming into an even more monstrous creature: a yuppie. (From Troma’s official synopsis)


Despite only consisting of about half of the material Kaufman & Herz shot for their first planned mega-sequel, Toxic Avenger Part II feels about 20 minutes too long, which should prepare first-time viewers for Part III being an even more protracted and episodic attempt at cartoonifying the franchise. Despite having a strong central premise – our hero turning to villainy via a Faustian bargain as a means to satirize late ‘80s Reaganomics and the scumbags it produced – The Last Temptation of Toxie is a listless procession of outtakes, recycled footage, and tiresome mugging.


There are glimmers of a good movie – or at least a good Toxic Avenger sequel – shining through the repetitive buzz of overly-indulgent gags and filler. The anti-yuppie jokes provide a few hearty laughs (as always, it’s tragically amusing that Donald Trump’s face and name were shorthand for Capitalist depravity 30 years ago), the cartoonish gore and rubbery monster prosthetics are still a lot of fun, and, given considerably more screentime and a chance to flaunt her musical talents, Phoebe Legere steals scene after scene in her second appearance as Toxie’s girlfriend, Claire. I do hope that, someday, an enterprising film student or bored Troma employee successfully cuts the second and third entries into a tight, semi-coherent follow-up to the original film.


Extras

Disc 5 (4K UHD)

  • Commentary with Lloyd Kaufman and editors Ronny Thomas & Sean McGrath – This 2002 DVD commentary is moderated by musician and filmmaker Ronnie "Raygun" Thomas.

  • Commentary with Joe Fleishaker – Another archival DVD track featuring the iconic, larger-than-life Troma actor.

  • Introduction by co-director Lloyd Kaufman (1:33, HD)


Disc 6 (Blu-ray)

  • Commentary with Lloyd Kaufman, Ronny Thomas, and Sean McGrath

  • Commentary with Joe Fleishaker

  • Introduction by co-director Lloyd Kaufman

  • TroMoMa (11:40, HD) – A featurette on the Museum of Modern Art’s presentation of Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1 that includes on-site interviews with various Troma celebrities.

  • 40 Years of Troma montage

  • Make Your Own Damn Horror Film (11:26, SD) – Kaufman’s personal video journal from the set of Christian Winters’s Old 37 (2015), in which he has a cameo.

  • A Halloween Carol short (9:54, HD) – A spoof of A Christmas Carol that is basically an elongated ad for Troma’s then-new YouTube channel.

  • Rabid Grannies infomercial (1:56, HD) – A promo spot for the Blu-ray (the old one, not Vinegar Syndrome’s updated re-release).

  • Radiation March PSA 

  • Troma trailer reel









Discs 7 & 8: Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV (4K UHD and Blu-ray) 


When the notorious Diaper Mafia take hostage the Tromaville School for the Very Special, only the Toxic Avenger and his morbidly obese sidekick Lardass can save Tromaville. However, a horrific explosion creates a dimensional portal between Tromaville and its dimensional mirror image, Amortville. While the Toxic Avenger is trapped in Amortville, Tromaville comes under the control of Toxie’s evil doppelganger, the Noxious Offender (Noxie). (From Troma’s official synopsis)


After more than a decade without a Toxic Avenger sequel, Kaufman and Herz made Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV, which promised to be a new millennial celebration of the franchise, complete with an excess of celebrity cameos and callbacks to decades of Troma films. It was also a very ambitious spoof of late-’90s moral panics that was, on paper, ahead of its time in terms of political satire. Unfortunately, the best intentions didn’t account for inflation and $500k didn’t go nearly as far in the year 2000 as it did in 1984. Even more unfortunately, the directors tried to replicate the quick cut, joke-a-minute style that was growing in popularity at the time, leading to an obnoxious wall of noise and unfunny jokes that drags on for nearly two hours. It’s somehow lethargic and hyperactive all at once.I know this movie has its fans and I can appreciate their affection for this type of transgressive sensory overload. There’s definitely a place for borderline Dadaist, gross-out comedy in cult filmdom, I just think that Toxic Avengers movies work best when they’re well-shot and tinged with a sort of ironic sweetness. Still, this is the only place you can see James Gunn playing an offensive, misogynistic caricature of Stephen Hawking, which has to count for something.


Extras

Disc 7 (4K UHD)

  • Commentary with Lloyd Kaufman – This track was recorded for the 2004 DVD release.

