Friday, January 6, 2012

Revenge of Netflix-a-thon (# 3) - Hayao Miyazaki's LUPIN THE THIRD: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO

(One of the fantastic things with Netflix-a-thon is to finally see some of those films by the master directors that I've yet to see, whether they're really good or not good at all it's a chance to see stuff that I might either pass up or just not get to in due time.  So, here's another):

Every filmmaker has to start somewhere, and most of the great directors end up starting with a crime movie, sometimes involving a heist or just the crime world in general.  Hayao Miyazaki had this as well, though probably not on purpose - he worked for many years as an animator in television, directing some TV and writing a lot too (including the is-this-really-titled Panda! Go Panda!)  He was brought onto Lupin III - The Castle of Cagliostro (also called 'Rupin' in Japan) after another director was let go, and the script had to actually be written in large part during post-production.  While Miyazaki would later be dismissive of the film due to not having as much creative control as he would over, well, the rest of his career at Studio Ghibli, this is a film of sheer explosive entertainment, a romp-heist-spectacle that has a lovable rapscallion as the (anti?)hero and a bevy of conventional stock characters right in place.

Two bandits, Lupin and his partner Jigen, have made a big score at a casino that's a bust due to it all being counterfeit currency.  But then a chance encounter in one of those chase scenes (the kind that takes place on winding roads by a seaside cliff and has to have some beaty-type music on the soundtrack) gives Lupin an idea - the castle of Cagliostro, which is the place where the counterfeit money is made, and where a secret treasure is being hidden.  It's through this, and the MacGuffin of two rings (one that is held by one of those mustache-twirling villains that's played up for a reasonable amount of worth, and the other by the 'princess' of the story, sort of, in the form of a Bride), and being chased by one of those blustering but semi-competent Interpol agents, that the story takes some strong shape.

But it's really how it's all presented, through the story and how sequences are executed and the voice actors (yes, even in the English voice dubbing, which apparently changed some of Miyazaki's intent with a little light cursing) that makes a difference.  To be clear, this is not the polished masterpiece-theater anime that made Miyazaki the dubious honor of being called "The Disney of Japan" - this is more like the animation of the 70's and TV especially, which is kind of rough and crude and gritty, like a teenager's idea of anime.  That it suits the material so well may just be a coincidence but a beautiful one: this is the stuff of pulp, where a character is funny and weird and charismatic and yet has some integrity when up against a villain like the one here.

I mean, for real dawg, you got a mustache, you gotta twirl that shit every day!

The chases are not too fast and not too slow; when it comes time for a showdown in a dark and gray interior with lots of wheels spinning, Miyazaki knows how to stage his players and still make it fun.  And at other times when drama has to be ramped up, like when Lupin gets injured at a critical moment, it is genuinely suspenseful since the stakes for this seemingly impenetrable character have been raised.  Like Spielberg with his best Indiana Jones work (and not surprisingly Spielberg called it one of the best adventure films, period), Miyazaki pours all of his know-how of staging action and suspense, while not forgetting that this character is a driving force that all the other characters have to act or re-act to, be they the Interpol agent or a hired samurai -fighter who is brought in by Lupin and Jigen to fight any of the rampant ninjas or others out to get them at the castle.

Just watch how Lupin gets in to the castle the first time in the film to see how brilliant some of this storytelling/timing is, plus how just goddamn funny it is as well - one might think there could be a touch of Sherlock Holmes to how Lupin sneaks around and fakes people out (though maybe without the mystery-intellect to him).  The surprises keep mounting in that whole sequence that it becomes one of the big set pieces of the film (at least for me), and it's not even up to when Lupin gets to the castle itself to save the Bride (who is, I should admit, kind of a bland goody-too-shoes character, but has her moments in the film too).  If it all seems 'cartoonish', that's by design and by default, but the film can still be cherished/admired as that kind of product.

Wall Street called, they want their mascot back.

