TROMA’s War (1988) [Blu-Ray]

I would be lying if I said that “Troma’s War” is one of the best efforts from Troma. While it tries very hard to elicit some kind of political satire and tackle the idea of exploitation movies, it’s kind of a missed effort. Truth be told, “Troma’s War” is more of a chore to sit through than anything. It’s creative and a neat addition to a collection if you love Troma, but overall, it’s a loud, head ache inducing attempt at an action movie that can never quite put a finger on what it wants to be. It’s a disaster movie, a war movie, an action movie, an “Airplane!” style spoof, and then a political satire. It tries to roll all of these genre elements in to one frantic ball, but stumbles left and right with its intentions.

Not to mention for what the premise entails, “Troma’s War” is a bit long in the tooth, and could have benefitted from a fifteen minute trimming. The twist involving the survivors taking down terrorists that try to rig America’s political system has potential to be brilliant, but it sadly feels more like an after thought until the very end. After a craftily filmed plane crash on a tropical island, the survivors of the wreck try their best to make sense of what happened, all the while surrounded by the bodies of their fellow passengers. While some of the passengers find it impossible to move forward, a small band of survivors try hard to make it back to civilization and figure out the cause of the crash.

As the group struggle with deciding over a leader, they’re hunted by a pair of terrorist groups, all of whom are intent on hunting them down and brainwash them in to becoming soldiers for a planned American invasion. As the various characters among the group struggle to resist the villainous entities which involve gun happy soldiers, an aggressively lesbian female enforcer and a conjoined twin mastermind, they then retaliate. Soon they take hold of their own weapons and begin waging war on their enemies, simultaneously destroying all hopes for destruction of America. Director Lloyd Kaufman has a lot to say about the Regan Era attitude and thirst for violence, but can never develop a coherent or cohesive experience that is on par with “Nuke Em High” or “Toxic Avenger.”

There’s a lot of graphic violence, rape, and on the nose political jabs like a pig faced general, and a crucial plot element involving the weaponizing of AIDS. This would be very sharp commentary if the movie were more tightly written. The irony of elderly characters and morbidly obese characters become veritable Rambos, lugging around machine guns, and doing battle isn’t lost, it just always feels like a half hearted indictment on Regan era jingoism. Pretty much every character submits to the machine gun, engaging in drawn out gun battles, it’s just never very interesting or entertaining enough.

Featured in the Blu-Ray release is an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman who, while held at gunpoint, shares trivia about the film, while continuing the illusion of a “training film” for the U.S. military. There’s an audio commentary by Lloyd Kaufman, and the nineteen minute “War Memories,” featuring directors Kaufman and Michael Herz, both of whom discuss the legacy of their film, and offer some harsh commentary on the MPAA, and how they demanded heavy cuts on “Troma’s War” to secure an R rating, watering down the film. It’s a rare sight to see Herz, who plays beautifully off of Kaufman.

“London’s War” is a brief snippet of commentary from cinematographer James. A Lebovitz, while “Post War Reflection” is a five minute reunion circa 1999 hosted by Kaufman, who talks with actors Sean Bowen, Jessica Dubin, and Joe Fleishaker while touring Troma and discussing making the film. As always wackiness and high jinks are on the menu. “Veteran’s Day” is a nine minute visit with filmmaker Pericles Lewnes who travels to Staten Island to meet with actor Joe Fleishaker. There’s an interview with weapons coordinator and actor Rick Washburn, who shares stories with Kaufman about injuries and gun design. Finally there’s the original theatrical trailer.