  • Editor’s commentary – Another recycled DVD track featuring the Troma Team editors Gabe Friedman and Sean McGrath.

  • Cast commentary – The final archive track is a group affair with fan-turned-actor-turned-writer/assistant director Trent Haaga and Citizen Toxie actors Joe Fleishaker, David Mattey, Paul Kyrmse, Heidi Sjursen and Michael Budinger.

  • Introduction by director Lloyd Kaufman (2:01, HD)


Disc 8 (Blu-ray)

  • Commentary with Lloyd Kaufman

  • Editor’s commentary

  • Cast commentary

  • Introduction by director Lloyd Kaufman

  • Apocalypse Soon: The Making of Citizen Toxie (137:50, SD) – Citizen Toxie might suck, but it was all worth it for this extensive behind-the-scenes documentary that combines off-the-cuff interviews and fly-on-the-wall footage from the set. 

  • Troma's Tribute to Lemmy (8:14, SD) – A collection of clips and behind-the-scenes antics featuring the late Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister.

  • The American Cinematheque Honors 40 Years of Troma (2:03, SD) – Despite the fancy title, this is actually a variation on the studio trailer set to Motörhead’s “Sacrifice” that you see on basically every Troma DVD since the ‘90s.

  • Troma trailer reel 







Video

Troma loves to squeeze Toxie for every dime he’s worth. The first movie was released on VHS, Beta, Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray, multiple times in multiple countries, the first two sequels on every format outside of Beta and HD DVD, and the fourth film on DVD and Blu-ray. The catch to all of this easy availability is that none of the Toxic Avenger movies have ever looked very good on home-video. Two out of three DVD versions of the first three weren’t even anamorphically enhanced or presented in the correct aspect ratio. The first HD versions were taken from rough prints, but were at least presented in 1.85:1.


These new 2023 restorations, all four of which have been used for both the full 2160p UHD and 1080p BD copies of each film, were taken from 4K scans of the original camera negatives. The upgrade is substantial and very nearly the best we could ever expect from these roughly-made and not well-maintained movies. I’ve read that Vinegar Syndrome was responsible for the remasters, but that Troma maintained release rights. This makes sense, given the quality of the transfers and the fact that VS released 4K versions of previously Troma-owned films Mother’s Day (1981), Blood Sucking Freaks (1976), and Rabid Grannies (1988). It also explains why they look so good.


I’ve included screencaps from the Blu-ray versions of each film, which illustrate many of the remaster’s upgrades over the muddier, previous HD transfers, just without the added value of 2160p and HDR enhancements. The first movie is still a bit scratchy, it has its share of print damage artifacts (especially between reels), and there are a few blurry shots that I believe are inherent in the original material, but there aren’t any notable signs of unnecessary digital clean-up, DNR, or over-sharpening issues. It’s all very natural, including soft and consistent grain, clean details, and nice textures. Colors are bright without appearing overblown, punched-up by the HDR enhancement, and, perhaps most importantly, the extremely dark night shots are just clear enough to discern in 4K, whereas they were essentially visual mud in the past. 


I haven’t seen any of the sequels since DVD, so I can’t make a direct comparison, but movies two and three generally look the same as the first film – same detail upgrade, same filmic textures, same slight HDR enhancements, and similar print damage. According to Troma reps, the original negative of The Toxic Avenger Part II was missing several short dialogue sequences in the opening third, which had been removed before the theatrical release for pacing reasons. Since no film materials could be located, they went to an existing digital master for the inserts. The fourth film is a sort of multimedia affair with lots of stylistic change-ups, so it's a bit harder to judge the image quality, but it seems to be the cleanest print overall.


Audio

Each film is also presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound. This marks another upgrade over previous Blu-rays, which, like most Troma releases, only featured lossy Dolby Digital tracks. The mix is dated and has an uncanny quality, due to extensive ADR and foley work on the first three films, but I assure you, this is what it was meant to sound like. Levels are well-balanced and there isn’t a lot of distortion or hiss at high volume. There are some moments, especially throughout the middle two movies, where the audio becomes muffled at the beginning and ends of some reels. The background music is basically non-stop throughout the first three movies, obnoxiously so. The thin and tinny synth scores are credited to Barrie Guard (Part II), Christopher De Marco (Part III), and Wes Nagy (Part IV) with additional uncredited bits throughout the collection. 


The images on this page are taken from the included Blu-ray copies – NOT the 4K UHDs – and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.

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