Ed. note: Originally published at www.moviepoopshoot.com on 24 June, 2002. Original artwork by Ming Chen. Toxie and Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD are registered trademarks of Troma Entertainment, Inc. Used under license. Copyright 2002 Chris Lanphear.
“Look! I am the director! Now I’m not saying that because I’m on an ego-trip or for some bullshit artistic vision! I’m saying that because I’ve been directing 10 cent movies for 30 years, and I think I know a little bit about what I’m doing. It’s a horrible world: there’s starvation, rape, cornholing, it’s horrible out there. But it’s worse, it’s much worse on the movie set. We have danger and stupidity! I don’t want someone dying on my set! If someone dies here, I’ll blow my brains out! My career will be over, and it’ll be your fault!”
And with that quote from Troma’s TERROR FIRMER, Greetings from Tromaville and welcome to my column here at the Shoot. Every other Wednesday, I will attempt to inform you able readers about one of the lesser-talked-about aspects of pop-culture: low-budget filmmaking! I know a little bit about the subject, as I work with the masters of that proverbial universe: Hell’s Kitchen, NY-based Troma Entertainment.
A short break to explain Troma
Founded in 1974 by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, TROMA, INC. quickly began producing films on tightly-controlled budgets, films that offered something different than the fodder that was being churned out by the major studios. In the 1980s, Troma first became famous for the horror-comedy THE TOXIC AVENGER, and later CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH. And in the 90s, Troma continued to push the envelope with TROMEO & JULIET and TERROR FIRMER. Most recently, Troma Entertainment celebrated the release of CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV, the latest film for Toxie, who has been dubbed “Troma’s Mickey Mouse”. We’ve been featured at retrospectives by the American Film Institute, the British Film Institute and the Cinematheque Francias, to name a few. But more importantly, people have called us the masters of exploitation cinema (aka Sex and Violence). And to that, we say: “Thank you!” Troma has also formed it’s own fiercely independent film festival, TromaDance, in January of 2000. In addition, Troma operates the Roan Group of restored classic films. It’s all part of our crusade to promote “World Peace Through Celluloid.”
Okay, enough of the history lesson…
Now, why is independent filmand specifically companies like Troma, who have been in business for almost 30 yearsneglected in the mainstream media? Well, we have a theory.
The State of the Indepedent Union
It’s a conspiracy. That’s right, a conspiracyand as Troma’s president and co-founder Lloyd Kaufman likes to say, a conspiracy of of the labor, beauracratic and corporate elites. That is to say, companies like AOHell Slime Wormer and Schlockbuster Video have successfully wiped out mom-and-pop video stores and theatresand in doing so, have rung the death rattle for independent studios like Troma. The entertainment industry is being controlled by one or two giant conglomerates, and it is very difficult to get unknown, independent product to the masses.
Companies like Blockbuster (oops, it slipped) have further led to the deterioration of companies like Troma, by running the independent video stores out of business and refusing to stock independent product, while at the same time carrying 90 copies of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. So it doesn’t matter if someone wants to go out and rent a Troma moviethey’re not able to if the chains don’t carry it. Not only that, but the majority of independent video companies have long since gone bankrupt or been bought out by the aforementioned offenders.
But we’re still here, if only to be a thorn in the side of the entertainment industry.
So how is it that companies like Troma continue to survive? Luckily, our fans are a very loyal and spending group. And thanks to their continued support through the internet, companies like Troma are able to stay afloat and keep making films outside the mainstream.
Okay, so the fake limbs and the rubber creatures and the ultraslime wouldn’t fit in any normal person’s top 10 list of films to see with your children. But we love what we do, and we do it with heart (and intestines and whatever else we have laying around). We fight for what we getan uphill battle in a world of $300 million budgets for the LORD OF THE RINGS franchise and $100+ million advertising campaigns for SPIDER-MAN. Yes, Troma movies are cheap, offensive and crass… We wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, it’s only in wonderful alternative media, like the great Movie Poop Shoot am I able to rant my psychotic conspiracy theories about the multimedia conglomerates and their spiritual drain of the small-time independents. But more importantly, it gives guys (and gynos) like us a chance to be heard. Thank God for the Internet!
Remember, Toxie Loves You!
NEXT WEEK: Some actual content, including how to “break in” at Troma (or “How Lloyd Kaufman Ruined My Life”), a review of CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER PART IV, my first obscure DVD pick of the week, and how to make your own realistic head-crushing… as I continue on my quest to show you loyal readers what a person can do with some fake blood, toxic waste and a dream.