Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV

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CITIZEN TOXIE is the most offensive Troma film to date, which by default makes it one of the most intentionally offensive films ever made. Since the early nineties, Lloyd Kaufman has opted to make only one film every few years, shooting tons of footage and spending tons of time editing the things down. So, CITIZEN TOXIE (started in 1999, premiering at festivals in 2001 and finally reaching DVD in 2003) comes upon us, boasting the proudness of an epic cinematic event... by Troma standards anyway.

Right away, the stage is set for something special. In narration, Stan Lee recaps the origins of Melvin, a.k.a. The Toxic Avenger, and promptly apologizes for screwing up THE TOXIC AVENGER II and III. We then return to Tromaville, which is still a pretty rotten place to live. It appears to have all the charm of a New Jersey suburb, but mixed with equal parts DANTE'S INFERNO and PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE.

Take, for instance, the Diaper Mafia. They're a group of terrorists (who include stuck-up porn star Belladonna and Troma bigwig Trent Haaga) dressed in baby outfits, who thrive on mayhem. They invade a school for mentally impaired kids, the Tromaville School for the Very Special, shooting it up Columbine-style on Take a Mexican to Lunch Day. Yes, right away, Troma tries to offend us and it just gets worse from there.

Fortunately, the Toxic Avenger (played by Dave Mattey but voiced by Clyde Lewis) arrives to save the day, pummeling the villains into goo. Unfortunately, he only saves a few people from the school - Tito the Retarded Rebel (Michael Budinger), Sweetie Honey (Lisa Terezakis, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Gilda Radner, in both appearance and talent) and the pregnant school teacher (the ubiquitous Debbie Rochon).

But he does not earn Tromaville's thanks right away. Instead, an explosion in the school somehow thrusts Toxie into a parallel universe. Now, Toxie is stuck in Amortville, a dystopian version of Tromaville (you mean it's worse???). Everyone thinks Toxie is actually the Noxious Offender, who rules over Amortville as a despotic crime lord. He controls the drugs, the food supply and even a strange plastic surgery outfit that encourages people to mutilate themselves. Even Sgt. Kabukiman (Paul Kyrmse) is evil in Amortville. He meets up with alternate versions of Tito and Sweetie Honey, and makes new allies in a 500 lb. scientist (Joe Fleishaker - TERROR FIRMER) and Pompey, an African American Toxie saved from a bunch of rednecks who tried to drag him to death. Of course, when Toxie gets there, all that's left of Pompey is his severed head, but Pompey is so good-natured, he doesn't let that get him down much.

Meanwhile, the Noxious Offender has wound up in Tromaville and immediately starts to form a Neo-Nazi government. The fundamentalist Christian (yet Jewish) Mayor Goldberg (Ron Jeremy, yes that Ron Jeremy!) tries to call in reinforcements, but Sgt. Kabukiman, Dolphin Boy, Master Bater, the Vibrator and Mad Cowboy are no match for Noxie and his Nazi thugs.

Oh, did I mention that throughout all of this, we have Toxie's blind wife, Sarah (Heidi Sjursen) who has been trying to have a baby? Sometime during the film, she becomes pregnant with twins - one fathered by Toxie and one by Noxie. Her rapidly growing belly threatens to burst unless the good baby can defeat the evil seed.

Confused? You aren't the only one. And believe me, I have not scratched the surface. Kaufman's films have gotten more and more complicated over the years. Gone are the days of simple plots like CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH. These aren't simple cash-ins anymore, they are events, and Kaufman tries to cram as much in as possible. Supposedly, his rough cuts typically clock in at close to three hours and he then has to start chopping things down to the essentials.

But the confusion contained within Troma's recent output is just another reason I love these things. They really go for broke in these films and it shows. The hard work, dedication and struggle to finish what many would see as the lowest trash is commendable. But does it make for an entertaining movie? Read the synopsis. Now add spoofs on the media, mythological literature, an offense to just about every special interest group you can imagine, loads of gore, comic book heroes, gratuitous nudity and more. Now tell me, how can that not be entertaining?

Still, while CITIZEN TOXIE is the most offensive Troma film, as well as the most complicated, it is not the best. For me, that honor still goes to TROMEO & JULIET. In TOXIE IV, things tend to wear on too long. Tito starts to get annoying and the constant screaming from the entire cast was beginning to dance on my last nerve. Ron Jeremy has been funnier in films like ORGAZMO or that infomercial he did. Hell, he's even funnier in his porn films (Kaufman is the man guys like me say we want to be. Jeremy is the man we really do want to be.).

Some of the bits could have easily been left out. Take the interlude in heaven with Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf (a now-deceased frequent guest on THE HOWARD STERN SHOW) playing God. It's just not funny. Neither is the pointless epilogue. And while other bits were pretty amusing, some of them could afford to go. I was amazed at some of the scenes that were left in the film, while a great scene involving Kaufman triumphantly lambasting the Oscars shows up only in the deleted scenes.

But for the most part, CITIZEN TOXIE is loads of fun. Let's face it, Troma films are almost a genre unto themselves. They defy explanation. While many people have tried to emulate them, few have been as successful. They give us something no one else is. Although their boasting about independent filmmaking may seem tiresome to a few, the fact is they are independents. Who else could pull off this signature style, if it wasn't in their blood, blood that they are very willing to spill on screen along with many other bodily fluids?

The fact is that many times, we feel like seeing a Troma movie. It's a gut impulse that a few possess, and those few absolutely must have their appetites quenched (the same can be said of the films of Jess Franco and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). Personally, I look up to Lloyd Kaufman as a fine example of a ferociously unconventional filmmaker. The man is much more well read than one expects at first glance and he champions independent films of all times from around the globe. For instance, he was an early supporter of Takashi Miike and Alex De la Iglesia. Kaufman has a definite style of entertainment that he brings to the screen. It may not be the same style as many of the mainstream filmmakers out there, but it is more distinctive.

The man throws in social commentary in his films as well. After the Columbine-like opening (keep in mind the film was begun the year of the shootings), two newscasters go back and forth, deciding who they should blame first. They conclude that they could go in a number of directions, but could never blame the media itself for wallowing in the violent misery of others.

He'll include clever bits that escape the notice of most people. The beginning features a ticking time bomb, the timer only showing a few seconds left. The few seconds are intentionally stretched out into several minutes. During this time, Toxie has time to do plenty of errands, including impregnating his wife, returning a tape to the video store and giving an anti-drug lecture. Other clever highlights include a subtle send-up of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE as a commentary on the beauty industry and a deleted scene features Tito's version of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl."

CITIZEN TOXIE is a packed film, and if all of the bits don't work, there are plenty that do. It's disgusting, crude and offensive to just about everyone on the planet. It's the most awaited sleaze-fest to come around all year. I'm just sick enough to fall in love with it.

Reviewed by Scott W. Davis