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TOXIC TENDENCIES PDF Print E-mail
Written by by: Debbie Rochon   
Dec 17, 2004 at 07:00 PM
While searching the Internet for Troma material I came upon this description:
Troma is white, grayish white or light yellow. It has a glassy luster and is transparent. Troma doesn't change in dry air and is water soluble. If it's dissolved in inorganic acid it will give out gas bubbles. Obviously this was not the same Troma I was looking for, but seemed to have a strange suitability to the twenty-something film company called Troma Team Studios. Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder of Troma Inc., could easily be described as the genre film's answer to Mel Brooks. While his film work oozes of a certain Tromatic humor, Kaufman's quick wit in person is rather dazzling. Mel Brooks himself would be impressed.

After directing a number of mildly successful teen T&A comedies in the early 80's, like SQUEEZE PLAY and THE FIRST TURN ON!, Kaufman found his true niche once he added gross-out horror to the mix. THE TOXIC AVENGER would be the first of several cult hits for Kaufman, followed by two TOXIC sequels and THE CLASS OF NUKEM HIGH trilogy. With the recent theatrical release of both SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD and the award winning TROMEO AND JULIET, the 90's promise to be even more rewarding for the one time graduate of Yale University. For instance James Gunn, co-writer of TROMEO, is currently penning Kaufman's autobiography. Still untitled, the book will no doubt inspire countless wanna-be directors to dive into the low budget trenches and become guerrilla film makers. Or least of all, the book will mix up the inexhaustible OJ Simpson related paperbacks currently cluttering up your coffee table...
The following transcript is from my last conversation with Lloyd Kaufman.
DR: Describe yourself Lloyd.
Lloyd Kaufman: Well I'm the oldest living Tromite. I'm responsible in large for THE TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKEM HIGH, TROMEO AND JULIET which was the highlight of my existence, and of course SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD.
DR: Troma is more than a company, it's a mind set isn't it?
LK: The original concept Michael Herz and I had when we were in Yale, was to create a brand name, a Troma universe. During a retrospective we had in France not too long ago, it was written that Troma has done to the film industry what Marvel Comics had done to the comic book industry, namely we have created a universe and put a new face on the American super hero in the form of The Toxic Avenger. Toxie is human, he's got to pay the rent, take care of his mother and he's got acne. He also had a wife and was loyal to her and that's what's unusual!
DR: She was blind.
LK: Well you can't say that word, she was VISUALLY challenged.
DR: Let's walk a little through your career, who were some of the film makers that influenced you?
LK: I'm grateful you used the word career, other people would say it's a disaster or something else... The people that inspired me, there's a Japanese director Mizoguchi Who made the film THE PRINCESS YANG KWEI FEI, we in Tromaville believe that's the best movie ever made. It's a Japanese movie about a Chinese legend. Also Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, all three are the Gods of Tromaville.
DR: I thought your favorite was Preston Sturges?
LK: Well, he's very important because his satires and his treatment of the typical American village is what inspired us to come up with Tromaville. All of the people I've just mentioned are turning over in their graves right now...
DR: Except maybe for Preston I think...
LK: Well they would all be delighted with Troma, but ...
DR: Can it be said that SGT. KABUKIMAN is a sort of tribute to Mizoguchi? His work reminds me a little of SGT. KABUKIMAN.
LK: Well all the movies that I write and direct spring from stories in the newspapers. For instance there was toxic waste dumps that were being written about in the early 80's and that seemed like an excellent theme for a Troma movie. Also all the health clubs were becoming big then too, everybody wanted to beautify their bodies and these same people would be dumping their McDonald's Styrofoam containers all over the terrain. CLASS OF NUKEM HIGH was made because of the Nuclear power plant they were building in Long Island next to the most densely populated area in the continental USA! You can't think that up, you have to get that from real life. The conspiracy of the Labor Department, the bureaucratic and the corporate elite, it wasn't enough that they were filling their pockets at the public trough, they used bad equipment! Bad steel, bad cement and rotten, drunken laborers that had beer for breakfast in the morning and they were building a nuclear power plant right down the street from NYC! That was the inspiration for NUKEM HIGH, but luckily that power plant was never turned on. The CLASS OF NUKEM HIGH power plant was just down the street from Tromaville near the school, and ironically that film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 at the same time as dust from Chernobyl was blowing over the South Of France! SGT. KABUKIMAN comes from the stories in the newspapers of how the United States and Japan are at war, it's a different kind of war, we love each other but we're fighting for the economic and cultural supremacy of the world. SGT. KABUKIMAN is a NYC policeman and through no fault of his own, one day he starts transforming into a 2000 year old Kabuki actor with some super powers like heat seeking chopsticks, projectile parasols and fatal footwear! This film had theatrical distribution and that's really a remarkable thing.