I should also mention the film is based/a spin-off of a popular TV series from Japan where Lupin III went on a whole bunch of adventures.  I'm not sure where this is placed in, or how it is in relation to that show, since I've never watched it and don't have the time now.  The genius and wonderful quality of The Castle of Cagliostro is that not much has to be explained with the set-up and characters; there is some background between Lupin and the Interpol guy, and it's clear as day what it is so what is there is perfectly fine.

And it's a kind of self-contained narrative that opens with a BANG following that casino heist (not seen, but not needed as the two criminals make off with their money in the car driving fast and laughing their heads off), and then ends with the same thing of cars driving off into a landscape.  There will be more adventures, but for now here's one worthy of a character like Lupin III, who is really like a touch of Holmes with Bugs Bunny, and of the talents of this natural-born-director.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baby-baby-baby you're OUT OF TIME - 11 moments of Cinema 2011

(Not entirely a comprehensive list - I'm sure if I really thought about it more I could have ten other examples, maybe I'll have another 'honorable mention' just in case) - but it'll do for now.  Here are eleven scenes, moments or passages in films this year that really struck me.  Not all of them are on my top ten list of the year but many are... oh, and by the way - SPOILERS!)

1) The Artist (Michael Hazanavicious)

Following being told by his boss at the Kinogram Pictures company (John Goodman) that sound in movies is the new thing, a laughing George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) exits the screening room and, from what we can see, is in his dressing room.  Suddenly, synchronized sound is all around him.  He puts down a glass, it makes a sound.  His hands over a brush, makes a sound.  

His little dog can bark and when a chair is knocked over it too makes noise, as does the outside world of cars and other things.  When he goes outside in a moment of panic three women pass by and giggle and laugh (at him, not to him, what?) and then a feather falls to the ground with a gigantic THUD like an anvil in a cartoon many years away.  He's bewildered, lost, a dutch angle comes in (how can it not?) and then he wakes up.  It was all a dream, or was it?  If that sounds poetic, just watch the scene in its entirety. 

2) Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols)

Michael Shannon gets his family (finally) into the shelter he has built over the past weeks to much cost financially and emotionally to those around him.  It's destroyed the bond with his wife and somewhat lesser-so with his child.  But now the storm has come and it has subsided.  Can he go outside?  Ever again?  Can he face what is or could be?  Is he a hero or still insane?  

A remarkable moment of despair and triumph over self-imposed fear and paranoia (for another by the way there's a blow-up when he snaps at his friend amid a cafeteria of townspeople, and rattles about the End of Times coming on nigh), and it's a moment like many others in this film that relies on the profile of Shannon, who is like a bastard-baby of Bride Frankenstein (isn't he a little Karloff-ish?) but with a kind soul buried somewhere beneath what appears to be granite-craziness.  It's almost a study of his face and his emotions as it is a character piece (and it has Jessica Chastain as a back-up plan of course)

3) Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)

ALL OF IT!  Seriously, isn't the film itself just out-of-time moments stitched together with the occasional trips (and not very pleasant at that, thanks Rachel McAdams and conservative parents) into the 'real world' of 2010?  I could go on and pick ANY of the following really: When Hemingway (forget the Ernest, just Hemingway) tells the writer Gill Pender (Owen Wilson) about death and love in war and that one must face it to be a man; Dali and the surrealists Bunuel and Man-Ray can't seem to help Gill *except* through their art ("I see... RHINOCEROS!").

Gill talks to Marion Cotillard's sexy and mentally free-spirited damsel about what a city is and what a person is in it, the beauty of it all - actually this is THE moment in time, of Woody's career arguably, and at least the late period.  Oh, and Gill gives advice to a 20-something Bunuel about The Exterminating Angel ("Why don't they just leave?" he asks when given the premise to his own comedy of frustrations).  The film is marvelous because 'out-of-time' becomes a state of mind and the point here, sorta.

4) X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn)

another 'out-of-time' moment worth footnoting - our hero (and he is here) Erik finds the point between rage and serenity

Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is tempted once more by his 'partial creator' Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), to join him in his fight against humanity to make mutants rule as the new dominant species.  This is in a moment where it should be 'good vs evil', and to an extent it is... except that Frankenstein has created his monster, and the monster turns.  Indeed Magneto agrees with everything Shaw says... except, he is also there for revenge against the man who killed his mother during the holocaust.  

