The Toxic Avenger (film)

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This article is about the film. For the musical stage adaptation, see The Toxic Avenger (musical).
The Toxic Avenger
Toxic avengerposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
  • Michael Herz
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • Stuart Strutin
Written by
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • Joe Ritter
  • Lloyd Kaufman
  • James London
Edited by Richard W. Haines
Distributed by Troma Entertainment
Release dates
  • May 1984 (1984-05) (New York)
  • April 11, 1986 (1986-04-11)
Running time
79 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000[2]
Box office $800,000

The Toxic Avenger is a 1984 American superhero film directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (credited as Samuel Weil) and written by Kaufman and Joe Ritter. The film, released by Troma Entertainment, known for producing low budget B-movies with campy concepts and gruesome violence, was virtually ignored upon its first release, The Toxic Avenger caught on with filmgoers after a long and successful midnight movie engagement at the famed Bleecker Street Cinemas in New York City in late 1985. It now is regarded as a cult classic.

The film has generated three film sequels, a stage musical production and a children's TV cartoon.[3] Two less successful sequels, The Toxic Avenger Part II and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, were filmed as one. Director Lloyd Kaufman realized that he had shot far too much footage for one film and re-edited it into two. A third independent sequel was also released, titled Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV. A fourth sequel entitled The Toxic Avenger 5: Toxic Twins is planned for a future release. An animated children's TV series spin-off, Toxic Crusaders, featured Toxie as the leader of a team of mutated superheroes who fought against evil alien polluters. The cartoon series was short-lived and quickly cancelled. New Line Cinema had planned a live-action film based on the cartoon, but the deal fell through.


Melvin Ferd III, a stereotypical 98-pound weakling, works as a janitor at the Tromaville Health Club in the fictional Tromaville, New Jersey, and is regularly tormented by club customers Bozo, Slug, Wanda and Julie. The Mayor of Tromaville is Peter Belgoody, who, unknown to the citizens of the town, is also the leader of a massive Tromaville crime ring, but hides this fact by promoting good will and proposed justice to the town as a cover-up.

As days go by, Melvin's tormentors grow increasingly violent, even deliberately running over a young boy on a bike with their car just for thrills and photographing the subsequent carnage. Finally, one day, they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club by other customers and, jumping out of a second story window, lands in a drum of toxic waste which immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames, Melvin survives and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength, and an instinctive ability of locating evildoers.

Elsewhere, a group of drug dealers led by the criminal Cigar Face are harassing a police officer by the name of O'Clancy, trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang attack and brutalize him. Then, just as Cigar Face prepares to castrate Officer O'Clancy with his gun, a large creature comes out of nowhere and violently kills Cigar Face's goons Knuckles and Nipples, and leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face survives, but has had his testicles smashed by the creature before escaping. O'Clancy is initially terrified, but the creature approaches him and politely apologizes for his behavior. Belgoody is shocked at the deaths of some of his goons, but is still confident that the Monster will not come looking for him, hoping that one of his goons will kill him eventually.

The officer's rescuer, dubbed the "Monster Hero", is the now-profoundly mutated Melvin, who, while he retains his good heart, now displays a penchant towards extreme violence against evildoers. He tries to return home, but his mother ends up panicking upon the sight of him. Wracked with sorrow, Melvin builds a makeshift home in a junkyard. Later on, three men named Leroy, Frank and Rico hold up a Mexican fast food restaurant. Leroy kills one of the patrons and Frank attacks a blind woman named Sara after Leroy kills her guide dog. But then the miscreants are attacked by Melvin, who wreaks bloody vengeance on the three men and takes Sara back to her home, where they begin to get to know one another and progressively fall in love. Melvin returns to the Health Club, killing a drug dealer and attacking Wanda, searing her rear end on the hot stove of a sauna; afterwards, he fights a pimp and his goons who are trying to push a 12-year-old girl on him. The Monster Hero soon starts building up a friendly reputation in Tromaville by doing all sorts of "superhero" work, from saving two younger boys from being run over by Bozo's car to even helping the elderly to cross the street.

Meanwhile, Belgoody is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to his goons, as not only are they being killed by the Monster Hero, but some of them are also turning themselves over to the police for their own safety. He is now worried that his operations will be exposed, and wants the Monster Hero to be taken care of. One night, Cigar Face returns (covered in bandages and casts) and brings along a new group of Belgoody's goons to surround the Monster with guns. Before they fire on him, he jumps up to a fire escape and they end up shooting and killing each other. The Monster Hero returns to the Health Club again and attacks Julie, forcingly depriving her (offscreen) of her hair. Soon afterwards, he confronts the last of his tormentors, Bozo and Slug, who have attacked an old woman and stolen her car after Julie didn't show up. Bozo and Slug try to run him over, but the Monster jumps on top of the car, kills them both and crashes the vehicle, walking away from the wreckage unharmed.

