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review added: 2/2/00



Terror Firmer
Special Edition (Unrated) - 2000 (2001) - Troma

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Terror Firmer (Uncensored) Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B-/A+

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), subtitles: none

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, Unspeakable, Cannibal: The Musical and Parts of the Family, Radiation March, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none


"Let's make some art!"

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, Unspeakable, Cannibal: 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.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Terror Firmer (Unrated)


Terror Firmer (R-Rated)


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