He counts to three and in this very small enclosure surrounded by steel and blue light, he sends a coin through Shaw's skull, telepathically linked Charles Xavier and is still there through the agonizingly slow execution: the shots inter-cut between Xavier and Shaw's heads from a side-close-up view.  Magneto has "turned to the Dark Side"TM and nothing wll be the same agaian - and yet he is an identifiable, almost empathetic character.  Like the Alice in Chains song goes: "If I would, could you?"  And this in a summer blockbuster pushed into 3,000 screens and marketed like Doritos.  

5) Melancholia (Lars and the real von Trier)

The film opens on as a series of abstract paintings, all moving at what appears to be (or so I'm told) 1,000 frames-per-second, which is the kind of slow pace one might see NASA take on (appropriately so, unlike the deadening slow-mo prologue to Antichrist).  Tristan and Isolde's music plays, which will come up again in the film, and we see what could be called 'The End' in some part, but also the abstracted images of what will be the progagonist/anti-hero of her own story (seems to be a running thing so far this year, hasn't it?)

Justine played by Kirsten Dunst, in a wedding dress walking, in a river floating, and seeing her new electro-magnetic powers coming out of her fingertips (?)  It could be the beginning, or, hell, the end, why not know now and be better prepared?  Dunst is in an ethereal limbo here, and it's just staggering to see set against lush green and black back-drops. 

And equally so:

6) The Tree of Life (Terence Malick)

The universe has 'begun' via Douglas Trumbull coming out of retirement to oversee the interstellar-realm vfx: sights of space, planets, solar flares, strange colors, all put to classical choral music.  I'll get the blu-ray of this very personal, inspired, amitious, possibly too-proud film that is in a first-version director's cut right now (and hey, what comes before a fall that is the lat ten minutes of this film) just for this sequence, which is not entirely *better* than the examples of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Fantasia at doing similar feats of cinematic exploration, but on par for wonder, magistracy and pure awe inspiration.

And speaking of that...

7) Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog)

Albino alligators(!)  After being submerged into Chavaulet caves in France and seeing such lovely, strange and instinctively relatable pictures from our early ancestors for about eighty-five minutes (Herzog's first "museum movie" really), he moves us miles away by the caves to a power planet where also close-by is a sanctuary of a tropical nature, and where there are, at least according to 'The Duke', are "mutated albino alligators - and MAN do they THRIVE!" 

It's here that one gets a "Herzogian" moment of ecstatic truth, where he compares the alligators own sense of awe to that which we welt with the cave paintings... perhaps.  Come to think of it, another out-of-time moment in the film, just as great if not as profound in its weirdness, is when the guide in the cave asks for a beat of silence.  Herzog pangs oh-so-slowly around as the strings of music slowly come up.  Man, does one get chills!  Only someone with a mind like this filmmaker could get that...

and speaking of which...

8) Tabloid (Errol Morris)

As the sort of 'break' following years of being queen-cut tabloid prime rib, Joyce McKinney went back home to care for her ailing father.  And in the mid 80's had a camcorder and tapes herself being agoraphobic... by this she videotapes outside repeating the same image, over and over and over and over again, with the same statement to go with it.  It's not exactly "explained", and there's no need to - here, McKinney gets something much rawer and creepier than Morris could have achieved on his own with a reenactment or other, albeit he included the footage in the film.  

This is meant to be the crazy filler between part one of the story (the "Manacled Mormon" saga, the big chunk of the juicy narrative), and part two(when she gets a much more bizarre and yet heartwarming tabloid of cloned puppies via her dead dog Booger in Korea).  To me, it was completely hypnotic yet told me as much (if not more) about McKinney and/or the fragmented mind in general than the interviews - or at least what happens to the mind after a) already being kinda kooky, and b) being under media surveillance for so long.

