Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Troma Entertainment. That’s quite the milestone for a film-production company built off surreal, low-budget oddities filled with overt sex, violence and gleefully offensive content — so much so that its very name is associated with a particular kind of film, and not one by which general audiences are especially enraptured. Talents who started in Troma-produced productions throughout the years include Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.), Oliver Stone (The Ballad of Love’s Return), James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet) and J.J. Abrams (Nightbeast). Some embrace their history with Troma; others, like Costner, tried to buy up the rights to their work to hide it away for all eternity. (Troma declined, of course.)

The company was started by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz. Over the years, Kaufman has become the Stan Lee of the American independent schlock circuit, right down to making cameos in productions inspired by his work. He’s an offbeat spokesman for indie filmmakers and their rights to make films on their own terms. That doesn’t mean good films, but that’s not always the important part of getting butts into seats and eyes on your work.

Nothing quite captures the highs and lows of Troma than its iconic Toxic Avenger series. The first film really put the company on the map, so much so that the titular hero is their company mascot (and headlining an apparently well-received remake starring Peter Dinklage coming in 2024). “Toxie,” as he’s known, went on to star in three more sequels through the early 2000s, as well as a cartoon series for kids and a musical. The film series itself is a huge mixed bag but only in the way Troma can do it — a quartet of films that becomes more tasteless and depraved as it goes along, scraping the bottom of the barrel to find new ways to shock and upset loyal followers.

The Films

The Toxic Avenger (1985)

What makes The Toxic Avenger work is that beneath its extreme violence, wonton sexuality, goofy filmmaking, bad costumes, disgusting visual effects and all-around offensive attitude, it’s still about as pure a take on the classic superhero archetype as exists in the cape-addled culture of 2023. It lays bare the psychosexual nature of the superhero fantasy, poking fun at the whole thing while effectively using its classic story beats. Not to oversell it, but The Toxic Avenger might be one of the key texts to understanding where all this shit started and where it’s going.

It also features one of the best lines of dialogue I’ve ever heard: “Holy shit! It’s the monster and he’s got a bimbo with him! And she’s wearing a bikini! Wow!”

Like I said: Not to oversell it.

The film is basically set at a Tromaville health club where the jocks and hot girls (everyone dressed as scantily as possible) torment the dopey janitor, Melvin Ferd Junko III (Mitch Cohen). He’s a pimply nosed freakazoid who doesn’t understand the nasty folks around him are teasing him. Things change when a prank goes wrong and Melvin falls into a vat of inconveniently placed toxic waste, morphing him into a deep-voiced hero of the people. He sets out to rid his beloved town of all who sully it with crime, violence and general nastiness.

It’s not that we like Melvin; he’s kind of disgusting and stupid. It’s not that we really like or relate to anyone else in Tromaville, either; Melvin’s tormenters are cartoonishly evil, graphically murdering children and other innocents just for kicks. There’s really nothing likable or pleasant about any of the characters in the film besides maybe Toxie’s blind girlfriend, Sara (Andree Maranda). This isn’t a film about characters. It’s about delivering all the explicit insanity it can in an 82-minute runtime. And it does. Just about every scene is filled with outrageous, depraved acts of violence. Toxie may be a hero, but that doesn’t stop him from making one of his villains into a human milkshake.

Toxie, more than any superhero story produced amid the last 20 years of the genre’s cultural dominance, captures the completely off-the-cuff nature of early comics where literally anything could happen at any time and characters lacked a cultural footprint that demands moral clarity. Early Superman comics are totally wild, for instance. He kills people all the time! Sometimes he turns fat or cheats on his wife. Weird stuff, wacky stuff, stories told for audiences searching for something to scratch their desire for shock, for suspense. Something they had never seen before.

It’s not that The Toxic Avenger is a film for every audience. Far from it. I would only recommend this to two or three people outside of my usual schlock circles, and I’m not even sure those outsiders would enjoy it. It’s unforgettable, though. At 82 minutes, it never lets up, delivering memorable scene after scene, laugh-out-loud line after line. A truly one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989)

It’s shame that of this four-film set, only the first is really worth watching again. Hell, it’s really the only one worth watching, period. The Toxic Avenger Part II feels desperate to one-up the first film from the jump and never manages to do so. It abandons the simplicity of the first film in favor of a longer, more sprawling story that introduces a lot of new ideas without delivering great punchlines at nearly the same clip.

This time around, Toxie has made Tromaville safe, which is unacceptable to Apocalypse, Inc., which wants to pollute the town. They attack Toxie’s new home, the Tromaville Center for the Blind, and almost kill his wife, Claire (Phoebe Legere), a character previously known as Sara but inexplicably renamed. After an extended fight — the best part of the film — Toxie travels to Japan to look for his long-lost father. (“I was 10,000 miles away in a land where they eat plastic noodles.”)

You can probably guess how Toxie’s time in Japan goes. Culturally sensitive travelogue, this is not. The entire middle act of the film is a drawn-out “fish out of water” story with some outrageously funny violence and dialogue but also a lot of lazy racial stereotypes. Far be it from me to complain that Troma goes too far to shock its audience, but it just doesn’t work. Part of what makes the first film so good is that it’s punching in every direction but never reliant on stereotypes to land its punchlines. Toxie II is just a drag.

The ending, when Toxie returns to Tromaville, features a prolonged car chase that never reaches the slapstick heights of the film’s opening brawl.

This one became an underground hit on VHS. That makes sense: It still features a lot of great gore bits, ridiculous sexuality and shocking moments. But watching it in sequence leaves a lot to be desired.