Later, when the Monster Hero kills a seemingly innocent old midget woman in a dry cleaning store (it is later revealed that she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade) by throwing her into the store's washing machine, the Monster Hero wanders back to his junkyard home, revealing his true identity to Sara and feeling terrified and guilty for what he has become. Sara, however, tells Melvin that she still loves him no matter what he looks like, and the two decide to move away from the city and into a tent in the nearby woods.

However, Belgoody finds out about the Monster Hero's "mishap" and uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard in hopes of finally killing him. Soon Sara and the Monster are discovered in the woods and surrounded by both the National Guard and the townspeople. Belgoody arrives, intent on killing him (whereas the National Guard's request was originally for capture), but thanks to Mevlin's kind duties to the town, the people of Tromaville, including Melvin's mother, will have none of it. Belgoody opens fire anyway, but his bullets fail to harm Melvin, who messily disembowels Belgoody. The film ends with the townspeople's celebration at the Monster's acceptance and a reassuring epilogue that wherever evil brews in Tromaville, Melvin, now dubbed the "Toxic Avenger", will be there to protect the town.


  • Mitch Cohen as The Toxic Avenger
    • Kenneth Kessler as Voice of The Toxic Avenger
  • Mark Torgl as Melvin Ferd III
  • Andree Maranda as Sara
  • Pat Ryan Jr. as Mayor Peter Belgoody
  • Sarabel Levinson as Mrs. Ferd
  • Dan Snow as Cigar Face
  • Dick Martinsen as Officer O'Clancy
  • Gary Schneider as Bozo
  • Robert Prichard as Slug
  • Jennifer Babtist as Wanda
  • Cindy Manion as Julie
  • Chris Liano as Walter Harris
  • David N. Weiss as Chief of Police
  • Doug Isbecque as Knuckles
  • Charles Lee, Jr. as Nipples
  • Pat Kilpatrick as Leroy
  • Larry Sulton as Frank
  • Michael Russo as Rico
  • Al Pia as Tom Wrightson
  • Dennis Souder as Drug dealer
  • Xavier Barquet as Man Killed in Restaurant
  • Reuben Guss as Dr. Snodburger
  • Matt Klan as Boy Hero
  • Dominick J. Calvitto as Skippy, Boy on Bicycle
  • Marisa Tomei (Director's cut) as Locker Room Girl


The Toxic Avenger was the film that "built the house of Troma",[4] and was Troma's first horror film. Previously the production company focused on sex comedies such as Cry Uncle! and Squeeze Play!. Subsequently, Troma focused almost exclusively on horror films.[2]

In 1975, Lloyd Kaufman had the idea to shoot a horror film involving a health club while serving as the pre-production supervisor on the set of Rocky. At the Cannes Film Festival, Kaufman had read an article that said horror films were no longer popular, so Kaufman claims that he decided to produce his own version of the horror film. The film's final outcome was less a bona fide horror film and more of a campy superhero-spoof with extreme violence embedded throughout. The setting of the movie in a health club and the movie was given a working title of Health Club Horror.[2][5] Kaufman wrote the script with the help of writer Joe Ritter.

Deleted scenes[edit]

Several cut scenes are available on the film's Director's Cut DVD. Some of these scenes involve Bozo and his gang at the Health Club, Melvin (as the Monster) and his growing relationship with Sara, conversations between Belgoody and his henchmen, and Wanda and Julie having a fight in the police station after they try to complain about Melvin's assaults and end up laughing about their respective maladies.


Scenes for the film were shot at various locations in New Jersey, including Jersey City, Boonton, Harrison, and Rutherford during the summer of 1983.[6]


The Toxic Avenger received a 67% "fresh" rating from critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10.[7]

In other media[edit]

The Toxic Avenger has been adapted to other media:

  • From April 1991-February 1992, Marvel Comics published The Toxic Avenger comic. The comic was written by Doug Moench, drawn by Rodney Ramos, and Val Mayerik, and lasted for 11 issues.[8] The series focused on Toxie battling against the evil Apocalypse, Inc. and its demonic Chairman. The title was a mix of traditional superhero storytelling and satire, including the phrase "hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength" being repeated many times, and Toxie's "Tromatons" erupting when he was in danger similar to Spider-Man's spider-sense. Marvel's series also contained much in the way of "over-the-top", cartoonish violence. No other Marvel characters ever appeared in the series, and Toxie never made his way into any other Marvel comic, although a crossover with Marvel's RoboCop title was planned before that series was cancelled.[9]
  • In July 2000, Troma published an extremely rare comic book entitled The New Adventures of the Toxic Avenger. This comic was offered to people who donate $75 or more to TromaDance 2007.[10]
  • Kaufman and Adam Jahnke wrote a novelization entitled The Toxic Avenger: The Novel. It was released on May 10, 2006, and was published by Thunder's Mouth Press.
  • In October 2008, the world premiere of Kaufman's The Toxic Avenger debuted at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey becoming the highest-grossing musical in its 34-year history. The show was written by Tony Award winners Joe DiPietro[11] and Bon Jovi’s David Bryan and directed by Tony Award winner John Rando. The show has its New York premiere at the New World Stages in April 2009 and won the 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and an additional 18 nominations from the Drama League, Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel Awards (including Best Musical) and five Dora Award Nominations (the Canadian equivalent of the Tony Award) including Best Musical and a win for Best Actress in a Musical. The show was presented by Dancap Productions in Toronto in October 2009 and by Shownote and CJ Entertainment in Seoul, Korea in August 2010.
  • Earlier stage productions of the film include Toxic Avenger: The Musikill, with lyrics by Ira Kortum, who also directed and starred in the production, which premiered in Portland, Oregon. The music was composed by Martin J. Gallagher, with the assistance of Marc Rose.[12] Kaufman reportedly had nothing to do with the production, although he did verbally support Kortum's adaptation and attended the production on Opening Night. Excerpts from Toxic Avenger: The Musikill are featured on the 21st Anniversary edition of the original film.[5] Toxic Avenger: The Musical was presented at Omaha's Blue Barn Theatre in 2004.[13] This production was written and directed by Rob Urbinati, with music by Kevin Saunders Hayes.
  • Parts of the plot were adapted for the third season episode "The Noxious Avenger" of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012 computer animation series.


According to Kaufman, due to the remake of Mother's Day, major motion picture companies are interested in doing remakes of other Troma films. Among the titles currently in negotiations is The Toxic Avenger.[14] On April 6, 2010, a remake of The Toxic Avenger was announced.[15]

The remake, said to be aiming for a family-friendly PG-13 release similar to the Toxic Crusaders television series, is to be co-written and directed by Steve Pink.[16] In May 2013, Arnold Schwarzenegger became the frontrunner for the lead role.[17] Sometime in late 2013, Schwarzenegger dropped out to work on Terminator Genisys, but, as of February 2015, plans for the remake continue to circulate.[18] As of July 2015, no further plans have surfaced.


  1. ^ "THE TOXIC AVENGER (18)". British Board of Film Classification. November 5, 1986. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Original Toxic Avenger". Troma Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  3. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (2003-11-07). "Lloyd Kaufman". Something Jewish. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  4. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (2001-05-30). "The Toxic Avenger: The Unrated Director's Cut". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  5. ^ a b Leitner, Lucy (23 November 2004). "Read your own damn story - about making your own damn movie". The Pitt News. Retrieved August 3, 2006. 
  6. ^ The Star Ledger. October 26, 2014. pg. E7
  7. ^ "The Toxic Avenger Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  8. ^ "The Big Database of Comic Books". Retrieved October 11, 2006. 
  9. ^ "LEE SULLIVAN ART Comics". Retrieved July 7, 2009. 
  10. ^ "The 2007 TromaDance Film Festival - Donate to TromaDance!". Retrieved July 14, 2007. 
  12. ^ Motley, John. "Toxic Avenger: The Musikill". Portland Mercury. Retrieved August 3, 2006. 
  13. ^ "The Lincoln Journal Star". Retrieved July 29, 2004. 
  14. ^ Lloyd Kaufman interview with regarding the potential Toxic Avenger remake @ Cinema Wasteland, Strongville Ohio, October 2009
  15. ^ "The Toxic Avenger Gets Remade". Craptastic Movies. 
  16. ^ "Steve Pink to Remake 'The Toxic Avenger'". 
  17. ^ "Arnold Schwarzenegger in Talks to Star in 'Toxic Avenger' Remake". The Hollywood Reporter. May 13, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  18. ^ "TOXIC AVENGER Remake Still "Trying to Happen", Without Schwarzenegger". Nuke the Fridge. February 14, 2015. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 

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