• Return To Nuke’em High Volume 1

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: March 18th, 2014.
    Director: Lloyd Kaufman
    Cast: Asta Paredes, Catherine Corcoran, Vito Trigo, Clay von Carlowitz, Zac Amico
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie:

    Lloyd Kaufman’s Return To Nuke’em High Volume 1 brings us back to good old Tromaville High School in an opening scene where a phallic creature emerges from a drain pipe only to ‘get involved’ with a couple making sweet, passionate love. From here we meet Chrissy (Asta Paredes), a foxy dark haired thing who just can’t seem to get off when her goes down on her. But there’s more to Chrissy’s life than just lackluster oral sex – she, she’s also a blogger and is intent on using the internet to expose the truth behind the Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate. Lead by CEO Lee Harvey Herzkauf (Lloyd Kaufman), Tromorganic is responsible for supplying the school’s cafeteria with meals each and every day.

    While Chrissy is digging around to see what she can come up with, new girl Lauren (Catharine Corcoran), and her pet duck Kevin, are getting adjusted to Tromaville. Chrissy isn’t keen on her at first and bullies her for coming from a rich background but soon these two girls can’t fight their mutual attraction for one another. While they’re having torrid lesbian sex, however, the members of the school’s glee club are mutating from meek and timid nerds into a gang of radioactive punks called The Cretins. Not only do The Cretins harmonize wonderfully, but they have a taste for murder and chaos and intend to spread their infection as far and wide as they can.

    Crammed to the rafters with sex, violence, duck rape and farts (LOTS of farts), Return To Nuke’em High Volume 1 is pretty much exactly what you’d want from a modern day Troma movie. Shot on location in and around Niagara Falls (the American side, the one with the lesser view!), this is eighty-five minutes of inspired lunacy, unabashedly crass hijinks and not so subtle social commentary (at one point a character remarks that you can’t even wear a hoodie and eat Skittles in this town anymore). There are tasteless jokes aplenty here about school shootings, the organic food movement and the state of gay rights in modern day America and it’s all filtered through Kaufman’s uniquely skewed and uncompromising vision. Troma are pulling no punches here, and while the movie takes a little bit of time to get going, once it does it’s pretty trashtastic.

    Performances are pretty amusing across the board. Kaufman plays… Kaufman. As a CEO type, he hams it up and is as entertaining and amusing as usual. Both Asta Paredes and Catharine Corcoran do great work here too, playing their respective characters with the right balance of seriousness and knowing humor. They’re also obviously not afraid to get naked or hop into bed and create a surprisingly graphic (and admittedly very nicely shot – it actually comes across as romantic and tender rather than played just for sensationalism) lesbian scene that’s sure to turn a few heads. Also worth mentioning is Babette Bombshell as the principal who delivers a character that’s part grease ball nerd and part Richard Nixon. It’s odd, but it works. The actors who play The Cretins are also good, going completely over the top and obviously having a good time hamming it up as the baddies in the picture. Cameos from Stan Lee, Lemmy (once again playing the President), Judah Friedlander and Debbie Rochon are also amusing.

    As this is ‘Volume 1’ it makes sense then that the movie ends on a cliffhanger. Without having seen the second part it’s impossible to say if this was the best move or not. Some more judicious editing might have helped with the flow of the first half of this first part, but the movie is entertaining pretty much from start to finish. Some of the digital effects are terrible but the movie makes no attempt to cover that up. Thankfully most of the effects work is done the old fashioned way, with props (a few of which you can see in our tour of Troma HQ here) and goo and latex and fake blood. The infamous car crash is used again, Toxie shows up briefly as does Kabukiman – the movie hits all the notes you’d expect it to in terms of crass humor, gore and slapstick toilet humor, but it’s Asta Paredes and Catharine Corcoran that impress the most. Come for the politically incorrect humor and giant mutant cocks, stay for the two lead actresses.


    Return To Nuke’em High Volume 1 rears its ugly head on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This was shot on HD digital video so obviously there’s no print damage here to note. There is some video noise in the background of a few scenes but for the most part the image is clean and ridiculously colorful. Right from the opening scene we can notice how luminescent the neon green slime is, while skin tones, of which there are plenty on display, look natural enough. Detail is pretty good, especially in close up shots, and texture too. The black levels are nice and solid and the scenes that take place outside at night show pretty good shadow detail. You might pick up on some minor compression artifacts but outside of that, the movie looks pretty good on Blu-ray.

    Unfortunately the only audio option on the disc for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, there’s no lossless option provided here. The quality of the track is fine, the levels are balanced properly and the dialogue is clear and easy to understand over top of the score and sound effects. There are Spanish subtitles provided and an English closed captioning option available as well.

