Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 2/2/00
Edition (Unrated) - 2000 (2001) - Troma
review by Todd Doogan of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
Specs and Features:
Disc One: The Film
115 mins (theatrical version)/124 mins ("no so seamless
branching" extended cut), NR, full frame (1.33:1),
single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), introduction by Lloyd
Kaufman, audio commentary with director Lloyd Kaufman, audio
commentary with the editors (Gabe Friedman and Sean McGrath), audio
commentary with actors (Will Keenan, Debbie Rochon and Trent Haaga),
20 deleted scenes, "Escalator Scene" (with comic book
comparison), Alyce LaTourelle and Trent Haaga audition scenes,
blooper reel, theatrical and teaser trailers, Easter eggs (close-up
of Keenan's make-up, Will Keenan singing Amazing
Grace, passcodes for special website, DVD credits/Lloyd's
phone call to Joe Fleishaker), 2 alternate scenes from the film, 9
pieces of alternate footage, animated film-themed menu screens with
sound, scene access (27 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0),
Disc Two: Supplemental Materials
NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered,
The Making of Terror Firmer
featurette (100 mins.), music videos for Say
What You Mean by The Lunachicks, Freak
of the Week by DJ Polo featuring Ron Jeremy and
Seeing Red by Entombed,
Terror Firmer soundtrack ad
with music by The Lunachicks, All I Need
To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From the Toxic Avenger
book ad, An Introduction to Tromadance,
Part One, Gyno-Talk with Alyce
LaTourelle, Chatting with
Charlotte Kaufman of Terror Firmer, Terror
Firmer: The Game DVD-ROM feature, trailers for
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV,
Cannibal: The Musical and
Parts of the Family,
Radiation March, animated
film-themed menu screens with sound, languages: English (DD 2.0),
"Let's make some
There are only a few things that get me excited these days. The
reasons are three-fold: I'm married, I'm getting old and I'm gaining
weight from sitting in front of this stupid computer all day. But...
there's always Troma. For me, Troma has two working parts. There's
the distribution arm, that keeps the company afloat and releases
what film historians have dubbed "crapola". Sure, a few
shiny nuggets of fun have come out of their distribution arm,
like... well, Cannibal: The Musical.
But the Troma I love, and I think the fans love too, is the Troma
run by Lloyd Kaufman's creative side of the brain. It's the Troma
that actually produces all those great movies. From
The Toxic Avenger to
Tromeo and Juliet, we've seen
nothing but genius from this guy. And I'm being serious now.
Someday, I'll be standing in front of a large crowd of Hollywood
professionals and I will introduce Lloyd as one of the greatest
living filmmakers working. Sure, he'll be something like 180 years
old, but that's beside the point. He'll still be there for everyone
to love and he won't be changed at all.
Troma's second newest film, Terror
Firmer, was born out of Lloyd's co-writing his
autobiography (or at least his biography since he became a filmmaker
- there are no stories of Lloyd filling the family dog up with Bromo
and maniacally giggling). Who knows why Lloyd chose to make a movie
about his filmmaking processes. Maybe he wanted to show a new
generation of Troma Team members, huddled in the rat-infested
basement of his Hell's Kitchen walk-up, how it's done. Or maybe,
just maybe, he wanted to prove everyone wrong by doing what "they"
say a filmmaker should never do: make a movie about making a movie.
He's done all the other no-no's, like working with children (buy
running over their heads in Toxic Avenger)
and animals (buy shooting a dog, also in Toxic
Avenger). But no one really wants to see the going's on
behind-the-scenes of a full feature, right? That's like showing
magic without hiding the mirrors or filament. It just doesn't work.
It's boring. But then again, Lloyd Kaufman never made a movie about
making a movie before... and he's never made a boring film either.
Terror Firmer follows the
exploits of the Troma Team as they create Toxic
Avenger IV. Directed by Larry Benjamin (Lloyd), a blind
filmmaker who wants to make the greatest Troma film ever told (an
in-joke because Lloyd's films have been called so bad they'd have to
be directed by a blind man). His only problems are lazy asshole
production assistants, a drunk lead actor, a sex-addicted starlet
and a cross-gender serial killer which plagues his set. So basically
everything is pretty typical in Hell's Kitchen, New York. While
Benjamin does battle with his set, the rest of the crew run, hide
and get slaughtered in new and disgusting ways. The T&A factor
is high, the production is low budget and the fluids fly. It's a
Troma film after all.
Terror Firmer is not Lloyd's
best film. But it IS a good Troma film. He upped the ante when he
did Tromeo, which stands as
his best film (although best loved goes to Toxie),
and it's going to be hard for him to top that level of brilliance.
