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8.11.15

WRITTEN REVIEW: Troma's War

By FOREST TAYLOR
Allow me to take you back in time. All the way back to 1988. It was Ronald Reagan's last year as president, Iran-Contra was starting to pick up steam, aliens were secretly infiltrating our society much to the dismay of professional wrestlers everywhere, John Rambo was kicking the commies out of Afghanistan, Jean-Claude Van Damme won the Kumite and a little independent film company called Troma was experiencing unparalleled success.

After the two surprise hits, The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke'em High, Troma decided to go all-out with their next film simply titled "War", which was intended to break the company into the mainstream by appealing to both their core audience as well as general action fans. At $3 million, it remains Troma's highest budget film and it definitely pulls out all the stops. With blood, bullets, exploding cars, exploding boats, exploding breasts and more bullet-hits than any other film in history, Troma's War was destined to be a action extravaganza!

Sadly, that would not be. After severe cuts, fights with the dreaded MPAA and an infamous scuffle with Morton Downey Jr., Troma's War was released in a heavily edited, critically panned R-rated version that failed to connect with Troma fans (who felt the censored version meant Troma was selling out) or fans of action movies (who were turned off by Troma's general weirdness). It seemed like the film would fade into obscurity.


Fortunately, that's not the case as Troma has just released a special unrated director's cut of the film the way it was always meant to be seen, now on Tromatic Blu-Ray! And I say it couldn't come at a more appropriate time. The film, about a group of ordinary Tromaville citizens who crash land on an island that is a base for crazy military extremists planning to take over America feels more relevant than ever before. It's very rare to find a genuine left-leaning action movie already and remember, this was during the height of Reagan's military juggernaut. With the exception of They Live and The Running Man, almost every action movie of the time had a decidedly right-wing political bent to them, with their glorification of militarism and/or vigilantism. It's nice to see an action film that has as its heroes, not some hulking super man or brilliant military tactician, but a group of regular people just trying to stay alive against the brutal military types who are the film's villains. The reason I say that this film is more relevant than ever is because I feel that we as a society are becoming more war-like. I mean, we've been at war now for well over a decade and there doesn't seem to be any end in site, the police have become more militarized and more hostile towards protest, public support for torture is growing every year and it seems like every day we see a new group of people ready to get their guns and take to the streets in armed rebellion. With all this in mind, it's refreshing to find a movie that pokes fun of all the glamorization of war and violence that so many other action movies seem to readily endorse.

Finally, I cannot talk about Troma's War without mentioning how the Motion Picture Association of America is a useless organization that needs to be thrown into the sun. Lloyd Kaufman planned for the film to be rated R in order to sell it to more theaters, but the MPAA said that it "stunk" (something they are not allowed to do) and demanded that it be cut in order to get an R. Kaufman made some cuts and sent it again. The MPAA still refused to grant an R-rating, demanding even more cuts, including pivotal scenes which needed to be shown (most infamously, a scene in which a woman is given AIDS after being raped by a crazed psychopath). Must frustrating, the MPAA complained about all the use of squibs (explosive blood packets designed to simulate a bullet hit) and insisted that almost all of them be cut from the R-rated version. Never mind that plenty of Hollywood movies like Die Hard (released the same year) have tons of gory squib shots and they get away with R-ratings just fine. Of course, the MPAA isn't there to make sense, they're there to prop up the studios and stamp all over the independents as much as possible.

With that in mind, I'd highly recommend that you check out this Tromasterpiece the way it was meant to be seen. The blu-ray transfer looks incredible and as usual, it's loaded with plenty of goodies, including some rare interviews with Michael Herz and Joe Fleishaker. But most of all, watch it as a nice big "Fuck You" to that most loathsome of organizations: the MPAA. Stay Tromatized!

TROMA'S WAR

★ ★ ★ ½

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