For close to forty years, the New York-based studio Troma has been a perverse, gory thumb in the eye of all that’s staid and safe in mainstream Hollywood. It’s co-founder Lloyd Kaufman has built a fan-base by directing such twisted, low-budget epics as THE TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH, TROMEO AND JULIET and POULTRYGEIST, as well as distributing films with such indelible titles as SURF NAZIS MUST DIE.
Lloyd and I go way back — he was my first assignment for Cinefantastique, back when he was directing TOXIC AVENGER PART II, and with each step in my career, I’ve checked in with him to get his take on the state of the art. I was happy to reconnect with him for the show, to hear what he’s up to at Troma’s present digs in NYC’s Long Island City production nexus, and get some idea of how an indie outfit built on the bedrock principles of more boobs, more blood can make a way for itself in the current, cord-cutting media environment.
The unrated director’s cut of Troma’s cult classic is back on a Blu-ray disc loaded with bonus features.
Aahhh Troma movies! The Spirit of guerilla filmmaking lives on to this day with Troma Entertainment films (don’t believe me, go watch POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD). Troma, and its co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, provide the last bastion of independent, fun, over-the-top, gory genre flicks. Troma has given us such classics as THE TOXIC AVENGER, TERROR FIRMA, TROMEO AND JULIET, and TROMA’S WAR; produced such cringe-inducing flicks as MOTHER’S DAY and IGOR AND THE LUNATICS; and distributed such groaners as SURF NAZIES MUST DIE and KILLER CONDOM. Troma Entertainment movies, especially those written and directed by Lloyd Kaufman, are not for everyone. If you hate toilet humor, excessive gore, lesbians, crazy plot lines, borderline acting, and general gonzo craziness, then you will definitely want to stay away from Troma films. But if you enjoy such delicacies – well come on in, have a seat, and let’s talk.
Ok, enough of that. If you’re reading this, then you probably already love Troma Films and Uncle Lloyd. Let’s get to the reason you’re reading this posting: The new Blu-ray Edition of Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986), released on June 1, 2010. Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that you’re not getting a different version from the “Unrated Director’s Cut” that was released on DVD back in December 1997. Both versions have an 85-minute running time, so the only difference is upgrade in video quality that this new Blu-ray release allows. (Oh, and the Blu-ray has no region coding, so you can enjoy the disc worldwide!)
I have a special place in my heart for Class of Nuke ‘Em High. The was the first Troma flick I ever saw. I rented it back in the days (before Blockbuster Video cornered the market on movie rentals) when all the Ma and Pa corner video stores were competing with each other. The successful places had the goriest movies, and that’s the kinda place I found this gem. I rented it based solely on the video cover art, which showed a half-naked chick in leather being hugged by some mutant-goon with a picture of a monster in the background. I love it (and they kept the same cover art for the Blu-ray edition)!! And unlike most other video cover art, this one had all these elements in the movie – and more! What more could a 16 year old boy ask for??
The story begins in Tromaville. Tromaville, NJ is for Kaufman what Castle Rock, ME is for Stephen King. It seems the local nuclear power plant has sprung a leak, and toxic waste is absorbed into the ground, finding its way to the (very) nearby high school. The water is contaminated, and we see students drinking the thick, green jello-like polluted gunk out of the fountain. The effects of are pretty mild and barely noticeable (yeah, right!!). The honor society, once the preppies of the school, are now a vicious and violent gang of mutants who make everyone’s lives at school miserable. And don’t even ask about the AV Club!! Even some teachers become seduced to the mutant side, which leads them to dress and act slutty (all for our entertainment, of course).
Amidst all these bizarre characters are Chrissy and Warren, white-bread high school sweethearts a little on the “goody-goody” side. They’ve been dating for a while, and when their friends realize they haven’t banged each other yet, they step in to help the two lovers out. Warren’s buddy buys some weed that was grown at the contaminated power plant and gives it to the cute couple to help “grease the gears.” The weed works all too well and gives them an “Atomic High” that turns Warren’s load into “super sperm.” Within days Chrissy gestates a little mutant baby that she vomits into the toilets at school and which gets flushed. Oh yes folks -we’re into some truly bizarre territory here. As weird as it sounds, the fast paced-direction, the collection of odd-ball characters, and the actors involved make this really fun.
We even get a brief homage to Kaufman’s Toxic Avenger (1985), when we see one of the side effects of the Atomic High turning Warren into a mutated vigilante. He confronts a few of the honor society mutants in an alley and pretty much turns them into goo. Just wait to see the effects of Warren punching one of them: Gives new meaning to the term “fisting”!
Say what you will about Troma and Uncle Lloyd, but that man knows how to find and cast young, cute, and very innocent looking girls in the lead roles. Don’t believe me? Check out actress Kate Graham (the lead in Poultrygeist) and Jane Jensen (the lead in Tromeo and Juliet). And here Janelle Brady, who plays Chrissy, is a true 1980s babe. She’s cute and a bit of a bimbo, but underneath the surface there is a bad girl bubbling to get out.
The story takes a lot of truly bizarre twists and turns. The mutant ex-honor students get expelled from school and decide to come back, heavily armed of course. They blame Warren for their expulsion, so they kidnap Chrissy to lure him into the evacuated school. Oh, but wait: remember that little mutant tadpole Chrissy puked up? Well it’s all grown up now. This has an ending that must be seen to be believed!!
Like all Troma releases, this movie never for one second takes itself seriously. It’s full of toilet humor, bodily fluids, and tons of gratuitous gore. Good family fun if ya ask me. If you haven’t seen this one in a while (or even worse, haven’t seen it at all), then this is the prefect time to upgrade to the Blu-ray Edition. Call some buddies over, make some green jello shots, grab your favorite bong, and have a blast! Don’t miss this one.
BLU-RAY BONUS FEATURES
After you’re threw with the movie, if you haven’t knocked back so many beers you’re unconscious, you can check out these bonus features:
Nuke ’Em High School Sweethearts: New interview with Robert and Jennifer Prichard, stars of Class of Nuke ’Em High
Audio commentary by Troma president and former Nuclear Power Commissioner Lloyd Kaufman
Audio commentary by Class of Nuke ’Em High special effects and miniatures creator Theo Pingarelli
Deleted Scenes originally thought lost during the Chernobyl disaster
The original theatrical trailer for Class of Nuke ’Em High and other Tromatic classics
Includes the hilarious episode from the Tromaville cafe
CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH (a.k.a. ATOMIC HIGH SCHOOL, 1986). Directors: Richard Haines, Michael Herz, & Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil). Writers: Lloyd Kaufman, Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky, Stuart Strutin. Cast: Janelle Brady Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan.