know, when it comes to quality film entertainment, it just
doesn't get any better than Killer Condom. You got
your gore, you got your sex, you got your action. And very
groovy costumes, I might add. Based on Ralf Konig's best
selling comic book, with creative consulting by H.R. Giger
(Alien), Killer Condom was an official selection
in this year's Berlin Film Festival. And what film company
dared to release a flick with such meaning and purpose?
Why, Troma Entertainment, of course.
launched a quarter of a century ago by Lloyd Kaufman and
Michael Herz, has carved an exotic niche for itself in the
dog-eat-dog film industry. Troma is gonzo. Troma is unchecked.
Troma is one of the last of the B movie companies. Rife
with blood splattering, girls with big tits, and alien ooze,
Troma movies bring side-splitting relief from the steady
menu of pabulum served up by the major studios. Rather than
being pegged as "action" or "comedy" or "horror" films,
Troma films throw all of those genres into the low-budget
stew. Mostly, though, we're talking funny here.
Lloyd Kaufman, in his hilarious, definitive how-to book,
All I need to Know About Film making, I learned from
the TOXIC AVENGER insists that Troma doesn't use conventional
wisdom when it comes to little things like plot.
"How in the hell could I ever construct something like that
when I'm more worried about the weather changing from one
shot to the next? Or a priest throwing us off location when
we've only finished shooting half the drug scene footage
we need on the alter of his church? When making a Troma
movie, we often film not what we want, but what we can
Not to mention the fact that I have an extremely short attention
span. I have an easy time concentrating on the 'effect.'
It's the 'cause' I have difficulty with. When watching a
Troma movie, you must not only suspend your disbelief: You
must lock it up in a small iron crate and torture it."
Troma's films deal with what the media calls sex and violence,
but Kaufman simply refers to them as "a typical day in my
brain." And what a brain it is. Who, besides Roger Corman,
Russ Meyer, and John Waters have had the opportunity to
put such twisted hilarity on screen? Howard Stern and the
South Park guys owe a debt to these masters. Kaufman
claims he could hardly sit through an industry screening
of Stern's Private Parts. Heavyweights like Sherry
Lansing, Tony Bennet and Henny Youngman were laughing their
asses off at the steady stream of fart jokes, vulgar humor,
huge breasts and women in bikini's. 'Hell,' thought Kaufman,
'all this stuff was in Troma's Squeeze Play twenty
Many in the movie industry accord Kaufman a sort of mythic
respect. Everyone I talked to at the recent American Film
Market in Santa Monica, Ca. claimed to 'know Lloyd personally'
for 25 years. "I love the guy," spouted one producer. "He
can do anything he wants." For the record, Troma had the
best presentation at the Market, staffed with hard-body
strippers and plenty of kitchy posters, comic books and
stickers. The "we don't give a shit" attitude was like a
breath of fresh farts in a veritable morgue of stiffs like
Miramax and Lion's Gate Films. When I walked into Troma's
room, I knew these were 'My People.'
Video stores gave up categorizing Troma films long ago;
most just have a "Troma" shelf. The titles alone are entertaining:
Space Zombie Bingo, Star
Sgt. Kabukiman, Rockabilly Vampire, Rabid Grannies, Pterodactyl
Woman From Beverly Hills--all films that make the National
Lampoon movies seem like Sunday bible school. A closer examination
of the video jackets reveals even greater treats. Although
few will admit it, Troma was a starting point for many a
superstar career. Oh yeah, that's Kevin Costner in Shadows
Run Black, a 1984 flick that Kaufman proudly calls,
"the mega-star's second worst film since The Bodyguard."
In 1986, Costner went back for more, starring in Sizzle
Beach USA--"filmed around water," says Kaufman. "If
the makers of Waterworld had consulted Troma fans,"
he continues, "they would have been told that WW
could be a successful Costner film if it had as many boobies
blockbuster." You gotta love this guy. Other notable alumni
superstars include Samuel L. Jackson in Def by Temptation,
Paul Sorvino in Cry Uncle (directed by Karate
Kid's John Avildsen), Robert DeNiro in The Wedding
Party (directed by Brian DePalma), Beverly D'Angelo
in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills and Billy
Bob Thornton in Chopper Chicks in Zombietown.
The Troma Team also takes credit for the meteoric rise of
Madonna. In 1983, she auditioned for The First Turn-On.
"We turned her down and she went on to musical success,"
boasts Kaufman. Academy Award nominee Vincent D'Onofrio,
on the other hand, did make the cut. I know I join the rest
of the universe when I say with just a little chagrin that
Madonna can't have everything.
Troma also has preyed on celebrities on their way down.
Troy Donahue was probably thrilled to death to get a major
role in 1971's The Love-Thrill Murders, a take on
the Manson family murders. Add to the list John Carradine
and Stella Stevens in Monster in the Closet, Yvonne
DeCarlo in Play Dead, and Shelly Winters in Ellie.
Hey, work is work.
Kaufman isn't kidding when he talks about his love of "special
effects." And aren't his special. Most Troma films are heavy
on fluids. He unabashedly shares his recipe for film vomit:
- Mix 1
Dixie cup full of water with 1/2 tablespoon of green food
dye. The water should be dark green. If it's not, dump
in more dye. This isn't an exact science.
on the size of the effect you're after, place 1 to 3 tablespoons
of Bromo Seltzer inside your mouth (CAUTION: Do not swallow--unless
you have a hangover).
the Dixie cup combination. Again, do not swallow. Just
let it sit there in your mouth.
- Let the
Bromo Seltzer and liquid foam inside your mouth. Wait
until it is a huge, healthy froth before you open your
mouth and release it's emerald beauty into the post-orificial
- Bask in
I tried this at home. It works. It also stains the rug.
Head crushing is a favorite motif in the classic Troma films.
Who can forget the child who is run over by a car in The
Toxic Avenger? Ignoring the expensive special effect
methodology, the Troma Team simply attached a cantaloupe
loaded with cranberry sauce to a fake child's body. When
the tire crossed over it, the splatter was terrific (I'm
actually getting hungry writing about this). Creativity
on a budget. Yum!
Tits, tits, tits. Troma can't get enough of them. Who can?
Kaufman advises, "Next time you're walking on a beach and
think you step on a jellyfish, look again; it might be a
silicone implant from one of the Sizzle Beach beauties
lost during shooting. Whoops!" Plenty of recognizable boobies
show up in Troma flicks. Shannon Tweed and Penthouse Pet
of the Year Sheila Kennedy flash their respective sets.
So does ex-MTV jock Martha Quinn. Oh no, wait, I forgot.
Martha Quinn doesn't have tits. My mistake.
Mostly, though, Troma films are just about being goddamned
funny. Chances are pretty good that no Troma film ever gave
anyone a hard-on (if they do, you're some kind of sick fuck,
baby). Throwing every accepted technique for having a successful
film company to the wind, Troma exists because, according
to Kaufman, "the world needed to have one Troma, and we
just happened to be there. We screw up because we do what
we do with heart. Our films may be goat shit. But they're
goat shit for which we have lots of affection."
Kaufman is a hero to me and to anyone who wants to regurgitate
whatever sick and stupendously funny ideas that swim around
in our heads. Most of us suppress thoughts of beheaded starlets
and menacing rubber puppets. We feel guilty even thinking
about this shit. Kaufman not only dreams it, he films it,
and fills a niche that has little room for imitators. Like
a demented fairy godfather, he magically turns a cantaloupe
into Cinderella's head, then smashes it in front of Prince
Charming, who then makes love to both the evil stepsisters.
You know, that's a damned good idea. I think I'll pitch
it to Troma.