I attended a movie premiere in Leicester Square last night. Well, OK, it was just off Leicester Square. But it was still the British premiere – or it might have been the European premiere – of an American movie.
Well, OK, the premiere was of a movie by Troma Entertainment, purveyors of fine B-movie features such as The Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die and Tromeo and Juliet. It was at the wonderfully-cultish Prince Charles Cinema.
Last night’s premiere was of Father’s Day (impressively produced, given it cost $10,000 to make), directed by five Canadians calling themselves Astron-6.
The last movie Troma released was Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead in 2006.
Introducing the new Father’s Day film was Troma’s capo di tutti capi Lloyd Kaufman. There was a queue literally round the block to see him. It is rare to see a Troma movie on the big screen in the UK and pretty-much unique to see Kaufman and his lovely wife of 40 years Patricia Swinney Kaufman, currently New York Film Commissioner. They had an announcement:
“We noticed,” said Lloyd Kaufman, “that there are currently a number of £100 million re-makes of movies that originally cost nothing. Well, Troma is going to do a re-make of a movie that cost nothing and we’re going to do the re-make for less than nothing. We’re gonna re-make Class of Nuke ‘Em High this summer and I will have the privilege of directing it. It will be a bit different. In the re-make, the young teenage couple will be a young teenage lesbian couple.”
This announcement by the neatly-suited man and his immaculately-dressed wife was greeted with whoops and cheers by the full-house audience which was dressed as if for a heavy metal rock show.
“Thankyou for supporting independent cinema and art!” Lloyd Kaufman shouted, when the whoops of joy had subsided.
Off-stage (I saw them before the screening), Lloyd Kaufman and his wife appear to be quiet, rather unassuming American tourists of a certain age. They had just flown in from Paris.
On-stage, Lloyd Kaufman turns into Mel Brooks. A loud, very funny New York Jewish salesman.
“I met Astron 6, who made Father’s Day,” he explained, “because they showed some short films at the TromaDance Film Festival. Then I met one of the Astron 6 people on the set of the re-make of Mother’s Day. (The original 1980 version was directed by Lloyd Kaufman’s brother Charles)
“I thought it would be amusing if people would think Father’s Day was going to be a cynical attempt to ride the coat-tails of Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day which was being re-made as a big-budget movie. But Father’s Day has absolutely nothing to do with Mother’s Day, which I think is hilarious.
“I do believe,” he said, “that Astron-6 are continuing the Troma tradition of making films that come from the heart and are honest expressions of their soul without any thought to commercial success. Father’s Day is another movie that contributes to Troma’s 40 years of failed film-making.”
In fact, Father’s Day won several awards at last year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival, including Best Film, Best Trailer and Best Poster.
In its heyday, Troma was always known for its posters. They used to think of a title, then design a poster, then sell it to distributors and, only after that, try to think what the script might be.
“I think,” he said, “that you will see a lot more from these Astron-6 guys in the same way as Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of animated TV series South Park, who, like many, had an early involvement with Troma)
Former Troma guy James Gunn, who wrote and directed their Tromeo and Juliet in 1996, went on to direct the more mainstream science fiction horror comedy Slither in 2006. He was said, at one time, to have written a sadly-unproduced Troma movie Schlock & Schlockability: The Revenge of Jane Austen.
“But James Gunn didn’t write that,” Lloyd Kaufman revealed last night. “Another guy did – he was a postman – I can’t remember his name. We never got anywhere with it. We were hoping to get a British partner but, thusfar, we have not been able to get anybody.”
There have also been stories that Troma are to make Toxic Avenger 5: Toxic Twins.
“We have not yet been able to do that yet,” he explained philosophically. “Since nobody goes to our movies, we have no distribution anywhere and we don’t make any money… Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, my best movie, will never break even. We were plucked on that film. So there’s no purpose in making a movie unless we really, really love it.
“Father’s Day we really loved, the Astron-6 guys were ready-to-go, so we did it. But, with Toxis Avenger 5, I have not gotten to where I really believe in it. Something I can get behind or, at least, get into my behind, is the Class of Nuke ‘Em High Redux. I think that’s something I can really believe in.
“The re-make of Class of Nuke ‘Em High will be shot on video because, finally, the quality of the digital format exceeds 35mm film. But we were always way ahead of the game, because we knew how to make 35mm look like shitty, unfocused, scratched VHS tape 40 years ago. So we’re just going back to our roots.”
Troma movies influenced directors like Quentin Tarantino and gave early work to people like actor Samuel L.Jackson and director Oliver Stone (as an actor).
“I think,” said Lloyd Kaufman, “that the Atron-6 guys will be accepted in the mainstream in the same way that James Gunn and Tarantino and Eli Roth have been. They were all fans of Troma or worked for Troma and want to make money.
“I don’t want to live in a refrigerated carton and be putting my shit in a paper bag, but I’m not able to make it in the mainstream. James Gunn and Trey Parker and Matt Stone and those guys are great people. Most people in the film industry who are in the mainstream are worse than wankers; they’re scum of the earth. But there are a small number who are sensational. And I’m sure that Astron-6 will be able to go mainstream and stay true to their souls and be honest, good, serious artists.
“I guess my message is just do what you believe in. Don’t listen to people. If idiots like me can survive for 40 years making films with hideously-deformed creatures of super-human size and father’s getting boffed up the behind and hard-bodied lesbians and all that sort of stuff, then anybody can do it. To thine own self be true. That is a phrase coined by one William Shakespeare who wrote the best-selling book 101 Money-Making Screenplay Ideas otherwise known as Hamlet
“Do what you believe in.”