The Toxic Avenger is a 1984 comedy horror film released by Troma Entertainment, known for producing low budget B-movies with campy concepts. Virtually ignored upon its first release, The Toxic Avenger caught on with filmgoers after a long and successful midnight movie engagement at the famed Bleecker Street Cinemas in New York City in late 1985. It now is regarded as a cult classic.
Melvin Ferd III (Mark Torgl) is a stereotypical 98-pound weakling; he works as a janitor at a health club in the fictional Tromaville, New Jersey. There, he is tormented by his customers, particularly Bozo (Gary Schneider), Slug (Robert Prichard), Wanda (Jennifer Babtist), and Julie (Cindy Manion), who harass and tease him constantly. The Mayor of Tromaville is Mayor Peter Belgoody (Pat Ryan Jr.) who, unknown to the citizens of the town, is also the leader of a massive Tromaville crime ring, but hides this fact by promoting good will and proposed justice to the town as a cover-up. As days go by Melvin's tormentors grow more and more violent, even killing a young boy on a bike by running him over with their car and taking photos of the carnage afterwards. Finally, one day they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club by other customers and jumps out of a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste, which immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames, Melvin survives, and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.
Elsewhere, a group of drug dealers led by the criminal Cigar Face (Dan Snow) are harassing a police officer by the name of O'Clancy (Dick Martinsen), trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang attack and brutalize him. Then, just as Cigar Face prepare to castrate Officer O'Clancy with his gun, a large creature (portrayed by Mitch Cohen and voiced by Kenneth Kessler) comes out of nowhere and violently kills the criminals Knuckles (Doug Isbecque) and Nipples (Charles Lee, Jr.). Then he then leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face survives, but has had his testicles smashed by the creature before escaping. O'Clancy is initially terrified of the creature but soon learns he was only trying to help him as the creature approaches him and politely apologizes for his behavior as he has "never done this sort of thing before". The officer's rescuer, dubbed the "Monster Hero", is the now profoundly mutated Melvin. He tries to return home, but his mother (Sarabel Levinson) ends up fainting upon the sight of him. Wracked with sorrow, the Monster Hero builds a makeshift home in the junkyard. Mayor Belgoody is shocked at the deaths of some of his goons, but is still confident that the Monster will not come looking for him, hoping that one of his goons will kill him eventually.
Elsewhere in Tromaville, a gang of three men consisting of Leroy (Patrick Kilpatrick), Frank (Larry Sulton), and Rico (Michael Russo) are holding up a Mexican restaurant called "The Mexican Place." Leroy kills one of the patrons (Xavier Barquet) and Frank attacks a blind woman named Sarah (Andree Maranda) after Leroy kills her guide dog. Frank attempts to rape her, but is attacked by the Monster Hero who ends up ripping off Frank's right arm. He wreaks bloody vengeance on the three men: Leroy is first covered in whipped cream (and a cherry) before having a milkshake-stirrer rammed into his throat, Rico has his hands and wrists plunged into a deep-fryer, and Frank is stuffed in an oven. The Monster Hero takes Sarah back to her home where they begin to get to know one another, and progressively fall in love. The Monster Hero returns to the Health Club, killing a drug dealer (Dennis Souder) by crushing his face with a weight lifting machine. There, he attacks popular girl Wanda (one of his tormentors that had caused his transformation). Afterwards, the Monster is relieving himself in a back alley when a limo pulls up and a pimp tries to push a 12-year-old girl onto him. When he starts to fight back to save the girl, a group of men come out of the limo. He fights them all off and saves the girl. The Monster Hero soon starts building up a friendly reputation in Tromaville by doing all sorts of "superhero" work from saving two younger boys from Bozo's group to even helping the elderly to cross the street.
Meanwhile, Mayor Belgoody is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to his goons, as not only are they being killed one-by-one by the Monster Hero, but some of them are also turning themselves in for their own safety. He is now worried that their deaths will lead up to him sooner than he expects and wants the Monster Hero to be taken care of. One night, Cigar Face returns (covered in bandages and casts) and brings along a new group of Belgoody's goons to surround the Monster with guns. Before they fire on him, he jumps up to a fire escape and they end up shooting and killing each other. The Monster Hero returns to the health club again and attacks Julie (another one of his tormentors responsible for what happened to him). Soon afterwards, he confronts the last of his tormentors Bozo and Slug who have attacked an old woman (Mary Ellen David) and stolen her car when Julie does not show up. Bozo and Slug try to run him over, but the Monster jumps on top of the car and grabs Slug crushing his neck and throwing him out of the moving car. The Monster then confronts Bozo by grabbing him by the face and terrifies him by revealing himself as Melvin from the accident to a horrified Bozo. After several accidents that occur because of Bozo's driving, the Monster tears off the wheel to the car causing Bozo to drive off the side of a cliff. The car crashes and bursts into flames burning Bozo alive but unaffecting the monster. One day, when the Monster Hero kills a seemingly innocent old midget woman in a dry cleaning store (it is later revealed that she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade) by throwing her into the store's washing machine, the Monster Hero wanders back to his junkyard home revealing his true identity to Sarah and feeling terrified and guilty for what he has become. Sarah however tells Melvin that she still loves him no matter what he looks like and the two decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods.
However, Belgoody finds out about the Monster Hero's "mishap" and uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard in hopes of finally killing him. Soon Sarah and the Monster are discovered in the woods and now surrounded by both the National Guard and the townspeople. The Mayor comes intent on killing him (whereas the National Guard's request was originally for capture). But thanks to the Monster's kind duties to the town, the people of Tromaville including the Monster Hero's mother will have none of it. The Mayor's evil ways are exposed after he threatens to kill O'Clancy for trying to take his gun away from him, and the Monster Hero proceeds to rip out Belgoody's organs to see if he has "any guts". The film ends with the townspeople's celebration at the Monster's acceptance and a reassuring epilogue that wherever evil brews in Tromaville, Melvin the Monster Hero, now dubbed the "Toxic Avenger", will be there to protect the town.
(Melvin catches Slug and Wanda having sex in the locker room)
Slug: Get out of here you pervert.
(Wanda pulls out a switchblade)
Wanda: Or I'll kill you.
Leroy: Hey look Frank. Teeny-boppers. You like video games teeny-boppers? Your mommy give you quarters for video games? Well cough 'em up.
Bruce: I heard that the monster is soooo big.
Chauncey: Well I bet he's got his eye on ME!
Bruce: For your information, everyone knows monsters prefer blondes.