Debbie Rochon Confidential: My Years in Tromaville Exposed:
It's hard not to approach a Troma DVD without at least a little gee-whiz cynicism. Head Honcho Lloyd Kaufman practically insists on it during his 'Crazy Larry' introductions, or most any other time he appears on camera. But how does this forearming play out when watching something like Debbie Rochon Confidential: My Years in Tromaville Exposed? Can you be Tromatized by a Troma career retrospective? Well, of course you can!
Since 1974, Kaufman and Michael Herz have been New York's answer to John Waters, sorta. Producing and distributing independent horror films, mostly, the company has been known for pissing all over every possible taboo, and pushing the envelope by cramming it with 10 pounds of stinking pig intestines, before shoving the whole thing into an orifice on some poor, underage Southeast Asian sex slave. But Troma does it with a heart, and the absolutely sincere desire to take your money by any means necessary. Often, this requires showing breasts, of which, Debbie Rochon has a pretty nice selection. (Only two, but you get my drift.) Because of this, and because of her game attitude, and genuine talent as an actress, Rochon has gathered quite a following during her years of going to bat for Troma. Hence, this special DVD release.
That's right, for sure Rochon merits this type of package, but you should make no mistake, Kaufman and Herz want your money even more. On the plus side, Kaufman makes it very clear through his clowning that he's happy to be the figurehead of a cinematic dancing monkey that often puts profits before performance. I'm sure I'm being too harsh. Obviously Kaufman's eye for the absurd is finely tuned, and he's helped a lot of people get their start, which makes it problematic to review this DVD.
What this is, then, is almost two hours of Rochon doing much of what she does, but not all of it. It's a giant extra feature on a non-existent movie release. Thus, lacking much context or artful presentation, it becomes a little tiring. Yes, Rochon fans will absolutely want to take a look at this, and the nature of the beast means they will probably buy it, but with due respect to Miss Rochon, they could have gotten something a little better.
Included are numerous Troma promos and movie introductions from when Rochon was a mere Tromette. Much of this consists of Rochon vamping and looking good, while saying little. Speaking of a little, a little of Kaufman's antics go a long way. He frequently reaches insane heights of crudity and absurd humor, which are truly laugh-out-loud funny, but he just as frequently simply capers around doing his performing monkey routine which is best taken as a warm up for a Troma feature - not as a warm up for more capering. Also including are plenty bits of crass ephemera in which Rochon loses her shirt, or simply never has one. It's easy to conclude all of her fans will enjoy these scenes.
Wrapping up your selections are Rochon-centric scenes from Tromeo and Juliet, Poultrygeist and others. Ensemble scenes with Debbie highlight both her game attitude and hot-and-cold running lunacy, not to mention the fun inherent in much of Kaufman's best work. Her make-out scene from Tromeo highlights her ability to get viewers' hands to wander under their waistbands. Ahem. You also get a hilarious short film about lesbian ethics, which finds Rochon in fine crass form. Rochon: "I'll help you raise her!" Ex-Lesbian: "It's a boy." Rochon: "I'll take you to the abortion clinic!" But that's it. There's no real confidential aspect, and no biographical information about Rochon, either, though there is plenty of exposure! Yep, Kaufman's dressed up a series of clips to be something more than what it actually is, and without the context (or relief) of an actual movie, scenes and intros and promos blur together - except when Kaufman is upstaging Rochon, which is a fairly constant element of this disk. As huge batch of extras in a two-disk set of one of Debbie's best films, this would be a welcome treat. As a standalone, serious Rochon fans will probably want it, but might be counseled to Rent It first, just in case.
In keeping with the Troma aesthetic, this DVD comes in a 4 X 3 fullframe presentation, with visual fidelity varying in quality. Most of it is decent, especially those clips from Troma feature presentations. Some possesses a bit of a cheapo, shot on video look, but overall the images are OK, without a lot of compression artifacts or film damage; a step above VHS, but probably a step below what DVD aficionados are used to.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio similarly resides in the 'no great shakes' category, but is certainly possessed of discernable dialog, minus damage, and an OK mix between music and other elements.
One extra is included, a half-hour episode of Fangoria's Trailer Park, which is what you'd expect. Rochon introduces a series of full-length trailers from schlocky B-Movies, that fit into the theme; 'Amateurs Borrow, Geniuses Steal.' Rochon is an amiable, goofy host with an edge, even if some of the conclusions drawn by the show's theme strain credibility.
Debbie Rochon Confidential is not that. It's Debbie Rochon's clips show, tarted up to lure in punters wanting the real scoop on the smoking hot, talented Scream Queen. This subterfuge extends to what I'm sure is just a typo on the box, listing contents at 150 minutes, (2 and ½ hours) when you actually get is one hour and fifty minutes including the lengthy extra feature. At any rate, that seems to be Kaufman's gig - huckster slob-straordinaire - so what do you expect? Rochon is friendly, sexy and smart, and strong enough to hold her own against Kaufman's minstrelsy, which is good, since somehow he seems dominate proceedings even in a clips show format! I love Rochon, as do many other fanboys, and the appeal is obvious. Maybe some day she'll write an autobiography that lives up to the title Debbie Rochon Confidential: My Years in Tromaville Exposed. Until that day, we have this DVD, which earns a big old Rent It. (Then again, it's only ten bucks ...)
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com