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Toxic Avenger: The Unrated Director's Cut

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Ostensibly to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Toxic Avenger—it was actually released in 1983 and remained largely unseen until 1985, but why quibble when there's money to be made?—this newly released director's cut restores artistic integrity to Troma Studios' story of a put-upon janitor who becomes a superhero after experiencing a mishap with nuclear waste. Fifteen years or so later, it's possible to see it as a fairly important film, historically speaking: With the wane of drive-ins and the introduction of home-video and cable, The Toxic Avenger was one of the first titles to prove that a film could build an audience without much theatrical play. If it weren't for junior-high sleepovers and The USA Network, chances are good that you would never have heard of The Toxic Avenger. Chances are also good that, without Troma to lead the charge, the video industry would have taken several more years to discover that you can skip the hassle of theaters and convince the yokels to take your luridly advertised exploitation film directly home with them. Confused by the proliferation of erotic thrillers and low-budget horror films on the video shelf? Blame Troma. As for the movie itself, it's still a piece of trash, if a marginally entertaining one: It's too self-consciously parodic to be good kitsch, and too gross to be all that fun. Someone had to pick up the exploitation film torch; it's just a shame that it wasn't a production company with a little more wit. But if you're lured into renting it again by manufactured nostalgia—and the promise of new footage and a fully restored "head crushing scene"—the folks at Troma have once again accomplished their mission. God bless America.