DR: It's very difficult for an independent to get a theatrical release.
LK: The word 'independent' had become quite corrupted! The media will call a Miramax film an independent film, but as you know, it's a division of Disney! And the rest are divisions of Time Warner or Time Warner Turner or whatever. We are the Dodo birds, we are the last of the breed of true independents!
DR: You really are one of the last sort of 'Mom and Pop shop' type of film companies, making a hand made product.
LK: We have about 35 hard working Tromites mainly here in NYC but also LA and now we have a Troma in the UK! There are many British citizens who work for Troma UK and are spreading the word of the Troma Brand name!
DR: Do you think it benefited you running Tromaville as a Yale graduate, or do you think it would have been more appropriate if you had just run away from home and joined the circus?
LK: I didn't get interested in clowns till I studied the political scene in the United States in the late 60's.
DR: When you were in Yale?
LK: Yes! But you know Yale did change my life because that's when I discovered movies. I roomed with a couple of movie nuts. If I never went to Yale I would have done something useful with my life!
DR: That's where you met Troma's co-founder Michael Herz of course...
LK: Yes and that was a wonderful thing because then I could ruin his life too! Basically I was on my way to teaching, this was the 60's where social work and teaching was something that one aspired to, and I roomed with two movie nuts and we watched movies like Ernst Lubitsch's TO BE OR NOT TO BE. The next thing I knew I was in a dark room watching movies and vowing to give what I had to the world!
DR: I have to say that in all the wacky stuff I've done with Troma, there was a serious attitude while making TROMEO. There were some exceptionally good performances in that movie.
LK: Well, I think we know more than say Laurence Fishburne, who played Ike in the TINA TURNER STORY, about Shakespeare than he did when he tried to do OTHELLO! The actors in TROMEO are all from the stage and know more about this playwright than all the ego-oriented Shakespeare productions that are coming out today. Other than Kenneth Branagh of course. Pacino studied Shakespeare, some people have the right to do it sure, but everyone in our movie had studied Shakespeare, understood Shakespeare, and studied ROMEO AND JULIET for a long time. We watched the George Cukor version many times as you know. This was a movie that had months and months of preparation! We worked on the scenario for over five years.
DR: I know you don't like your films to be termed as "B-movies", is it because you don't want to be lumped in with other low budget films that are out there?
LK: Well of course a real B-movie is the second feature at a drive-in. I just don't think the term is valid anymore. Majors would throw in a second picture either a Western or a Noir or something, often in black and white. B pictures are wonderful, Fritz Lange made B pictures! They're wonderful films! But it's become an anachronism. The critics use it a lot but not correctly. Now a days there are no B-movies.
DR Troma movies have their own category.
LK: Well keep in mind that Michael and I have written and directed about 20 movies or so and they have their own stamp and many of them relate to Tromaville and Toxie from THE TOXIC AVENGER to TROMEO AND JULIET, they're all from the same universe! For instance SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD is in the party scene in TROMEO!
DR: To bring it all together, TO BE OR NOT TO BE, the movie that inspired you, had Jack Benny and Carol Lombard doing Shakespeare!
LK: Literally during my first viewing of that movie was when I decided to start Troma Studios.
DR: Mel Brooks made quite a good remake of that film too. Are you a fan of Mel Brooks?
LK: His movie THE PRODUCERS is Troma's anthem!
DR: You are probably the greatest creator of movie titles alive today!
LK: I can't take credit for all the great titles we put out, as a matter of fact my wife Pat has come up with some really great ones! She's from the South which highly influences her, she came up with the title CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES, which is a movie about Zombies and the tag line is: The south shall rise again, and again, and again... Pat also came up with THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE SUBHUMANOID: CLASS OF NUKEM HIGH PART THREE. But the Troma Team comes up with a lot of the stuff such as the tag line for TROMEO AND JULIET; Body piercing. Kinky sex. Dismemberment. The things that made Shakespeare great.
