Theatrical Release: December 9, 1988 (limited)
Blu Ray Release: August 18, 2015
Director: Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman
Review by James Klein
After the release of The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Herz and Kaufman decided to go all out and attempt to make a big budget action film with the hopes of possibly having a theatrical release. According to Kaufman’s audio commentary, this was his answer to the Reagan-era / Rambo patriotism however the biting satire that was so in your face in his later films such as Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV or Terror Firmer, is sorely lacking. What is left is a cheap, low budget war film that is more of a Rambo wannabe than a satire of those particular films.
Troma’s War begins with the aftermath of a plane crash on a desert island. As the survivors collect themselves and try and figure out where they are, the film introduces us to a few of the main leads such as Taylor (Sean Bowen) the hero of the film, Lydia (Carolyn Beauchamp) a feminist and Parker (Rick Washburn) a former Airborne soldier. I found it strange that Parker is one of our heroes when he spouts off racial slurs and homophobic slang. But then again this is the glorious 80’s. While our leads break off from the others to try and find help, the remaining survivors are captured by a Neo-Nazi/Russian/Arab militant group who believe the survivors are spies and not the survivors of a plane crash.
The tone of Troma’s War is all over the map and it never knows if it wants to be a serious war film or an over the top comedic bloodfest. While the survivors are being tortured (one scene involves a priest who is thought to be a jew getting his brains blown out in slow motion) we find out that the terrorist group’s mutant leader is a two headed monster. And when our hero’s save the day and blow away everyone in sight, the film goes on for another 30 more minutes! While I don’t mind the lunacy and absurdist of some of the events in Troma’s War, I wish there was more of it. The romance, childish jokes about blindness, and lame attempts at political humor gets tiresome really quick and down right dull. I needed more scenes of a woman’s breasts being blown off or mutant monsters getting their heads cut apart by a samurai sword. I particularly liked the offensive rapist regime who have AIDS (one victim shouts right into the camera after being raped, “I have AIDS!”) and are all covered in disgusting lesions. While offensive to most, it is quite funny and off the wall. If you are gonna make a silly, over the top action film then don’t hold back. My feeling is that Kaufman was aiming for a wide release theatrical showing and thanks to the MPAA and ahem…low budget, the film didn’t live up to the expectations.
Troma’s War fails in that it turns into just another action film when its trying to be a satire of the film’s it is copying. The jokes simply stop and the film turns into a squib-filled, shoot ’em up, which to me isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I do like my action films but under a more talented director / script / cast…you get my point. I wanted less Rambo and more Troma.
No surprise here but Troma’s blu ray of Troma’s War doesn’t look all that impressive but it is maybe the best looking blu ray release by the company so far. There are moments of clarity where the picture doesn’t always look murky or grainy. There are noticeable speckling and scratches as well as crushing during the night sequences. Colors look decent but again the quality isn’t very good. The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound mix is ok in that one can hear dialog clearly but for an action film, the sound is flat.
Like most Troma releases’s, the disc does have a good amount of special features. There is a new introduction by Kaufman which is always pretty funny, a 20 minute interview of Kaufman and Herz discussing the making of the film and the MPAA’s butchering of some of the more grisly effects, a one and a half second sound snippet from cinematographer James A. Lebovitz, a reunion featurette hosted by Kaufman, who welcomes actors Sean Bowen, Jessica Dubin, and the late Joe Fleishaker (this was taken during the film’s 10th anniversary) an interview with Rick Washburn discussing the weapons used in the film, a featurette with filmmaker Pericles Lewnes from Redneck Zombies who goes to Joe Fleishaker’s home to speak to him about Troma’s War since Fleishaker is so obese that he can’t leave his home any longer (he passed away in 2016). And finally the always entertaining Kaufman audio commentary as previously mentioned.
I have a feeling Troma’s War may be in a need of a remake under Kaufman’s direction but this time he can throw in the kitchen sink and make a hilarious, in your face, political satire filled with blood and boobs. Because as of right now, Troma’s War feels too restrained.
Blu Ray Rating: