Tech Dirt recently tipped us off to a treasure trove of B-movie goodies — all free and awaiting our perusal on YouTube. For almost 40 years, Troma Entertainment has been dishing up B-movie madness, led by independent film champion and man of many hats, Lloyd Kaufman. He founded the company in 1974 with friend Michael Herz and since then has produced and distributed a massive catalogue that has mocked genre tropes and conventions, pushed the boundaries of good taste in weird and hilarious ways, and kept the spirit of trash cinema alive. With 150 films from Troma’s unapologetically over-the-top oeuvre available online, the choices can be overwhelming. We’ve waded through the company’s cult canon for you and have recommended ten of our favorite flicks past the break. Get comfy, order a pizza (extra cheese required), and kill a few brain cells with these entertaining B-films available online right now.
By 1932, Hungarian horror icon Bela Lugosi was struggling with being typecast as a villainous fiend in films, and White Zombie was one of the many movies that found the actor playing yet another evil antagonist. He starred as a nefarious Haitian voodoo witch doctor, sporting one of the best names in horror history: Murder Legendre. This is the same movie that musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie appropriated for his former band, and it’s a gloomy classic worth watching for Lugosi’s menacing performance alone. Co-star Clarence Muse — who played the coach driver in the film — later stated that the hammy, but talented Lugosi helped direct and rewrite the atmospheric, black-and-white gem.
South Park co-creators and Book of Mormon collaborators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were students at the University of Colorado in 1993. They were inspired to write, direct, and star in a historical musical satire based on real-life American prospector Alfred Packer. He was accused of cannibalism in the 19th century after becoming snowbound with a group of men in the chilly peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Low-budget spectacle Cannibal! The Musical was born, and the quotable, zany production features the fledgling comedians in all their glory, leading songs with ridiculous titles like “Let’s Build a Snowman,” “Hang the Bastard,” and “Shpadoinkle.” Basically, it’s the gory, juvenile version of Oklahoma that never was.
A bunch of Germans (imitating New Yorkers) got together and made a movie about a living, breathing, carnivorous condom. The crew includes Alien designer and creature creator H.R. Giger who acted as a creative consultant; controversial director Jörg Buttgereit of Nekromantik fame; and popular comic book creator Ralf König. Troma is known for riding the coattails of popular genre films, but they’ve also always tried to deliver their own unique brand of social commentary. This STD-laden movie is just one example of that. If you dig parodies of grizzled detective tales — in this case reborn as a gay-cop-in-love-with-a-gigolo movie — and sci-fi trash, then this one should hit the spot.
Shamelessly politically incorrect and laugh-out-loud ridiculous, 1990’s Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. was directed by Troma visionary Lloyd Kaufman, blending a crime story, slapstick humor, and a unique superhero modeled after Japanese Kabuki actors. While the film reins in the sex and gore, it’s still an outlandish adventure with cartoon levels of absurdity. New York detective Harry Griswold is a bungling man of the law and his Kabuki persona, though fascinating to watch, isn’t much different. The deadly chopsticks are pretty great, though. The film also features the company’s famous car explosion that Kaufman has recycled for several Troma features.
We’ve extolled the virtues of badass character actor John Saxon before (Black Christmas, Tenebre, A Nightmare on Elm Street). He’s probably the best thing about this 1980 film, which rips its shaky plotline from horror classics like The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, and even giallo cinema (the violent, seductive Italian horror-thrillers made famous by filmmakers like Dario Argento). Horror fans will also recognize scream queen Lynda Day George of Pieces fame. She joined the annals of B-cinema when she hilariously screamed “Bastard!” three times in a row. All the schlock of this haunted possession tale amounts to a handful of scenes sporting genuine creepiness, with a surprisingly great score from frequent Brian De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio.
Slither director and helmer of Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie James Gunn began his filmmaking career with Troma. He co-directed the company’s softcore Shakespearean opus Tromeo and Juliet with founder Lloyd Kaufman. What’s the hard sell, though? Tromeo and Juliet is narrated by Lemmy from Motörhead. Speaking of literary classics, we keep hoping Troma will make their version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility — Schlock and Schlockability — but the project never came to pass.
Caroline Munro and Joe Spinell starred in William Lustig’s grimy slasher classic Maniac, which is currently being remade with Elijah Wood (weird!). They reunited in Troma’s The Last Horror Film about a New York taxi driver who stalks a beautiful actress at the Cannes Film Festival. Although horror cinema fans love a good Munro film — the leggy Hammer actress can scream with the best of them — madman Spinell is the star of the show. The actor was one of those great New York character actors you’ve seen in dozens of films, including Rocky, The Godfather, and Taxi Driver. Spinell never lived long enough to see his dream of Maniac 2 come to fruition, and don’t expect a sequel-worthy watch with Last Horror Film, but it’s always great to see the cult icon doing what he loved: acting like a psychopath.
Don Dohler’s low-budget horror and sci-fi flicks exude an oddball sensibility and infectious enthusiasm that can never be mistaken for art, but it’s inspiring nonetheless. His story is the focus of Blood, Boobs & Beast, which should be of interest to budding B-moviemakers struggling to hone their craft. In case the title didn’t give it away, one low-budget filmmaking rule states that all movies must contain the three Bs to be successful: blood, boobs, and a beast. While that hasn’t won Dohler much praise from critics, he has been able to distribute his films internationally and snag TV syndication for his first project, The Alien Factor. Keep an eye out for fans like underground comix legends Robert Crumb and Art Speigelman, as well as J.J. Abrams. Yes, that guy.
Two kindhearted old ladies are transformed into demonic lunatics when they receive a diabolical artifact as a gift from their nephew. A gory family reunion ensues. It’s gruesome good fun from Belgium that’s been poorly dubbed, which only adds to its bizarre quality. Fans of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films will find something to appreciate here.
Troma’s mascot and greatest invention, The Toxic Avenger, spawned an animated TV series that aired on Fox in the 1990s – which is strange considering Toxie is a mutant janitor with a pervy sense of humor and wicked violent streak. They toned down his act for television, making Toxie appear more like an ugly cousin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and focused on an environmental, superhuman citizen slant. It never stuck with audiences. Maybe it was the cockroach-like villain, humanoid junkyard dog, or oil slick monster that frightened children away. The show was quickly cancelled, but you can relive the magic in the video above.