August 26, 2017

TOXIC CRUSADERS

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TOXIC CRUSADERS
(Syndicated, March 1-May 20, 1991)

Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, Troma Entertainment


MAIN CAST:
Rodger Bumpass – Toxie/Melvin Junko, Dr. Killemoff
Paul Eiding – No-Zone
Ed Gilbert – Major Disaster
Hal Rayle – Headbanger/Dr. Bender, Bonehead
John Mariano – Headbanger/Fender
Gregg Berger – Junkyard
Patric Zimmerman – Czar Zosta
Kath Soucie – Yvonne
Michael J. Pollard – Psycho
Chuck McCann – Mayor Max Grody
Susan Silo – Mrs. Junko


            Troma Entertainment had built itself up on a reputation for crass, crude, gory, and gratuitous low-brow entertainment. So, of course what better place to find fodder for Saturday morning television?

Troma's logo.

While working as the pre-production supervisor for Rocky, Troma Entertainment co-founder Lloyd Kaufman got the idea to create a horror film set at a health club. However, it would be a few years before he got to see those plans to fruition. Kaufman had initially formed a production company with Oliver Stone, but it fell apart shortly after Stone went his own way and his 1973 film, Schwartz: The Brave Detective, bombed horribly. Kaufman then partnered with Michael Herz to form Troma and produced a softball-themed sex comedy in 1979 called Squeeze Play.

Lloyd Kaufman amongst memorabilia from his empire.

When the movie became an unexpected hit, Troma was brought on to produce the all-star film The Final Countdown in 1980. While it performed well and was also a success, the stresses of working on a massive film led Troma to decide they would rather keep to the joy of simple low-budget fare and produced two more teen sex comedies. As the 80s rolled on, the teen sex comedy genre began to become crowded, leaving Troma to find a new niche to exploit. After reading an article that said horror films were no longer popular, Kaufman decided to resurrect his old idea and make his own horror film.

Toxie in all his hideous glory.

Rather than straight-up horror, Troma decided to make it a horror comedy that was partially a satire on superheroes and contained all the signatures Troma’s films had become known for. The resulting film was The Toxic Avenger, which was set in Tromaville, New Jersey: the toxic waste dumping capitol of the world (and subsequent setting for all of Troma’s future films). Melvin Junko (sometimes Ferd, played by Mark Torgl) was the mop boy at the local health club where some of the regulars decided to torture him. Their ultimate prank ends up with Melvin in a tutu kissing a sheep, and in his humiliation he ran out a window and fell into a vat of toxic waste. That waste turned him into the monstrous and nigh-indestructible Toxic Avenger, aka Toxie (Mitch Cohen), who set out to get his bloody revenge and unleash justice on those that would prey on the weak.



The Toxic Avenger was released in 1984 and was completely ignored. It wasn’t until it was a long-running midnight movie at the Bleecker Street Theater in New York City in 1985 that it developed a solid cult following, and soon found regular broadcasts on cable. It became the film that introduced the world to Troma and established everything the studio would be about. Troma revisited Toxie in 1989 for a sequel that, after running extremely long, was chopped up into two sequels: The Toxic Avenger, Part II and Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie.



In 1990, Kaufman sought to expand Troma’s audience base into the juveniles by bringing Toxie to the mainstream; namely, Saturday morning network television. Troma partnered with Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, who had brought another adult-oriented mutant-hero franchise to animation with their adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original comics, while not as brutal as the Avenger films, were decidedly more violent than the eventual cartoon version). Of course, the series would have to be almost entirely scrubbed of Troma’s signatures in order to be appropriate for young audiences. Also, to fulfill FCC requirements for children’s programming, the show took on a pro-ecological message.

The Crusaders: Dr. Bender, Fender, Toxie, No-Zone and Major Disaster.

Toxie (Rodger Bumpass) had a similar origin as he did in the films, except he didn’t go on a murderous vengeance spree on those who wronged him and future foes. The mop that he used to clean the health club where he worked was also changed by the toxic waste to be a super-powered, semi-sentient being (aptly named Mop). Further differences included Toxie was given a team of similarly mutated freaks. Amongst them was No-Zone (Paul Eiding), a test pilot that crashed into a silo of radioactive pepper giving him powerful sneezing powers; Major Disaster (Ed Gilber), a soldier that fell into a radioactive swamp and gained the power to control plants; Junkyard (Gregg Berger), a homeless man merged with a junkyard dog after he took shelter in a toxic waste-covered dog kennel that was struck by lightning; and Headbanger, a fusion of mad scientist Dr. Bender (Hal Rayle) an surfer-like singing telegram boy Fender (John Mariano) that became fused when Fender accidentally knocked them into Dr. Bender’s invention. Together, they became the Toxic Crusaders, often aided by Toxie’s tone-deaf girlfriend, Yvonne (Kath Soucie), and his mother (Susan Silo). Toxie was also given a pet in the form of Blobbie; a little blob of goo that came to the toxic waste dump that served as the primary base for the Crusaders.

Dr. Killemofff and Mayor Max Grody.

