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All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger Paperback – August 1, 1998

4.9 out of 5 stars 190 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"When in doubt, vomit green foam" is the motto of the B-movie empire, Troma Studios, the brainchild of Kaufman and Michael Herz, whose exploitation hits, Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High and Tromeo & Juliet, today clutter the midnight movie section of most video rental shops. Here, Kaufman traces his lifelong dedication to big-screen gore, disfigurement, mutation and raunchy sex from his days in the Yale film society as a disaffected undergrad in the mid-1960s (where he made a feature-length film that consisted mainly of a braless woman jogging) to his present career as a leading impresario of bad taste. After a stint with Cannon, a low-budget studio in New York City, Kaufman launched Troma out of a broom closet he rented from McCall's magazine in 1974, while taking mainstream Hollywood jobs on the side, including acting as pre-production supervisor on Rocky. The Toxic Avenger, produced in 1982, catapulted Troma into the international limelight and has since become an icon of fringe cinema, spawning merchandise, a Saturday morning cartoon and hours and hours of ongoing late-night cable exposure. Not content to recount his story in linear fashion, Kaufman free-associates on such topics as the "erotic components of colostomy bags" and the pitfalls of Hollywood cinema. Kaufman's gross-out humor and rambling style will wear thin for all but the most devoted Troma fans, but his perspective on independent film production stands to benefit low-budget auteurs everywhere. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The Troma studio and Kaufman, its founder, probably go unreferenced in most libraries' film history collections. Let that be no disincentive to acquiring this account of a prolific and spirited producer of schlock cinema. From the Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'em High series to the more recent Tromeo & Juliet and Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy, Troma has delivered the goods as far as grotesque costumes, maniacal (or nonexistent) plots, and gratuitous partial nudity are concerned. Kaufman and writing buddy Gunn's sprightly overview of Kaufman's "art" is perforce a case history from a segment of the U.S. film industry whose most famous denizens are John (Pink Flamingos) Waters and Russ (The Vixens) Meyer and whose wares exemplify sexploitation, perhaps, but hardly hard core porn. Featuring glimpses of the early careers of Billy Bob Thornton, Melissa Tomei, and others who have gone on to bigger things; claims of influence on big time film directors; and Troma's patented assortment of nymphomaniacs, surf Nazis, and sleazy monsters, this is not-to-be-missed pop culture stuff. Mike Tribby

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Berkley Boulevard trade pbk. ed edition (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425163571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425163573
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,232,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm an avid reader of HOW TO MAKE FILM books as well as BEHIND THE SCENES OF FAMOUS MOVIES books. I wouldn't be exaggerating to say I've read over a hundred in these genres.
Without a doubt, ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FILMMAKING I LEARNED FROM THE TOXIC AVENGER was the funniest, most insightful and informative book in this area I have ever read.
Lloyd Kaufman manages to be the jester and the sage from moment to moment (often at the same time), as he hysterically and with sensitivity, recounts his early filmmaking mistakes, hardships and triumphs on the road to creating the TOXIC AVENGER, TROMEO & JULIET and the TROMA world.
His scathing, sometimes shocking anecdotes of his work on ROCKY and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER have forever changed how I will view these films and the people connected with them.
From the wild, over the top cover art, I thought the book would be complete fluff, but was surprised to find a depth and honesty most "tell all books" could only dream of achieving. To say it was a page turner would be putting it lightly. One simply cannot stop reading this comic masterpiece until completion.
I was moved at the handling of his personal life and simultaneously found myself laughing out loud. I read a portion of this book on a long plane trip and people kept looking over at me as if I were crazy as I repeatedly burst into laughter.
This is a book I will keep, re-read and wish to share with others.
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Format: Paperback
This is a strange book. It begins with Lloyd Kaufman cracking jokes about everything from midgets on fire to belching green goo on secretaries. I laughed but I had no idea what this guy was talking about. Then he gets into making B movies with Troma, the company he started with Michael Herz after years working on Hollywood movies. He recounts his early failures and his first success.