DR: Shakespeare wrote TITUS ANDRONICUS, that play had all those elements in it!
LK: He was pushing the envelope for his day. Jane Austin was also pushing the envelope for her day too, but this recent movie SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, while it's commendable, it's baby food! These were revolutionaries, these are anti-establishment writers for goodness sake!
DR: A great version of Shakespeare's work is Peter Brook's LEAR. Brook appreciated the crass sickness of Lear. What category would you put TROMEO in, critics have had a very difficult time pigeon-holing it.
LK: Well it's only the third film written this year in Iambic Pentameter AND has car crashes AND kinky sexy AND dismemberment so it's pretty special.
DR: What are the other two...?
LK: Wasn't Mission Impossible written in Iambic pentameter...?
DR: You are actually quite a marketing genius when it comes to getting your titles out there.
LK: What did you say, I have a six inch penis...?
DR: No I said genius, but they could be considered your two great things...
LK: Small things...
DR: Greatly small things... What is the secret to promoting yourselves to such an extent that you do with so little money?
LK: We would like to think the movies are good. Festivals world wide have honored us in France, England, all over the world! As Shakespeare said "To thine own self be true" that's what we try and do when we make movies.
DR: I enjoy a lot of the films, but they all have great artwork. I think a movie's got to have a great title and box cover.
LK: Well you know on our web site we have every movie in Tromaville reviewed with a little thumbnail, or should I say toenail review and the poster work beside it. But if we ourselves don't like the movie we'll be perfectly honest about it. If we think BATTLE OF LOVES RETURN, an early Troma movie in which myself and Oliver Stone starred in, then we say it was awful.
DR: Your web site address is: www.Troma.com
LK: Yes, we have a wonderful web site through which we're learning about our fans. That was the motivation behind setting up a web site, because the gatekeepers, or the big conglomerates, like Time Warner control all aspects of communication! The Internet is the only democratic form of entertainment left! It is a great service to Troma and Troma's fans that the Internet exists.
DR: It's still uncensored...
LK: Yes it is. And I can assure you that in the halls of power and the conspiracy of the labor, the bureaucratic and corporate elite, they will try and do to the Internet what they have done to the movie theaters, cable television and the video shelves. It's up to all of us to stop that from happening so we can continue to get the information we deserve.
DR: Troma has about 150 titles now?
LK: Well Troma has about five thousand titles, but only about 150 movies...
DR: SURF NAZIS MUST DIE...
LK: There's a perfect example, here's a great title and an even better film! You have to come up with more than the title! The battle field is littered with the dead bodies of producers that have tried to imitate Troma! They think you just need to buy a bottle of ketchup, get a few people of the female persuasion, run them through the woods and kill them, then throw on a Troma-esk title and that's going to be a movie, but that's not film making and the public won't go for it!
DR: Troma's been distributing the films in-house for the past couple of years. How's that going?
LK: Well we release two titles every month plus occasionally a director's cut of certain films like BLOODSUCKING FREAKS.
DR: A lot of people don't realize that cable has been around for 20 years already. The scene has really changed since cable first came to be.
LK: Yes, the trend has been towards consolidation. The media has been propagandizing that if you spend a hundred million on a picture that it's glamorous! You have Time Warner Turner and a couple others and pretty soon everything will be run by one big company!
DR: It's true, for instance, the SCI-FI channel is owned by USA and USA is owned by CBS I believe. But doesn't the hundreds of cable channels open up some sort of exposure for your movies, they have to fill the slots.
LK: The big guys are trying to monopolize everything so that they'll have the same movie on fifty channels. It's like Blockbuster. Instead of more variety, they will offer the same movie starting every half hour on Pay-Per-View. We've basically got a Cartel making our viewing decisions for us. We're going to end up with homogenized baby food movies if we let it continue any longer!
DR: THE LAST SEDUCTION was such an exception to the rule, it started out on cable and in the video stores then went to the theaters!
LK: The low budget movies can take risks and be wacky and allow new comers to do what they want and learn their trade, but when you're spending fifty million dollars are you going to be able to use a young genius? Is some new comer going to be able to manipulate the corridors of power to trust him with a fifty million dollar budget, is a genius that's a little bit eccentric going to be able to get onto those movies? Or are we going to have a different kind of talent in the future?