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989)

Just terrible. All the flaws of the second movie without the residual charm of the first. A total bore. Unwatchable.

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (2000)

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV is easily the brashest and most offensive of all the films, the sort of movie that makes you feel embarrassed for even watching. It’s simply a piece of shit, a strung-together film with everyone involved trying way too hard to be offensive for attention — like watching the work of a 12-year old on the early internet (or basically any financially successful YouTuber). Unlike the first film, which perfectly blended its outcast story with nutty humor and violence, IV goes all-in on the latter and it’s groan-inducing from the jump. Sure, you can tell a story about a bunch of diaper-clad bandits raiding a special-needs school full of actors doing offensive stereotypes of the students celebrating Mexico Day that ends with Toxie’s morbidly obese partner, Lardass, attempting to digest a bomb with his iron stomach. But should you? Does it work?

Seeing James Gunn appear in IV as a physically disabled scientist prattling on about his penis pump makes you wonder why it took so long for his old tweets to get him fired off Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3. (Not that he ever deserved to be in the first place, but it does make you think.)

Perhaps the reason IV sat so poorly with me is that it’s the only Toxie film thus far to be produced at a time where I was actually, you know, alive, and all of it feels so familiar to me as someone who spent far too much time on the early internet, making stuff up like this to shock and entertain my friends with similarly irreverent preteen tastes. Whereas the first Toxie feels like a movie that channels a cultural id (the superhero narrative) into something profane, silly and ultimately kind of genuine, IV doesn’t feel like it comes from a similarly thoughtful place. It’s shock for the simple value of making headlines and becoming a piece of legendary outside art. It punches down from the jump and only gets more frustrating as it goes, a parade of bad-taste moments that never gives the audience a chance to clean its mouth before the next expulsion.

I recognize it because it was me, at a time. Like Gunn, a time I’d rather just forget and move on from as best I can.

The Set

To celebrate the company’s first half-century, Troma is releasing a brand-new 4K UHD box set of the first four Toxic Avengers films. Each film features a Blu-ray disc loaded with special features from previous releases, as well as a 4K UHD disc with very funny new introductions by Kaufman himself. These releases include fixes to the poorly transferred Blu-ray edition of The Toxic Avenger Part II.

As far as a Toxic Avenger collection goes, well, if you already love and adore these movies, this is the way to go with them. They look great! And comparing the 4K UHD and Blu-ray editions, it’s clear the former is a huge upgrade, letting you see all the ridiculous details. These were cheap productions but (mostly) lovingly crafted ones, and the gore is particularly gnarly in such vivid detail.

Features-wise, these are mostly the same included in older releases, as listed below.


  • New 4K scan and restoration (from the films’ original camera negatives) of each film, presented in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in HDR with English DTS 2.0 Stereo audio
  • New introductions for each film from Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma Entertainment and creator of the Toxic Avenger
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf or hard of hearing on all discs
  • Collectible Toxic Avenger postcard
  • Region-free 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs

THE TOXIC AVENGER [Unrated Director’s Cut] 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray

  • Introduction by Kaufman
  • Audio commentary with cast members Robert Prichard, Gary Schneider and Dan Snow
  • Audio commentary with Kaufman
  • Interviews with cast members Prichard, Cohen, Snow and Jennifer Babtist (Blu-ray only)
  • Interview with co-director Michael Herz (Blu-ray only)
  • Mark Torgl Talks About The Toxic Avenger featurette (Blu-ray only)
  • Behind-the-scenes photo gallery (Blu-ray only)
  • Trailers (Blu-ray only)

THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II [Unrated Director’s Cut] 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray

  • Introduction by Kaufman
  • Audio commentary with Kaufman
  • At Home with Toxie mockumentary (Blu-ray only)
  • Interview with cast member Lisa Gaye (Blu-ray only)
  • Japanese news report on the filming of The Toxic Avenger Part II (Blu-ray only)
  • Radiation March short film directed by Kaufman (Blu-ray only)
  • The American Cinematheque Honors 40 Years of Troma (Blu-ray only)
  • Trailers (Blu-ray only)


  • Introduction by Kaufman
  • Audio commentary with Kaufman
  • Audio commentary with cast member Joe Fleishaker
  • Behind the scenes of the Return to Nuke ’em High Volume 1 screening at the Museum of Modern Art (Blu-ray only)
  • The American Cinematheque Honors 40 Years of Troma (Blu-ray only)
  • Make Your Own Damn Horror Film — Behind the scenes of Old 37 with Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley (Blu-ray only)
  • A Halloween Carol short film (Blu-ray only)
  • Infomercial for Rabid Grannies Blu-ray release (Blu-ray only)
  • Radiation March short film directed by Kaufman (Blu-ray only)

CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER PART IV [Unrated Director’s Cut] 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray

  • Introduction by Kaufman
  • Audio commentary with Kaufman
  • Audio Commentary with editor Gabriel Friedman
  • Audio Commentary with co-writer / cast member Trent Haaga
  • Apocalypse Soon: The Making of Citizen Toxie behind-the-scenes documentary (Blu-ray only)
  • Tribute to Lemmy Kilmister (Blu-ray only)
  • The American Cinematheque Honors 40 Years of Troma (Blu-ray only)
  • Trailers (Blu-ray only)

For fans, this is a must-have set. If you’re new to them? You can find the Toxie films elsewhere. The first is a must-own classic; the rest, well, they didn’t really do it for me.