This is, by far, THE sickest, most disgusting, gratuitously-vulgar, stomach-turning, grossly-offensive movie I've ever had the uneasy pleasure of watching -- again and again and again. Terror Firmer (1999, 114 minutes) bores beneath the flesh and breeds BOTH gleeful revulsion and borderline-psychotic laughter. And with it, Troma's Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz have set the bar SO high (or low, depending on the viewer) that besting this level of depravity may take another 27 years -- as the film truly rivals John Waters' heretofore unequalled Pink Flamingos.
The movie: Within the flick's first 80 seconds -- a mysterious woman rips off a cat-caller's leg and BEATS HIM WITH IT as his blood streams onto the street like an unattended fire hose -- she then skulks up to a pregnant sunbather and TEARS A BABY FROM THE WOMB with her bare-bloodied hands!!! Gulp. And, again, that's before the title credits have ended. The meat of the story takes us behind the scenes of Troma's next Toxic Avenger flick. The eccentric crew of punks, stoners, transsexuals and militant filmmakers is led by its BLIND director (Kaufman) whose motivation style generally leans toward idle threats of blowing his brains out. Two major forces conspire to hinder his art-making -- a dwindling staff due to the mysterious woman's serial killing and various boisterous and very public on-set romances. Debbie Rochon diddles every inch of man flesh she lays eyes and other parts on as B-queen Christine. While nouveau-Tromette Alyce LaTourelle turns heads as the awkward but sexy Jennifer who is pursued by two eager beaus. A particular highlight of the film is when a rotund production assistant (Yaniv Sharon) runs nekkid through Times Square on a rather, um, COLD day -- a show of unflappable dedication to his art. CineSchlockers will no doubt scour the web's dens of iniquity to further ogle the melon-heavy talents of Ms. Carla Pivonski, whose performance as Toxie's bride stir more than just the soul. And look for Kaufman's ode to Brian De Palma's split-screened Carrie during Terror Firmer's explosive climax.
Notables: 18 breasts. 15 corpses. Legs tumble. Spinning headlines. Frequent puking. Armpit sniffing. Wangdoodle super-hyper extension. Lesbian tongue rassling. Flatulence flame throwing. Pre-homicidal self-gratification. Gratuitous flashback sequence. Pickles as sex toys. Gratuitous police interrogation scene. Poop eating. Life-affirming rape scene. Hiney slapping. Stunt breasts. Ventriloquist dummy crucifixion. Gratuitous multi-stream urination.
Quotables: Casey is a smooth operator, "Hey, Jennifer, can you come and hold my boom mic?" Lloyd Kaufman, er, Larry Benjamin demands an end to chaos, "I know something about the world, because I'm a 52-year-old a@#hole! It's a HORRIBLE world! There's starvation, dismemberment, torture, rape and CORNHOLING!!! It's a horrible world! It's horrible out there! But it's worse, it's WORSE here on the movie set! It's much worse! We have danger and S-T-U-P-I-D-I-T-Y!!!" He also provides careful direction to his star, "You're supposed to be a seductress. Can you please do this with a little more of that slutty-whore-bitch vibe? We love that!" Not everyone deals with grief in the same way, "Boo f@#&in' who!!!"
Time codes: Troma's rules of production (3:34). Starlet and cinematographer diddle in the bathroom (7:18). Toxie gets it on with Ms. Pivonski (22:50). Porn legend Ron Jeremy (30:50). Troma regular Joe Fleishaker (40:00). ACME's Legs Be Gone demonstration (55:55). That fella sure blow'd up good (1:37:26). Troma's amazing recycled car crash (1:18:40). A special message concerning hermaphrodites (1:47:08).
Audio/Video: Digitally mastered 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.
Disc 1: Uncut version. Typically witty and insightful commentary by director Lloyd Kaufman (who also does a video intro). He mocks his performance, but he's hilarious in the role he was born to play -- himself, sorta. The second track features Gabriel Friedman and Sean McGrath the film's editors. They talk about how they came up with wacky sound effects and how they worked their magic with limited resources. The most amusing and energetic commentary is by actors Trent Haaga (Jerry), Debbie Rochon (Christine) and Will Keenan (Casey). Haaga beams about how he "just wanted to be killed in a Troma movie" and wound up with a lead role. When ever-cool Keenan skips out early for another gig, Debbie and Trent keep on rolling with their thoughts -- and even, gasp, criticisms.
About 30 deleted and alternate scenes including the Cannes Film Festival ending and the script girl subplot (30 mins). There's also the option of watching the film with the deleted scenes less-than-seamlessly restored (the outtakes are letterboxed). Audition footage. Blooper reel. Terror Firmer comic book-to-film comparison (escalator scene.) Teaser and theatrical trailers.
Both discs are slickly designed and packaged from the fold-out, mini-poster insert to the motion-video menus with film-projector sound FX. They're also stuffed with Easter eggs: an R-rated cut (wink, wink) of the film, a serenade by Will Keenan, Lloyd's phone message to Joe Fleishaker, an update on Yaniv's career and a horrifying crotch shot. When stumped, remember the Mark of the Beast.
Disc 2: The 99-minute "Farts of Darkness: The Making of Terror Firmer" is an unblinking, never-before-seen look at Troma's unique brand of low-budget, independent filmmaking. It's equally hilarious and informative -- on par with exceptional documentaries like "The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys" and "Under Pressure: Making The Abyss."
Video interview with Alyce LaTourelle who shares her horror upon seeing the film for the first time at Cannes. She has since come to terms with the picture, as it has gained critical and fan praise. We also visit Lloyd's daughter Charlotte's room where she talks about her role in the movie -- and how she avoided seeing stuff she shouldn't.
Kaufman-directed Lunachicks video for "Say What You Mean." DJ Polo and Ron Jeremy's breasty video for "Freak of the Week." Look for CineSchlocker favorite Lorissa McComas among the bare-chested babes. Video for Entombed's "Seeing Red." Promos for the Terror Firmer soundtrack, Tromadance and Kaufman's book All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger. Public service announcement with the National Dance Institute. Plus, trailers for Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, Unspeakable, Parts of the Family and Cannibal! The Musical.
Bloodlust Software's arcade-style game featuring levels which loosely reenact memorable scenes -- fetal tug-o-war, naked traffic jogging, body part pickling, severed-leg-whack-a-mole. Only accessible via PC DVD-ROM (or the Bloodlust site).
Final thought: An utterly flabbergasting flick that burns with comedic and rebellious fervor throughout. The two-disc gut punch of a special edition is to be reckoned with and bumps chests with so-called mainstream DVDs of similar scope. Truly Troma's triumph. Collectors Series.
R-RATED VERSION: Only Troma could make censorship this much fun. An alternative 2-disc set includes most of the same bonus features except the commentary tracks (and that nifty mini-poster). This cut runs 99 minutes and in place of excised material are satirical vignettes featuring Mr. Kaufman explaining what the audience is missing and sometimes recreating the action in less graphic ways -- gnawing on a cardboard box in lieu of, well, you know. Onscreen gore is covered with black CENSORED! bars. While other scenes are drastically cut like Mr. Fleishaker's famed escalator demise. It was made for rental purposes, and if you enjoyed the movie, it's worth doing exactly that.
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.