If there's such a thing as a Troma masterpiece, both studio founders Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz agree it very well might be Troma's War (1988, 105 minutes). Released on the heels of their successful one-two punch of The Toxic Avenger and Class Of Nuke 'Em High, the film was meant as an answer to the greed and jingoism of the '80s and, specifically, the Reagan presidency. Unfortunately, the motion picture ratings board forced deep cuts which effectively disemboweled the film, causing it to be a miserable failure, even among Troma's most devoted fans.
The movie: A gaggle of Tromaville residents are victims of a horrific plane crash. They find themselves surrounded by horribly mutilated, still burning bodies, on the beach of an unknown island. As the survivors gather we find a blind babe, a black Catholic priest, a mother and child, a chauvinistic heartthrob, a liberated woman, a tubby used car salesman, a heroic gay flight attendant, an oily Wall Street tycoon and a punk band called the Bearded Clams. To make matters worse, the ragged group discovers the island is infested with gun-crazy terrorists who like to take pot shots at each other. Through a string of events only possible in one of Kaufman's movies, the good people of Tromaville must rise up against the terrorists to not only save their own lives, but to preserve the free world. Plus, there's a pig-nosed general, some creepazoid Siamese twins and an AIDS brigade. Yep, that's right. A team of terrorists who use their disease as a cruel, not to mention disgusting, weapon. It was perversely revolutionary at the time, as the devastating illness was being largely ignored. Oh, and, those Siamese twins? They're supposed to represent the duality of the military and commerce, or something. But never mind that -- just wait till they get DE-TWINED!!! CineSchlockers should note that this flick featured the debut of Joe Fleishaker, one of Troma's most beloved and rotund actor persons. Also, whenever necessary, Fleishaker portrays the notoriously camera-shy Michael Herz to great comedic effect.
Notables: 10 breasts. More than 277 corpses. Firesuit stunts. Compound-fracture closeup. Wriggling maggots. Blow-dart assassinations. Pre-combat diddling. Suicide disembowelment. Lesbian tongue rassling. Gratuitous slow mo. Exploding village. Ear necklace. Multiple explosions. Cheeseball rock ballads. Seemingly endless gunbattles.
Quotables: A gung-ho proclamation, "You don't murder vermin, you exterminate them!" The terrorists aren't the best fighters, they're the "Cream of the crap." Though, blind, she's willing to fight, "Just point me in the right direction, and I'll blow their balls off!" Sexism even in the face of salvation, "I'd say our asses just got saved by some p@%$ies."
Time codes: Delicious ode to Blood Feast's tongue-ripping scene (40:15). "A-Team" style battle preparation montage (1:08:30). Hang in past the credits and observe a Benny Hinn-esque miracle (1:43:50).
Audio/Video: Digitally remastered and presented in fullframe as per the director's wishes, "My theory, aesthetically, is that most people see my movies on video and television, so my image is just as wide as widescreen, but I give people more on the top and bottom." Utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track.
Extras: Uncut version. Insightful commentary by director Lloyd Kaufman (who also does a video intro). During the track, he explains in detail about the MPAA's butchery and how Troma managed to eek out a profit despite dismal box office performance. This must have been a long day, as the further into the movie, the longer the pauses between his comments become. About 30 minutes of footage with cast and crew recalling different aspects of the film's creation. The visit to Rick Washburn's walk-in gun vault was especially entertaining, as he's truly as gung ho as his character. Gallery of about 20 images. Five-minute "Toxic Cafe" episode: Troma's War. Interactive, departmental tour of the Troma Building with revealing movie clips and hilarious new footage (about 15 minutes in all.) Take the Troma Intelligence Test with video rewards and punishments. Commercial for Lloyd's book All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger. Three public service announcements for dubious causes like masturbation. Brief chat with a Tromette on the role of women in Troma films. Promo video called Aroma du Troma. Genuine public service announcement with the National Dance Institute. Trailer park with reels on this film, plus The Chosen One (featuring Carmen Electra), Sizzle Beach USA and The Toxic Avenger. Motion-video menus with audio.
Final thought: At long last, the flick can be seen as it was intended, but is this REALLY Troma's masterpiece? Probably not. Does it succeed as a satire of hawkish films like Rambo and Red Dawn? Absolutely, but its darker edge may alienate some humor-minded fans. Generous extras earn the disc a higher rating. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.