Cheap thrill | 20 years ago | July 1, 1986 | J. Sullivan found much to like about the low-budget flick The Toxic Avenger.
“You figured all those toxic chemicals America stockpiles had to be good for something, right? Well, so did the folks over at Troma Films, who have realized that the notion of toxic chemicals run amok is good fodder — prime slime — for launching an el cheapo schlock-horror farce that raises a few social issues while mostly rubbing your face in a fair amount of side-slapping sleaze and gutbucket camp-and-violence. It’s The Toxic Avenger, and it’s a lurid comic book: low-budget, gross, willfully stupid, sporadically nasty, and at least in places, a hoot and a holler. In other words, just about everything you want in a motion-picture experience, and made even better because neither Meryl Streep nor Sally Field is in it and because the soundtrack features not one damn current hit song — just a bunch of lame rock/disco churned out by no-names. Fits perfectly.
“It’s all set in Tromaville, a town that boasts the slogan ‘The Toxic Waste Capital of the World’ (we assume, of course, that it’s somewhere in New Jersey). Our hero, Melvin (Mark Toryl), is a snot-nosed kid who mops the floor at the local health club. . . .
“Suffering yet another humiliation and pursued by a horde of crazed iron-pumpers, poor Melvin is run out of the health club’s second floor window . . . and headfirst into a waiting barrel of green, toxic slime. (It seems a truck full of chemicals has parked outside the club while the drivers powder their noses.) Does it kill him? No way. Melvin sizzles, flops, and burns, finally running home and hopping into a bath, emerging as a cross of the Melting Man, Frankenstein’s monster, an American Werewolf in London, Dirty Harry, and Spiderman. . . .
“Naturally, Melvin has to perpetrate some ultra-violence upon his main tormentors — a particularly vile and hateful pair of couples whose main blood sport is cruising the streets looking for hapless pedestrians to mow down . . . The townspeople love Melvin as only townspeople will — the kids sell I HEART THE GREEN MONSTER T-shirts — and the bureaucracy tries to rub him out. Ain’t it always that way?”
Sexual politics | 25 years ago | June 30, 1981 | Renee Loth spoke of double standards from the House to the Senate.
“Women constitute more than half the population of Massachusetts, but they make up less than 10 percent of the legislature. Of the 19 women now serving in the House or Senate, only one or two could be said to have any real power. . . .
“Because women are still a minority, they get more than their share of scrutiny. Sometimes this is an advantage, especially in a crowded race, where visibility counts. More often it is a burden, as women legislators exhaust themselves trying to fight or fit their voters’ expectations (this very article, for example, may well be criticized for reinforcing the notion that women in politics are ‘oddities’). Except in the most liberal circles, women are still held to the familiar double standard (he’s assertive, she’s a bitch) that applies as easily to the political back rooms as to the corporate boardrooms. ‘When people say I’m a tough broad, some say it as a compliment and some say it disparagingly,’ said Newton’s newly elected representative, Susan Schur. ‘When they say I’m determined, I’m proud. You can’t be a pussycat and survive in this business.’ . . .