9) RANGO (Gore Verbinski)

Rango - who is he?  At the two-thirds mark of the story, he is 'Nobody', as he has been found out to be a fraud Sheriff by the cunning bad-ass Rattlesnake Jake, and is exiled from the town of Dirt into the desert (sound weird enough?  keep reading)  He awakens to see a man, old a grayish and possibly made of granite fiber, who rode in on a golf cart chariot with Oscar statues gold in the little basket at the helm.  He gives our beleaguered hero the pep-talk he needs to "Be a Hero".  The whole scene via this "Spirit of the West" is mythical, all the way down to the bright sun and the 'Spirit' as THE 'Man With No Name'TM.  So surprising is this scene that when I first saw it I was dead certain that Clint Eastwood returned one more time to give life and artistic license to his iconic persona,  

Truth be told this is due credit to actor Timothy Olyphant who does the only good Clint imitation as an old man, but it's also a sign of how fucking good the film is at evoking the Old West of cinema, and hero worship in general (it's almost like a deadpan parody of Joseph Campbell, sorta, maybe, maybe not).  The hero's quest is given satire throughout the film, and the scene is nothing is not self-reflexive and funny.  But it also feels real and inspiring, a credit to how seriously Verbinski takes his whacked-out animated world.  

10) Contagion (Steven Soderbergh)

This is a seemingly small moment, and a scene that involves a supporting character (then again, as an ensemble everyone in Soderbergh's film, except possibly Damon and Fishburne, supports this intense film that moves at the pace it needs to, which is neither too fast nor too slow, to detail the underlying protagonist of the virus).  But it's equally haunting and heartbreaking, plus alarmingly amusing.  Kate Winslet's Dr. Erin Mears, a scientist/detective looking into the world devastating virus, finds she is coughing and sickly looking in the middle of the night in her hotel bedroom.  She has the virus. In one unbroken shot, we see Erin distraight, if not crying then certainly on the verge.  She's doomed, and she knows it.  

What does she do?  Call up the hotel desk/security, and make sure she gets the names of everyone who has been in the room in the past twenty-four hours.  It's touching, and kind of touchingly absurd, how Mears keeps at her job in the face of clear and present danger.  I couldn't help but to laugh a little at the procedural nature of this moment, and at the same time feel such warmth and sadness to her and the situation. Soderbergh's film was called "cold" by some critics, but moments like that, or when Mears is in her last conscious moments offers her jacket very weakly from her gurney bed to a fellow sick-mate, or when Damon's character is looking through pictures of his late wife ad her daughter finally has a "prom" in the living room.  That Soderbergh cares so much for his characters, and cares too about showing it as realistically as possible, may be where audiences split.  All his strong points as a filmmaker can be found in that one scene, even down to the soft lighting from the hotel lamp.

11) Hugo (Martin Scorsese)

The films of Georges Melies exist!  In what was a beautiful-moving scene, among so many throughout the film, and especially a moment for my cry-buckets-of-tears wife by my side, is when Michael Stuhbarg's 'film-geek' brings his surviving Melies film print to show to Melieves' live-in woman (aka the actress from many of the same films), that the work of 'Papa Georges' does indeed exist.  In a few minutes we see it - the fantasy, the spectacle, the magic, and it also, finally, connects with Papa Georges who steps into the room while everybody else is watching and transfixed.  

So much was lost, as we can just feel it before he comes in to explain to Hugo and Chloe Moretz where he comes from as an artist.  Of course this whole sequence that follows of the behind-the-scenes story of Melies the Filmmaker, in dazzling colors and, yes I'll say it, 3D, is wonderful, but I can't help but dearly love those moments where Papa Georges is both rediscovered and discovered for the first time by the kids.  I'm reminded again of a line from Woody Allen (not 'Paris', though it could certainly have come from there): "All people know the same truth - our lives consist of how we choose to distort it."

Lightning round:

The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg)

In what looks to be shaping up to be a fun chase through an ancient city of Bagaa, as Tintin and Captain Haddock have to get those three scrolls that have been snatched away for various reasons by a giant hawk and Daniel Craig in a dastardly beard, Spielberg takes what is already an exciting chase and does something else - he makes a kind of innovation to his already excited/excitable style.  Throughout the film, chiefly in action set-pieces like a flashback pirate-ship battle and with a plane flying through the air with little fuel, we see how Spielberg uses animation (and to an extent 3D) to some new and wonderful uses, still using his camera - he shot the film on the Canon 5D digital cam - to get some fascinating shots that he just couldn't get (or logically anyway) with a traditional 35mm camera in live action.