Their primary foes were the Smogulans; aliens from the planet Smogula who wanted to pollute the Earth in order to make it habitable for their people and conquer it. The primary ruler of the planet was Czar Zosta (Patric Zimmerman), whose forces on Earth were led by Dr. Killemoff (Bumpass). Psycho (Michael J. Pollard) was an obese bio-mechanical being that worked for Killemoff and had the uncanny ability to predict the future—usually the failure of Killemoff’s plans, that often went unheeded. Hazmat-suited minions known as Radiation Rangers served as Killemoff’s foot soldiers and cannon fodder. Bonehead (Hal Rayle) was the lead health club bully (replacing Bozo from the first movie) that led to Toxie’s creation who himself was changed into a monster when Toxie threw him into a barrel of acid rain. Bonehead joined forces with Killemoff, but wasn’t much of an asset as he was brainless and incompetent. Also working with the Smogulans was the corrupt mayor of Tromaville, Max Grody (based on the mayor from the first movie, voiced by Chuck McCann).

Dr. Killemoff, Bonhead and Psycho.


The Toxic Crusaders (so named because Avengers was deemed too violent sounding) premiered in syndication on March 1st, 1991. Even though they couldn’t go to the lengths of brutal, dark, gross-out humor that the films it was based on did, the series had its fair share of adult-oriented jokes, toilet humor, and often broke the fourth wall by being self-referential. The series was written by a combination of MWS and Troma alum, including Jack Mendelsohn, Carole Bruce Mendelsohn, D.J. MacHale, Ned Candle. Walt Kubiak, Jeffrey W. Sass and Andrew Wolk, along with Chuck Lorre and Herz. Lorre, who had written the Turtles theme, co-wrote this series’ theme with Dennis C. Brown. Brown and Larry Brown handled the rest of the series’ music.


Although the Avenger films were popular enough to inspire enough networks to put decent orders for the series, they weren’t sufficient enough to guarantee a second season. The show ended after its 13-episode run. During the show’s run, Marvel Comics released an 8-issue comic series that ended up cancelled along with their other TV-based projects. In the UK, Fleetway Publications published their own series that run two issues longer. Playmates, who produced the toys for Ninja Turtles, made a line of figures in a similar style. Bandai and Sega released side-scrolling platform beat ‘em up video games in for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy and Sega Genesis developed by TOSE, Realtime Associates and Infogrames, respectively. A SNES version was planned but never released. Other merchandise included trading cards by Topps, coloring/activity books and puzzles published by Golden Books, junior novels by Boxtree, a card and board game by International Games, a Colorforms playset, lunchboxes by Thermos, costumes by Collegeville and costume patterns by McCall’s Patterns.

Add for the Toxic Avenger collection.

In late 1991, Golden Book Video released several episodes to VHS. In 2004, Troma released Toxic Crusaders: The Movie, which edited the first three episodes together into a single film. In 2005, the first four episodes were presented in their original format in Toxic Crusaders: The Television Series Volume 1. In 2008, the complete series was included as part of The Complete Toxic Avenger set, which contained all four Avenger movies. The complete series was also made available as part of Amazon Video’s streaming service.


EPISODE GUIDE:
“The Making of Toxie” (3/1/91) – Melvin Junko becomes Toxie and fights the forces of Dr. Killemoff with the aid of No-Zone and Major Disaster.

“This Spud’s for You” (3/8/91) – Killemoff plans to put his chemicals in the food of a local restaurant while Dr. Bender and Fender end up mutated and merged into Headbanger.

“Club Fred” (3/15/91) – Killemoff and his Radiation Rangers clear out a retirement community to make room for an alien arrival.

“Tree Trouble” (3/22/91) – Killemoff plans to push “Smog on a Can” while Major Disaster falls in love and begins having trouble with his powers.

“Pollution Solution” (3/29/91) – Killemoff sends the Radiation Rangers to invade the Toxic Dump to prepare for a Smogulan invasion.

“A Sight for Sore Eyes” (4/6/91) – Mayor Grody moves the Crusaders to his penthouse in order to clear the dump for Czar Zosta.

“Mr. Earth: Superhero” (4/13/91) – A new superhero joins the Crusaders against Killemoff, but ends up causing more harm than good.

“Toxie Ties the Knot” (4/20/91) – Zosta’s daughter arrives in Tromaville and falls in love with Toxie.

“Invasion of the Biddy Snatchers” (4/27/91) – Zosta replaces Killemoff with General GarBage, who plans to replace senior citizens with evil clones.

“The Snail Must Go Through” (5/6/91) – New superhero Snail Man helps the Crusaders fend off the latest pollution attack while also preparing for Yvonne’s concert.

“Nab That Toxie Cab” (5/6/91) – The Crusaders start their own cab company and Yvonne grows jealous when Toxie falls in love with his cab.

“Still Crazy After All These Shears” (5/13/91) – Mayor Grody’s tree-planting campaign actually involved alien seeds that grow into a Weed Monster.

“That’s No Villain, That’s My Mom!” (5/20/91) – Toxie’s mom ends up switching minds with Killemoff while the Crusaders deal with his convention for hideous creatures.

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