    The extras start off with an audio commentary with actors Zac Amico, Clay von Carlowitz, Catherine Corcoran, Stuart Kiczek and Asta Parades that’s a pretty active talk about, well, what it was like working as an actor on this movie. It’s done with a sense of humor, as you’d probably expect, but there’s a lot of information in here about who else chipped in here. The actors mostly wore a few different hats during the productions, some of them were interning at Troma others helped out with casting local extras, stuff like that. The two female leads talk about having to deal with call backs and how odd it was auditioning while everyone was running around doing musical numbers. They point out pretty much everyone who appears in the movie, including ‘Brenda Biker Lady’ as Aunt Bee, the difficulties of finding local talent in the Buffalo/Niagara region, and Lloyd Kaufman’s unique slow burn, subtle sense of thinking man’s humor. We learn about the advantages of hiding roast beef under your fingernails to gross out female co-stars, where some of the props and costumes came from, acting alongside a duck, the radness of custom made false teeth, and the specifics of having to perform in a fairly graphic lesbian sex scene (and how Kaufman directs a scene like this) and how gluten free vanilla pudding can make for great green slime.

    The disc also contains a second audio commentary with Lloyd Kaufman, producer Justin A. Martell, executive producer Matt Manjourides, associate producer Regina Katz and writer Travis Campbell. Again, we get a sense of humor throughout this, Kaufman quizzing Regina early on because ‘I know you have to leave’ and Kaufman noting how Starz/Anchor Bay came on board to help get this movie in gear. Lloyd and Herz agreed to do it so long as they had total creative freedom, and they brought Travis on board to re-write the first draft of the original script. It took about two years to get the script right, they talk about Stan Lee’s involvement in the picture, how some of the effects were done in the picture, the film’s consistency in terms of the people who appear in the background of the movie and how they have their own stories, and why certain shots were done the way they were. They also talk about having a ‘Hollywood’ crew having done the grip work and shooting work on the picture and how they adjusted to Troma style filmmaking and schedules, putting a duck on a podium, some of the locations used in the film, working with the Water Authority to secure those locations for a very specific amount of time, why title cards are used throughout the movie, and why Lloyd winds up playing substantial parts in a lot of his more recent movies.

    From there we move onto the featurettes starting with Casting Conundrum, a seven minute piece with Lloyd mugging for the camera talking about how and why they cast and audition their movies the way that they do. We learn how they used social media to reach out to potential actors, what the response was like and then from there we see some audition footage and learn how the cast members who wound up in the movie were chosen – and we even get to see some preliminary lesbian make out scene footage! Pre-Production Hell With Mein-Kauf (Man) is just under ten minutes in length and it shows how a ‘broken down, haunted, spider-infested funeral home’ was used as the movie’s base of operations and how fifty people lived in it for a prolonged period of time and basically made a huge mess of it. From there we see how Kaufman showed up and through everything for a loop and how the exhausted cast and crew worked with the director and what it was like handling all of this. This is actually a really interesting and honest look into how Kaufman’s directorial style can and does interfere with that of the crew and the conflict that can and does arise from the differing opinions on the best way to complete a project. Special (Ed) Effects runs just over seven minutes and, as you could probably guess, it covers the special effects work showcased in the feature. We learn about Troma’s tried and true Alka Seltzer meltdown technique, how much it can seriously suck having to clean up after an effects set piece, how SFX artist Lisa Forst handled the needs of the team as best she could, and what happens when actors laugh during effects shots and completely ruin them. We even get to see some guys go out shopping for very specific effects team needs, in this case, a wiggling dildo. The last featurettes is a quick two minute piece called Cell-U-Lloyd Kaufman: 40 Years of TROMAtising The World, and it’s basically a highlight reel of the cinematic gifts that Kaufman has given to the world over the span of Troma’s existence.

    Rounding out the extras are an Architects Of Fear music video for a song called Edison Device, a trailer for Return To Nuke ‘Em High Volume 2 (though no trailer for Volume 1), animated menus and chapter selection. Trailers for a few unrelated Anchor Bay Blu-ray releases play before the main menu loads and all of this comes packaged in a very cool radioactive green Blu-ray case!

    The Final Word:

    Return To Nuke’em High Volume 1 is an interesting and ridiculously entertaining start, let’s see where the second chapter takes us. As to the disc? There’s a lot of extra features here and while the lossy audio will irritate some, the transfer is good. A pretty solid package overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Christian Bates-Hardy's Avatar
      Christian Bates-Hardy -
      Is it fair to say the production values of this one are higher than usual for a Troma movie? It just looks...better than Poultrygeist and Citizen Toxie.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      The cinematography definitely makes it look more impressive. Probably because Justin Duvall shot it and he's a mainstream Hollywood cinematographer type.
    1. Christian Bates-Hardy's Avatar
      Christian Bates-Hardy -
      Cool. Well I think I'll check this one out. I'm a fan of the original Nuke 'Em High and from the sounds of your review Troma scored some decent leads actresses for this one. Poultrygeist exceeded my expectations, and Troma's recent distributed films have been great (I loved Father's Day).