And yet it's here that Spielberg shows why he still is the fuckin' man when it comes to adventures action/chase set-pieces (or rather, how he redeems himself from the faulty chase through the jungle in Crystal Skull, if he needed to anyway): in an unbroken shot that lasts what seems to be five minutes (I couldn't keep track), Tintin and Haddock go through buildings, roads, through the air, and Tintin's dog Snowy also faces off against the maniacal hawk, and the shot just keeps... on... going!  This is the kind of cinema that sneaks up on you and gives you the most spectacular chills, since it took me a minute or so the first time I saw the film to see that it IS all in one shot.  It's so seamless that seeing it again, it boggles the mind how it's pulled off.  

While it can be chalked up to it being animation, it's still storytelling pure and simple.  Among a career that's lasted forty years, it's one of the former 'Wunderkind''s truly exhilarating moments, on par with the boulder-fall in Raiders or the raptors-hunting-kids sequence of Jurassic Park.  Baad-aaassssss.

Revenge of Netflix-a-thon (#2) Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (by Giorgio Moroder)

So does this bode well?  I'm already a couple days behind with this!  My apologies to whomever is following this month, things just came up out of the blue early this week of the personal kind, however I do have time tonight to catch up I think with this.  And without further ado, the second entry:

Perhaps context is the paramount issue here.  One has to look back on the history of Fritz Lang's epic/landmark science fiction Metropolis to view what composer Giorgio Moroder (Scarface, Cat People, Flashdance, you know it when you hear it synth times) did do some service for the film's legacy at the time it was released.  Up till then in 1984, Metropolis could only be viewed in really rough and scratchy prints that were incomplete and without music (it was cut heavily when first released in the late 20's in the US), so Moroder, following the surfacing of some newly discovered footage, took it upon himself to restore it the best he could at the time, and put his own music on it.  Ant not just his music, but those of the pop icons of the 80's... well, actually, that last part is an exaggeration.

The musicians featured in this version of Metropolis include Pat Benatar, Freddie Mercury, Jon Anderson (of Yes), Loverboy, Adam Ant, Bonnie Tyler, and Billy Squier.  Now, some of these you have heard, of and some of them... um, Adam Ant(?)  Perhaps that guy was before my time.  But at any rate, he took about eighty minutes of footage from the film and made it his own (whether this was what had existed up until that time or it had new footage then I'm not sure, however according to IMDb the version was in fact shorter, albeit color tinted according to Lang's original intentions).  How he makes it his own will definitely, without a doubt, divide the people who already know Metropolis well and have seen either one or more versions.  The short of it is - it's so much the 80's you'd swear the video copy (even on Netflix) would come with a milligram of cocaine.

And here she's all like "HELL!"

I'm in the latter category, having now with Moroder's cut seen four versions - the first was a shitty little public domain DVD that was the 115 minute version but with a slow frames-per-second on it and an odd choice in music (if I still have it somewhere I'll check it out one day just for curiosity); second was the first restored cut from 2002, which ran 125 minutes with all the restored footage at that time and with title cards to fill in on the parts still missing.  Then a couple of years ago one of those big-major-holy-fuck discoveries was made for film buffs where the missing footage (or rather a complete cut of the film) was discovered in a closet or attic in South America, and the footage was subsequently spliced in with the restored version, re-released last year to much acclaim (the only downside being that the footage newly discovered looks a little too rough with everything else).  This new version is, for me, the definitive cut, with all the wonderful music, restored picture and sound, all put together.

So what about this one?  It's in a way like the cliff-notes version of Metropolis (my original review here, which is just a slathering of superlatives, albeit I do think the film's 'depth' is not too deep past being a top-notch visual spectacle).  It goes by faster than it seems at 80 minutes - with its story of Freder and his son and how the lovely girl Maria and the 'evil' doctor Rotwang and his fem-bot all collide over the course of a few days in this big futuristic (but very much early 20th century industrial) city-scape.

