The Toxic Avenger (film)

This article is about the film. For the musical stage adaptation, see The Toxic Avenger (musical).
The Toxic Avenger

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 horror comedy film directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (credited as Samuel Weil) and written by Kaufman and Joe Ritter. The film was released by Troma Entertainment, known for producing low budget B-movies with campy concepts and gruesome violence. 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 (Mark Torgl) is a stereotypical 98-pound weakling who works as a janitor at a health club in the fictional town of Tromaville, New Jersey where the customers—particularly Bozo (Gary Schneider), Slug (Robert Prichard), Wanda (Jennifer Babtist) and Julie (Cindy Manion)—harass him constantly. His tormentors get more and more violent, even deliberately killing a young boy on a bike in a hit-and-run and taking photos of the carnage afterward. One day, they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club and out a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste, which sets him on fire. After running down the street in a ball of flames, Melvin douses the flames in his bathtub. The chemicals cause him to transform into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.

A group of drug dealers, led by the criminal Cigar Face (Dan Snow), are harassing a police officer by the name of O'Clancy (Dick Martinsen), trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang prepare to castrate him. Melvin appears out of nowhere and violently kills the criminals, then leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Melvin then tries to return home, but his mother is terrified of him and will not let him in the house; so Melvin - publicly dubbed "The Monster Hero" and hailed as a hero - builds a makeshift home in the junkyard.

Elsewhere in Tromaville, a gang of three men are holding up a Mexican food restaurant and attack a blind woman named Sarah (Andree Maranda). They kill her guide dog and attempt to rape her, but are stopped by the Toxic Avenger, who wreaks bloody vengeance on them. The Toxic Avenger takes Sarah back to her home, where they begin to get to know one another and subsequently become romantically involved.

The Toxic Avenger returns to the health club, attacks popular girl Wanda in a sauna and burns her rear side on the heater. Afterwards, the Avenger is relieving himself in a back alley when a limo pulls up and a pimp tries to push a 12-year-old girl onto him, but he fights the pimp and his goons off and saves the girl. Melvin later returns to the health club, pursues Julie into the basement, and cuts off her hair (offscreen). He then confronts Bozo and Slug after they brutally stole a car, ending in Slug getting thrown out of the moving car and Bozo driving off the side of a cliff.

As Melvin continues to fight crime and aid the people in the city, Mayor Belgoody (Pat Ryan Jr.), the leader of Tromaville's extensive crime ring, is horrified of what is happening to his goons. He is worried that it will lead back to him and wants Melvin to be taken care of. A group of men, led by Cigar Face, surround Melvin with guns. Just before they fire on him, he leaps up to a fire escape, so that they end up shooting each other.

When the Toxic Avenger kills a seemingly innocent old woman in a dry cleaning store (she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade), Belgoody uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard. Back in his junkyard home, the Toxic Avenger is terrified of what he has become, and he and Sarah decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods. They are eventually discovered, and the Mayor and the National Guard come to kill him, but the people of Tromaville will have none of it. The Mayor's evil ways are revealed, and the Toxic Avenger proceeds to rip out Belgoody's organs to see if he has "any guts". The movie ends with a reassurance that the Toxic Avenger will continue to combat crime in Tromaville.


  • 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.

Originally, Melvin is known as "The Monster Hero", but it was during post-production that the name "The Toxic Avenger" was used.

Deleted scenes

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.

In one of the scenes between Melvin and Sara, Sara makes Melvin a peanut butter and Drano sandwich, in which Melvin throws out the window and hits a man square in the face. The man who gets the sandwich to the face is the actor who plays The Toxic Avenger himself, Mitch Cohen, without the makeup.


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 mixed to positive reviews from critics. Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 2 1/2 out of a possible 4 stars, calling the film, "A funny spoof... Not without violence and gore but still entertaining."[7] Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported a 67% "fresh" rating based on 18 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10.[8]

In other media

The Toxic Avenger has been adapted to other media:


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.[15] On April 6, 2010, a remake of The Toxic Avenger was announced.[16]

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.[17] In May 2013, Arnold Schwarzenegger became the frontrunner for the lead role.[18] Sometime in late 2013, Schwarzenegger dropped out to work on Terminator Genisys, but, as of February 2015, plans for the remake continued to circulate.[19] On September 12, 2016, Variety reports that Conrad Vernon will direct the film, while Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Films will executive produce along with Bob Cooper and Alex Schwartz of Storyscape Entertainment and Greg Lessans of Weed Road. Richard Saperstein’s Storyscape Entertainment, Akiva Goldsman’s Weed Road and Charlie Corwin will produce, Mike Arnold and Chris Poole are on board to rewrite the screenplay by Pink and Daniel C. Mitchell.[20]


  1. "THE TOXIC AVENGER (18)". British Board of Film Classification. November 5, 1986. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 "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. 1 2 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. Jonathan Harchick (28 October 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Createspace Independent Pub. p. 1448. ISBN 978-1-4936-2083-8.
  8. "The Toxic Avenger Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  9. "The Big Database of Comic Books". Retrieved October 11, 2006.
  10. "LEE SULLIVAN ART Comics". Retrieved July 7, 2009.
  11. "The 2007 TromaDance Film Festival - Donate to TromaDance!". Retrieved July 14, 2007.
  13. Motley, John. "Toxic Avenger: The Musikill". Portland Mercury. Retrieved August 3, 2006.
  14. "The Lincoln Journal Star". Retrieved July 29, 2004.
  15. Lloyd Kaufman interview with regarding the potential Toxic Avenger remake @ Cinema Wasteland, Strongville Ohio, October 2009
  16. "The Toxic Avenger Gets Remade". Craptastic Movies.
  17. "Steve Pink to Remake 'The Toxic Avenger'".
  18. "Arnold Schwarzenegger in Talks to Star in 'Toxic Avenger' Remake". The Hollywood Reporter. May 13, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  19. "TOXIC AVENGER Remake Still "Trying to Happen", Without Schwarzenegger". Nuke the Fridge. February 14, 2015. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  20. Kroll, Justin (February 14, 2016). "'Sausage Party' Co-Director Conrad Vernon to Helm 'Toxic Avenger' Remake". Variety.
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