DR: Think of the evolution of someone like Sam Raimi. He started off as being a sort of weird eccentric genius. Or Quentin Tarantino even.
LK: He may be able to keep his identity, but he had the opportunity to learn his craft in the low budget format. Looking ahead to the next generation, what sort of corporate style actor are we going to get? I'm fearful we're going to end up with talented people, but a different kind of talent.
DR: Will you be interested in developing video strictly for the net? Composers are currently doing a lot of that.
LK: You can down load scenes from the Troma site, but the thing we have to keep in mind is our freedom on the Internet. We must continue to fight for our freedom before the big wigs start censoring us.
DR: What's next for you Lloyd?
LK: Well certainly Troma will be doing our next feature SCHLOCK AND SCHLOCKABILITY: THE REVENGE OF JANE AUSTIN where she's up in heaven playing cards with Shakespeare and Mark Twain and she's quite pissed off because of the bland way people are interpreting her work down here, and Twain's stuff too. In their day it had to be bland but in our time it should be Tromatized! So in heaven they draw straws and she loses and has to come down to Earth in the guise of a Tromette.
DR: Is there a Tromaville in heaven Lloyd?
LK: Gee I don't know... after I blow my brains out I'll let you know!

User Comments

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Comment by Josiene on 2015-12-24 15:47:51
Gah, there's a lot of questions I'd like to ask Lloyd Kaufman, and while they all start out ienocnnt enough, somehow they end up as insults and attempts to shame him. I'm so fed up with self-aware low-budget films. Toxic Avenger was fun, in an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes kind of way, but What Price Glory, Mr. Kaufman? What Price Glory?Here's a suggestion spend the entire five minutes talking about his cameo in The Final Countdown. Mr. Kaufman, what's Kirk Douglas really like? Did you get to party with Martin Sheen? Do you think a modern aircraft carrier could really travel back in time? How is that possible? Please show your work. Mr. Kaufman, in The Final Countdown, when Richard Owens is shown climbing out of his fighter after landing he appears to be in short sleeves. This would be contrary to Naval policy which requires that all pilots wear a flight suit with long sleeves to protect the arms in case a fire occurs during a carrier landing. Does it bother you to be forever associated with such a sloppy approach to filmmaking?

Comment by Mantombi on 2015-12-26 01:14:47
Cf3mo este1s Pablo? Estoy reapareciendo despue9s de una areidz filmica por mucho trabajo pero ased son las cosas. Para mi sorpresa, estoy leyendo tu credtica de esta peledcula y me sorprendo no haber visto ninguna cinta de las que mencionas aunque creo haber visto Toxic avenger hace me1s de 15 o 20af1os pero no estoy seguro si es una de esas peledculas que mencionas. No fue tan grata la experiencia pues ya la habeda borrado de mi mente. Si es ased, pues no tengo mayor cosa que agregar pues este cine definitivamente es para un selecto grupo de cine9filos (de todo hay en la vif1a del Sef1or)entre los que no me incluyo ha pesar que me agrada una amplia gama de ge9neros.Aprovecho este espacio en donde desperdicio bites con mi e1rido comentario para pedirte que algfan deda comentes sobre Evil Dead una de mis favoritas en el ge9nero de terror y, tratando de ser objetivo..ejem, una de las mejores peledculas de terror que han habido. Un fuerte abrazo Luis http://bbnbcynxfpy.com [url=http://kwmkwslnch.com]kwmkwslnch[/url] [link=http://cxfuoldakpm.com]cxfuoldakpm[/link]

Comment by Takaza on 2015-12-28 15:11:26
Pues que bueno que reaparece Troma y Lloyd kamfuan luego de un buen rato de no verles, en los 80 s parecia que todos los veian como engendros del mal gusto pero luego de que en los 90 s las peliculas de Adam Sandler, Mike myers y las de Scary movie, han hecho dinero aparte los terribles programas de Geraldo rivera, Motel williams y Jerry springer han hecho del "mal gusto" una institucion en la cultura de EU, y que la gente acepte mejor tales extremos, pues es buen momento para que Troma reclame su trono, esta mas divertida y graciosa que muchas peliculas hechas por comediantes de experiencia, hasta los extras se ven ridiculos, solo una recomendacion: No coma o beba mientras ve la pelicula, o podrian terminar devolviendo lo que ingirieron.
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