Still, lots of things shine here. Debbie Rochon is good as the lead
actress, who is mauled and covered with goo throughout the film. New
comer Trent Haaga is maniacal as the lead special effects guy,
always wanting "more blood" in true Troma Team spirit and
Will Keenan (Tromeo himself) is fun as the gaffer with a secret.
Then again, what gaffer doesn't have a secret?. Don't expect an
award winning film and you'll have a good time. Every audience I've
seen this film with had a whopping good time - if a crowd of people
can let down their guard so can the rest of us.
I think the same goes for the DVD. At this point, no one expects
pure quality from Troma DVD. The artifacts are heavy and the
technology is dime store, but the heart is here. The picture is
presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, with nice colors
and skin tones. You'll see artifacts and grain everywhere... because
the transfer is low grade and the source material is even lower. But
who cares, right? The sound is standard Dolby Digital 2.0 and it
works fine. It won't blow you through your screening room wall, but
it's not supposed to either.
The heart of this DVD (and any Troma DVD) is in the extras. The set
I'm reviewing here is the 2-disc Unrated special edition. There's
also a rated edition floating around out there, but who wants to
watch a rated Troma film? Disc One contains a bunch of stuff in
addition to the film. There are three commentary tracks. One's with
Lloyd, which plays out like an actual conversation. He's as charming
and mile-a-minute as you'd expect. There's also a commentary with
the guys who save this film, the editors. Gabe Friedman and Sean
McGrath are Troma geniuses and they made this film work. Major props
to 'em. Also on board is a brain-numbing track with actors Will
Keenan, Debbie Rochon and Trent Haaga. They talk over each other and
don't take the track very seriously. You'll listen to it for about
10 minutes before you kill it. You'll also find some 20 deleted
scenes, that can be accessed individually or edited back into the
film. The problem with this feature is that with the scenes back in,
the film becomes awfully jumpy - it's supposed to be a "seamless
branching" sort of thing, but seamless it isn't. I say watch
the deleted scenes separately for a better experience. Also included
on Disc One is the "Escalator Scene" compared with the
comic book art, which is neat. We also get to see starlet and
entrepreneur Alyce LaTorelle and Trent Haaga in their glorious
audition scenes. There's a blooper reel, theatrical and teaser
trailers. And for the hunters among us, there are a few surprises:
the color bar holds an Easter egg featuring a close-up of Keenan's
make-up. Also hidden on the disc (play the film with no sound) are
Will Keenan singing Amazing Grace,
passcodes for a special website and a DVD credits page, which hides
Lloyd's phone call to Joe Fleishaker. Rounding it all out are 2
alternate scenes and 9 pieces of alternate footage that were
originally intended as alternate angles. That's a lot of stuff and
it's all pretty fun too.
And that's just Disc One. Disc Two is a bit better, because it
contains a really great documentary: The
Making of Terror Firmer (aka Farts
of Darkness). With it, you'll see Lloyd's directing
methods, some incompetent stuntmen (which is hilarious), a fat man
throwing a hissy fit, on-set antics and behind-the-scenes chaos.
It's a beautiful (and very true) look on the making of a Troma film
and it's well worth checking out. You'll also get some music videos
for Say What You Mean by The
Lunachicks, Freak of the Week
by DJ Polo featuring Ron Jeremy and Seeing
Red by Entombed. On the promo side, you get a Terror
Firmer soundtrack ad with music by The Lunachicks, an
All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I
Learned From the Toxic Avenger book ad, An
Introduction to Tromadance, Part One, and trailers for
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV,
The Musical and Parts of the
Family. The most disturbing thing on the entire package
is a Gyno-Talk with Alyce LaTourelle,
who comes off legendary... and I'll leave it at that. There's also a
cute interview, Chatting with Charlotte
Kaufman of Terror Firmer, where Lloyd talks to his young
daughter about her experiences on set. Finally, there's the Troma
standard: Radiation March.
It's fun for the whole family.
One last part I couldn't get to work, so I have nothing to report.
There a DVD-ROM game on the second disc called, fittingly, Terror
Firmer: The Game. Like I said, I couldn't get it to work
(which is probably my fault) so I know next to nothing about it.
As it stands, Terror Firmer
is a good Troma film. But this is a hell of a special edition set.
Too bad something like this wasn't done for Tromeo,
because that could have been one of the greatest special editions of
all time. If you're a Troma fan, you will have to buy this set.
Everyone in the Hollywood DVD community should check it out as well,
because these are the types of special edition DVDs we need a lot
more of. According to Lloyd, Hollywood's stolen everything else from
Troma - might as well take this too. And if you can make the DVD-ROM
part work, you'll be ahead of the game.
Terror Firmer (Unrated)
Terror Firmer (R-Rated)