That stuff is interesting, but then he goes right back to making bad jokes. I like his brand of humor --- he's the kind of guy who likes bodily functions, squashed baby heads, and tall tales about Thai hookers --- but the humor is really forced. He seems so eager to please when all he has to do is tell the story of making cheesy, entertaining low-budget films. The Troma stories are really good. Lloyd Kaufman has a lot to say about how the film industry works, directing non-union films, setting up stunts, coming up with good exploitation movie ideas, and even merchandising. (The stuff about working in Japan and making a TV cartoon are particularly enlightening.)
But the bad jokes get in the way. Kaufman is a gifted storyteller and his subject matter is important and fun, so I can easily recommend this book. If you want to know about making movies that have no stars in them, this is the book for you. But you might be disappointed --- Kaufman could have described his work in greater detail, but he chose to amuse his readers instead.
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By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Catching a screening of Troma's new film "Terror Firmer" at the Chicago Film Festival, I had the great experience of meeting Mr. Lloyd Kaufman, one of the nicest people I'm ever likely to come into contact with. He told me I should go on Amazon.com and review his fabulous book, "All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger." Coming from most famous people (yeah, he's famous), telling a fan to boast them up might sound kind of arrogant, but not from Mr. Kaufman. He has got to be one of the last true caring people in the film world and it shows in his excellent book. The book is packed with anecdotes, insights, how-to techniques and plenty of other elements to keep even non-Troma fans interested and amused. I've never found myself laughing out loud so much at a book before. It's hilarious. I suggest reading this book and John Waters' "Shock Value" back-to-back to truly discover what kind of minds make films of the most fantastic and questionable "art" of our times.
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Format: Paperback
Lloyd asked that I write a review of this book because Troma is in dire straits. It seems we've taken them for granted for far too long. The media giants are trying to crush the independent studios and Troma is falling on hard times. You want to know what it's like to make a REAL movie? Read this book, skip reading Entertainment Weekly or Premiere. They're entertaining magazines, but not the real, low-budget truth. Lloyd and James Gunn tell it like it is in this book. It's also one of the funniest books I've ever read. Even funnier than Howard Stern's "Private Parts", which is no easy feat. Troma was the launching ground for James Gunn, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Tiffany Shepis, and countless others. While they've gone on to bigger things, Lloyd has always been there - for us. Making great entertaining movies and supporting the low-budget filmmaker. No Troma/No Fun, Know Troma/Know Fun. Read the book, watch the movies, and most importantly, support Troma.
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By A Customer on October 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've never seen a Troma film, although I know who the Toxic Avenger is, and have an impression of what the film is like from friends. I got this book and a copy of the movie at the same time, and read the book first.
It's supposed to be a 'how-to' guide for independent filmmakers, and I suppose it is, but that part of the experience sits at the center of several layers of narrative. Overall is the "Here's My Book, Hope I Get it Finished in Time" layer of breakfast meetings with the publisher. Beneath that is the "Here's My View of the World", then "Here's what a Putz I Can Be" (with accompanying protestations from friends, family and associates (and an occasional dissenting agreement)). Then there's "Hollywood Stinks", enveloping the "History of Troma" layer, and finally the "Here's How I (We) Did It" layer.
This last piece comes with an abundance of justification, anecdotes and examples of how it doesn't always work, or at least how it shouldn't have worked, but did! THIS makes the difference, and fulfills the book's stated objective.
I probably spent equal amounts of time reading this book with the following reactions:
1. Amusement/Outrage/Laughter (several times OUT LOUD!)
2. The feeling you get slowly driving by a serious car crash
3. "What an arrogant S.O.B.!"
4. "Holy Smokes, I can't believe he said that!"
5. "Yeah! You tell 'em, Lloyd!"
6. "Kaufman, why aren't you dead?"
7. "Enough with the [CENSORED] jokes!!"
8. "I'd never see one of these movies!/I have to see that film!"
9. "You go, girl!" (He's not that picky.)
10. "Serves you right!/You were gypped!"
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