When it was finished... I felt mixed about it.  Some of the music that Moroder himself adds as composer fits well, sometimes to startling and energetic results, such as when Maria-Bot is riling up the group of rich people at the social club with her crazy dancing and wild eyes, or when the city floods (oh, btw, SPOILERS), there's a lot of interesting stuff floating around in the scoring.  And other times... it just doesn't seem to fit, tonally or with pop or wonder to the image on screen.

Imagine this - but with more Benny Hill music
As for the songs, they are actually kind of forgettable, and only tangentially relate to what's on screen (the Loverboy 'Deconstruction' song fits kinda well, and I wanted to like it more but was put off by the repetitiveness of that word).  Songs by Jon Anderson and Freddie Mercury fare better, while Pat Benatar's ballad is pretty much insufferable.  The one new touch that Moroder does with the material, which I've never seen done before with a silent film and is a small but significant innovation, is to add subtitles for characters on screen as opposed to the standard with nearly all other silent films as title cards or inter-titles.  It did help to keep things moving and helped with the pace of the music, when it worked, on screen.

Yet if I had seen this as the first time seeing Metropolis, the story wouldn't do it so much for me.  A lot of the key pieces are there, but because it's so short it goes by much too fast, and nothing can really sink in like the longer cuts.  The color tinting has some cool contours to bring on, but is not used consistently enough either.  It comes off like a student experiment or a long-form music video that happened to feature the footage of Lang's world.  The effort is all admirable, but by now, aside from the fuller versions of the film, there are other Metropolis-inspired music videos that fuse the symbolism and themes of the text with better music.  I can't deny the curiosity factor here, and being a fan as I was of the film anyway the film is a success on those grounds (and it may be for others as well, especially Moroder fans, whomever you are out there).  But to return to it.... I dunno.

but on the plus side, Moroder did help David Bowie make this, one of his best songs.  So there is that...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Revenge of Netflix-a-thon (#1) Lloyd Kaufman/Michael Herz's THE TOXIC AVENGER

(note: Yes, it is kind of pathetic that, as of living twenty-seven going on twenty-eight years on this planet, I've never seen Lloyd Kaufman's epic of trashy goof-ball-ness.  I'm pretty familiar with Troma, if not an avid buff then seen a few of the 'classics' - Cannibal! The Musical, The First Turn On, Class of Nuke 'em High, Killer Kondom - and yet somehow I just didn't get around to it, either through not being at the right place at the right time with friends, or, frankly, finding something else to watch when I had the DVD 2-disc director's cut right in front of me.  Now, with the Revenga of Netflix-a-thon, it was time I figured to give Toxie a chance... and this is when he was just called 'Melvin')

Fuckin aye he's from Jersey!  The garden state - where more smokestacks are grown than anything else!

Poor Melvin.  He just wanted to get by and work in that Tromaville Health Center, and he could never, ever seem to catch a break.  His appearance as an uber-nerd who couldn't get into the Revenge of the Nerds dorm probably didn't help things, but people in this Tromaville can't seem to get along.  At all.  That's putting it lightly - it's a crime-riddled and infested city where most people are corrupt (cops and the Big Fat Mayor included), and so it trickles down into places like the Health Center.  But one day Melvin is pushed just a wee bit too far by an attractive girl who leads him into an intensely cruel prank including everyone at the spa - and is pushed also into a big barrel of un-identifiable radioactive toxic waste.  Go home and wash it off?  Fat chance - he's now... something else.  But one thing he is for sure is PISSED!

