Saturday 30 March 2019

A TROMA- tic experience!

My tribute to Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Entertainment

Back in the early 1990’s having finally joined the Sky TV revolution my young teenage self would eagerly leaf through Sky Magazine’s listings for movies to watch on Friday and Saturday nights.  One month I spotted a full-page advert made up of four movie posters for an upcoming evening devoted to a movie studio called Troma Entertainment.
The movies were, The Toxic Avenger, The Toxic Avenger Part II, Class of Nuke 'Em High and A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell!
I was already aware of Toxie, the monster of “superhuman size and strength” having watched The Toxic Crusader animated series, ruined my teeth with Toxic Crusader candy and of course not forgetting the amazing action figure line (which I still have today!) and so I was intrigued to see the movies which had inspired it all. I watched them and was forever a devotee of Troma Entertainment, the longest running truly independent film company in America and not forgetting its genius co-founder, writer, director and producer Lloyd Kaufman.

Finally meeting the brilliant Lloyd Kaufman!
A Yale University graduate majoring in Chinese studies intending to become a social worker Lloyd instead chose cinema and directed his first feature film, The Girl Who Returned in 1969 before working for Cannon Films, collaborating on several low-budget films with future Rocky director John G. Avildsen. He then set up Troma studios in 1974 with business partner Michael Herz, producing independent action and comedy films while freelancing for several major Hollywood productions, including Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and The Final Countdown which had Lloyd vowing to never deal with a major studios again. Between 1979 and 1981, Troma produced/ directed a series of profitable "sexy comedies" so profitable in fact that the major studios moved in on the idea and started producing their own such as Porkies. After reading an article that claimed horror films were no longer popular, Lloyd decided to produce his own horror film around an idea he had about a health club, Health Club Horror a story about a nerd that is mutated by toxic waste that goes on to save the city and get the girl ultimately became The Toxic Avenger which achieved mainstream success. Much the same can be said about the follow up movie Class of Nuke 'Em High and subsequent sequels that followed after and it was at that point on they focused almost exclusively on horror films, even if they were not directly their own features Troma distributed films from third parties- waving the flag for independent film making and cult cinema. Especially Lloyd, who seemed to always be appearing on TV promoting the company and its movies, refusing to conform to the norm and this resonated with me while I was in Art College. I wanted to work on my own ideas but seemed to always be going head to head with people who preferred landscapes and still life, I would be up late working on a project, wondering if I was actually doing the right thing and Lloyd would appear on Troma’s Edge T.V. sporting his trademark bow tie, microphone in hand behind a cluttered desk covered in Troma merchandise and memorabilia urging us to not follow the norm, not give in to the mainstream and corporate thinking and support innovate ideas, least I think that’s what he was saying... you’ll need to ask him about it... either way that’s what I did!

Again with Lloyd during the screening of David Gilbank’s Polterheist!
Anyway, long story short-ish I felt it was high time I met Uncle Lloydie to thank him for his inspiration and when I found out he was visiting the UK for a “Troma Tour” to receiving the much coveted Hall of Fame Award at the Starburst Film Festival, one of the biggest and best genre celebrations in the UK it was off to MediaCityUK (again) along with my good friend Matt Warner to (hopefully) meet him. We arrived at Social7 at The Landing for the opening ceremony and was able to meet Lloyd right away and he was EXACTLY as I imagined him to be! It can be a little nerve wracking when you meet people you admire, this day and age they can let you down- and not live up to your expectations but I am delighted to say that he did not disappoint. I was able to have several chats with him about his work and tell him how much he had inspired me and my work and how it was his movies that made me want to direct my art in this direction. I presented him with a print of a tribute (seen at the top of this post) I recently painted to him and his movies, featuring The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High (which he had shared on his Instagram!) that he seemed to genuinely pleased to receive before kicking off the event with the first movie, Troma’s latest offering Return to Nuke 'Em High: Volume 2 a film that tackles, “21st century issues in the style of 1980s genre films” by revisiting of Class of Nuke 'Em High in the same vein as other classics such as Class of 1984, Rock 'n' Roll High School, and Carrie, but seen through the unique vision of Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team” a movie I must confess I had already seen as I had already been granted an early look at it due to being one of the 959 backers that pledged their support on their Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, I’ve heard many state that this one is superior to the first part and I am inclined to agree, it has all the things one expects of a Troma movie in buckets, along with lots of heart! So make sure you see it when it comes out, show your support for independent movies! So glad I went along, I had a great time and commend all involved, and thank you Lloyd for everything, you made this Troma fan very happy oh and we mustn’t forget Starburst and the event organizers responsible for this amazing event, I not only had the opportunity to meet one of my idols but I also catch up with many friends in a great, relaxed atmosphere- congratulations, I look forward to next one!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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