New York is up to its eyeballs in superheroes. You can’t walk down the street without tripping over one of them. New Jersey has only one superhero, Toxie, and that’s enough for us.
Toxie, or "The Toxic Avenger," is the titular character of the cult film featuring New Jersey’s first superhero, borne from the mutative effects of toxic waste, or more precisely the iconic, psychotic, (Tromatic?) Troma Entertainment. In the tradition of small-budget studios from the 1950s through the 1970s, Troma wasn’t out to make art-house fare, peppering its movies (often corralled under the “exploitation” or “grindhouse” genre) with over-the-top violence and nudity, all with a lopsided, cartoonish sense of humor.
Studio heads Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz started the organization in 1974, but it wasn’t until 1985 with the rise of The Toxic Avenger that Troma started seeping into the pop culture of the entire country, as opposed to the small pockets of B-movie fandom that exist all over the world. Home video was a major contributor (and where Troma exists today, for the most part). Recently, a deal was struck with producer/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to bring the property back as a big-budget PG-13 film. It remains to be seen if the character has what it takes to shed the sticky, slimy, gooey origins and become a mainstream superhero property.
And if you're wondering what it would be like to experience the original movie in all its glory on the big screen, Day Tripper has the trip for you. =
Red Bank’s will be including "The Toxic Avenger" in its History of Film Series. The directory of membership for the Count Basie Theater, Ann Ciabattoni, explained how this unorthodox entry came to be a part of the series.
“When we were ready to start a major renovation of the building, we were given a grant and thought that a free film series would be a way to harken back to our earlier days when many people who still live in the area came to the theatre as children to watch movies,” Ciabattoni said. “We wanted to recall that audience and bring newcomers to the Basie, have a 'bully pulpit' to talk about the theatre and our plans, and give back to our community in the way of a free evening out. We still do a brief curtain speech before each movie explaining that we are a non-profit organization and promoting our membership, arts education and capital programs—we also give some trivia about the movie which folks seem to enjoy.”
But why The Toxic Avenger?
“We want to give a broad range of genres in our film series offerings. While this campy comedy-horror movie is certainly not for everyone and parental discretion is advised, it fit into our theme and is now considered a cult classic,” Ciabattoni said. “There was even a Broadway musical created around this story in 2009 scored by New Jersey's own David Bryan.”
The best part is, the viewing is free (provided you call to reserve your seat), so that's why we've picked Count Basie Theater's History of Film Series for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.
DAY TRIPPER DIGEST
Estimated Travel Time: 49 minutes
Why it’s Worth the Trip: The Count Basie Theatre is often a great destination regardless of who is playing there, but the History of Film Series makes the trip extra-special. The theater attempts to get the best prints its can, and failing that, its uses the best digital media available and project it in widescreen in its beautifully restored theater. And it's The Toxic Avenger, for cryin' out loud. How can you resist?
How to Get There from Here: Detailed Driving Directions
You'll Probably Get Hungry: Don't miss the on Bridge Avenue, which houses (a Thai restaurant), and , featuring a fondue-centered menu. There’s also the more traditional , and for those looking for much more casual flavors, a satellite of the shoreline favorite is also available. If you want to go a little more trendy and upscale, try out . And if none of those hit the spot—well, it's Red Bank, and there are plenty of other choices.
While You're in the Area: For those who want to make a day of their visit, downtown Red Bank offers attractions as well, including , long a staple of downtown Red Bank. If you want to try out other entertainment, there's (highlighting the latest in Indie-oriented film), and as well.
“The Count Basie Theatre was built in 1926 as a movie and vaudeville house,” Ciabattoni said. “By the early 1930s we were pretty much all movies until the 1980s. From the 1990s until today, live performances have been our bread and butter. We do about 180 live shows and have about 180,000 people come through our doors each year. Acts include headliners like Harry Connick Jr., Meat Loaf, ZZ Top, Wanda Sykes, Buddy Guy, Lewis Black, New Jersey Symphony, jazz, children's programming, ballet and lots more.”
Into that pantheon comes The Toxic Avenger, and although it would seem to be a weird addition, Ciabattoni said it is not as bizarre as it appears on paper.
“In setting up the series for this year, starting in December, we decided to spread it throughout the year [rather than just in the Spring as we had done previously[ and show films on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. We also decided to establish themes for our movies. Our first theme is “Reel Films of New Jersey," Ciabattoni said. "So we have shown movies that take place in or were filmed in New Jersey."
They have included "A Beautiful Mind," "Big," "Desperately Seeking Susan," "Garden State" and "Lean on Me." "Toxic Avenger" is April 10, and the series will finish with "Julie and Julia" on May 8. The next theme starts in June: Seas, Oceans and Water.
The films are free to the public but ticket must seating be reserved through the box office at CountBasieTheatre.org or 732-842-9000.