Look at that punim!
The Toxic Avenger is one of the definitive horror-comedies of its time, or at least that's how it would be hyped up by the carnival-barker extraordinaire Lloyd Kaufman (the Walt Disney of the studio really - Michael Herz, oddly enough, isn't usually on those DVD's, whereas Lloyd comes on like your wacky Jewish uncle who may or may not have molested your cousin years ago... but I digress ;))  It certainly goes for the most excesses in terms of characterization and gore, and all on a budget that might have made Sam Raimi's head spin (he is still the king of the 80's horror comedy by the way, no contest) - there's the asshole jocks and bimbos in the health center, but there's also Bozo (the scenery-scarfing cartoon of a man Gary Schneider), who with his drunken buddies have a system of points for who they run over, with children as extra targets. 

Holding up the script, Bozo thought 'I CAN DOOO THHIIIISSS!!"
 And, to be sure as a real go-for-broke horror comedy with the lowest common denominator in mind (and damn fuckin proud of it you gotta problem?), things like, say, a child on a bike getting run over by Bozo and the thugs gets the utmost treatment as far as special fx make-up goes (using a melon filled with color dye and other goodies of course).  It's no surprise then that the 'Monster' mask that is revealed is just damn cool as an abhorrent freak-of-nature, like Superman from The Goonies with a couple of chromosomes missing in the face.  It's a shame then that, as one of the movie's real flaws (not counting, say, flaws in the writing which if I wanted to be a dick critic I could do but I'll try not to), is with the mask in the early scenes.  

After 'Toxie' is created, he goes fighting against two sets of criminals, one shaking down a cop on the streets at night, and then during the day as some gnarly dudes rob a fast food restaurant and proceed to kill/rape a few of the people therein.  But in these big fight scenes (and the body count is impressive), Toxie's face is nowhere to be seen (!)  All of the coverage is shot of him from behind or from the neck down as he pummels and kills and squashes heads and chops off arms and other things involving deep friers and sundae mixers.  I wish I could admit that it was clever of Kaufman and Herz to try and shoot around the fact that they, I assume, didn't have the full mask on set for those days, but it just comes off awkward not being able to have full-on fight scenes.  It isn't until about forty minutes into the film we finally get to see that big mug of his (and then in another scene later in the film, as he talks to his love-of-his-life Sara the blind girl it seemed to happen again, with only one shot of a mask put in there).  

Then again there *are* shots like this, which are just too epic to try and contemplate.
 But that, looking back, was the only true disappointment in the movie (that and maybe a little over-reliance on crappy early 80's synth rock in the health club - the classical music selections are much more inspired), and it didn't detract from the enjoyment of the rest of the narrative.  Kaufman and Herz do a wonderful job of creating their own icon while lampooning everything that goes with it.  Toxie is a hero, though he definitely kills a lot of people - including, at one hilarious-for-all-the-wrong-reasons moment, a four-foot tall old lady in a laundromat - and seems to have an innate ability to track down precisely those people that have been evil and wicked and kick their asses.  To be fair though, in Tromaville, one doesn't have to go far to find them.  Most memorable for me is when he finally tracks down Bozo and his pals, gets on their car, and then proceeds to make mayhem as he drives maniacally through town (explosions, lots of useless property damage, and more explosions also ensue).  

The comedy is just ridiculous, pure and simple, and you'll either go for it or you won't.  I mostly did, between the practical slapstick of the kills and other gags, and some of those throwaway one-liners are great (Sara: "Why Melvin you're beautiful. You're a beautiful person. You're so muscular. It's been two years since I've touched a man!")  I have to wonder if there is a slight frame of mind to be in, almost like a party atmosphere, where the wacky aesthetic would hit it off best, as opposed to all alone in the middle of the night on New Year's Eve.  But the jokes just keep flying, and the tackiness of some of the costumes, ALL of the over-the-top acting basically (and that what-the-fuck voice change with Toxie from when he is on camera and when he's not), and the gore.  There is no top in this universe, or if there is Herz and Kaufman just say 'FUCK YOU!' and laugh at it while throwing rocks and fire-crackers at it. 

And already consumer whores (and how!)
 Toxie's rise to hero isn't exactly a John Campbell-esque example, but it gets the job done.  The original Toxic Avenger is still a rude, crude, and almost magnificent B-movie that usually benefits from its low-budget schlock as the directors find creative ways of pulling off big set pieces and stunts.