TROMA'S WAR (1988)
Directors: Michael Herz & Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)

Brimming with all the graphic violence, crude humor and gratuitous boobie shots one would expect from Kaufman and company, TROMA'S WAR’s victory lies solely in its body count, which numbers in the hundreds. Devised as a cinematic rebuttal to the social and political climate of the Reagan era, the majority of WAR’s budget appears to have been spent on artillery and squibs. In fact, claims have been made, mostly from Kaufman himself, that TROMA'S WAR showcases more squib explosions that any other film. Showered in a constant barrage of bullets and blood, the picture is at times hypnotic in its anarchy. Unfortunately such a trance is too often broken by the picture’s disastrous attempts at humor.

After their plane crashes on a remote island, an average group of Tromaville citizens, having been mistaken for rival commandoes, are forced to band together in order to fight a terrorist army hell-bent on bringing disorder and chaos to the U.S. of A. In their attempt to flee from the encroaching rebel army, the surviving passengers find themselves split into two groups. Those fortunate enough to make their way further inland and those doomed to be caught by the indigenous terrorists. Tortured, humiliated and raped, the captured castaways are interrogated as to the location of their fellow comrades but offer little more than pleas for mercy as they watch friends and strangers alike killed one by one. Thankfully their fellow passengers manage to get their hands on enough weaponry to push back the enemy forces before their captor’s interrogation methods wipe the lot of them clean. Now fully aware of their perilous situation, the surviving castaways, which include a British spy (Steven Crossley), a car salesman (Rick Washburn), a corporate douchebag (Patrick Weathers), a good ol’ boy (Sean Bowen), somebody’s grandma (Jessica Dublin) and a feisty female (Carolyn Beauchamp), decide to stand up and fight in order to stop the terrorists fanatical plot to infiltrate American soil with AIDS infected decoys.

Given the filmmaker’s limited budget and acting pool, the picture's battle scenes are pretty damn impressive. Attempts at humor are however less effective. Remarks about AIDS are obviously meant to be shocking but come across as merely tasteless, which don’t get me wrong, has its place and is almost expected in a Troma film, but when thrown into the middle of a battle scene, comments about such atrocious subject matter simply feel forced instead of coming across as commentary on a topical issue, be it serious or otherwise. Random fart jokes do induce a chuckle at times but I can’t help but think that without so many failed sophomoric attempts at humor, TROMA'S WAR could have played quite effectively as a satire of the RAMBO films which were seeing such a strong run at the time. The film's final gag, seen after the end credits roll, did make me smile but as it stands, the picture’s impact and overall entertainment value is somewhat weakened by the dead weight of too many dead jokes.

Perhaps WAR’s heaviest burden is that it is filled with so many annoying characters. Caricatures would actually be a more appropriate term. The majority of the Tromaville castaways come across well enough, with Rick Washburn, Carolyn Beauchamp and Steven Crossley actually turning in rather decent performances given the script at hand. And I couldn’t help but root for the attractive blind girl played by Max Wade, but the rest of the cast wears out their welcome within seconds of their introductions. In particular the film's villains who don’t so much provoke fear as they do nausea. I thought Captain Schweinhart’s horrible German accent was hard to swallow, but then I was introduced to his Commander, Bill Earl Jennings. Prone to snorting like a pig, I wanted Commander Jennings to die the minute he opened his mouth and maybe that was the point. There is however a distinction between hating a character based on an actor’s portrayal and hating a character because he instantly grates on your nerves and you wish he would just shut the hell up and die already!

Having previously released TROMA'S WAR on VHS and DVD, Troma adds to its expanding Tromasterpiece Collection by presenting the unrated director’s cut of WAR, fullframe and full of extras. Detail isn’t razor sharp and colors are not exactly blinding but the action is easy to follow and is hampered only by the occasional blemish. The English language Stereo audio track tends to kick up a few notches at some rather odd times, such as during a love scene, but both dialogue and explosions are easy to distinguish.

Special features are kicked off with a commentary track by Troma head honcho and mouth piece, Lloyd Kaufman. I do not own TROMA'S WAR previous DVD release, which was released back in the late 1990s, but based on many of the comments made by Kaufman, the track would appear to be a carry-over from its original digital debut. Touching on both the high and lows of the production, Kaufman covers the film's shoot in nice detail and points out several scenes which were originally cut, per the request of the MPAA, for the theatrical version. “KILL-O-METER” cuts out all of the excess story and jokes to string together every kill, in order and numbered for your entertainment. “VETERAN’S DAY: A Post-Tromatic Reunion” is a brief interview with REDNECK ZOMBIES director Pericles Lewnes and Troma heavyweight Joe Fleishaker. Joe, who has appeared in such numerous Troma outings as SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. and CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV, fondly recalls not only WAR’s shoot but several others for which he is all clearly quite proud of.

“Rick Washburn Shoots the Shit” (3:28) is an interview between Lloyd Kaufman and actor Rick Washburn who also served as weapons coordinator for the film. “Post War Reflections” is a five minute segment in which Kaufman interviews Sean Bowen, Jessica Dublin and a rather svelte Joe Fleishaker for the picture's 10th anniversary. “London’s War” is a very brief (1:30) section of the film that features commentary from director of photography Jim Lebovitz who shot WAR under the pseudonym James London. “War Talk” is yet another interview segment (7:25), this time featuring on camera interviews with Carolyn Beauchamp, Lorayn Lane Deluca, “blind girl” Max Wade, actor/stuntman Paul Borgese and craft service technician Phil Rivo. All interview segments, along with a five minute segment from Troma’s Edge TV, appear to have been shot on home video and it wouldn't surprise me if they were all lifted from previous releases of WAR. “Three Minutes with Rolfe” is an over seven minute interview with Rolfe Kanefsky, director of JACQUELINE HYDE, who served as a production assistant on WAR. Rolfe’s recollections are accompanied by WAR’s original and alternate trailer, as well as trailers for HEAVY MENTAL, A NOCTURNE, BIGFOOT, BAZAAR BIZARRE, DEAD EYES OPEN, CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL, REDNECK ZOMBIES, THE LAST HORROR FILM, COMBAT SHOCK and MAD DOG MORGAN. There is also an electrifying if not completely random Easter Egg to be found. (Jason McElreath)