7. Screamplay (1985)
Arriving in Hollywood with only a suitcase and a typewriter, aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allan (Rufus Butler Seder). He possesses a wild imagination and while working on murder mystery, many scenes come to life.
Eventually, a body count of grisly murders begin to accumulate, leaving him confront aging actresses, rock stars and the police. Under the pretense that in order to become a real writer, Edgar Allen realizes that he must suffer for his work, while his reality becomes blurry and is driven to insanity.
Directed by Rufus Butler Sedar (whom also stars in the lead role) with a script co-written with Ed Greenberg, “Screamplay” was shot in black and white as homage to German Expressionist films. It was well received by fans of the genre and is revered as one of Troma’s better films regarding the quality of the production and lack of gratuitous nudity, gore and cheap laughs.
Released on DVD in 2005, it is currently out of print, but is currently available in its entirety on Youtube.
8. Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986) (Watch on Youtube)
A nuclear power plant located less than a mile from Tromaville High School, has tainted the water supply resulting in a student’s death. Some of the honor students have mutated into a vicious gang known as the Cretins who sell pot grown on the nuclear plant’s grounds. Meanwhile, two clean-cut kids, Warren and Chrissy, attend a crazy party and are pressured into smoking a radioactive joint. They have sex and once back at their homes have twisted nightmares about gross mutations.
Later that week, Chrissy discovers she’s pregnant and the creature is spat out into a toilet, travels through water pipes and lands in a vat of nuclear waste. Around the same time, Warren temporary transforms and goes on a rampage, killing two of the Cretins, only to wake up with no memory of the incident.
Directed by Richard W. Haines and Samuel Weil (aka Lloyd Kaufman) with a script co-written with Mark Rudnitsky and Stuart Strutin, “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” was another was another success for Troma. It brought on two sequels, which were directed by others.
In 2013, Kaufman directed the fourth installment of the series called “Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Volume 1”, with a “Volume 2” in the works. Both were chiefly funded through Kickstarter campaigns and raised more than their intended goals.
9. Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) (Watch on Youtube)
After an earthquake leaves the California coast in ruins, the beaches are over-run by a gang of Neo-Nazis led by Adolf (Barry Brenner). They battle with rival surfer gangs and seize control of the waterfronts.
While jogging on their turf, Leroy (Robert Harden), an African-American oil well worker is killed by the hate-mongers. Devastated by her son’s death, Eleanor “Mama” Washington (Gail Neely), wants revenge and breaks out of her retirement home to declare war on the Surf Nazis.
Directed by Peter George with a script by Jon Ayre, “Surf Nazis Must Die” was met with a lot of negative feedback. Regardless, it has gained a cult following over time. In 2014, the soundtrack composed by Jon McCallum received an official vinyl release. The feature has been made available through Netflix, Youtube or other online streaming networks.
10. Troma’s War (1988) (Watch on Youtube)
On an uncharted island, a commercial airplane crashes containing a diverse group of American passengers. They are discovered by a terrorist army who ruled under the powerful elite. Parker, one of the plane’s passengers is an unstable Vietnam veteran along with Taylor, lead the survivors to a safe space, but some are captured.
The captives are brought to training camp, witnessing tortures and murders of many people. Meanwhile, there a plan to infect much of America’s population with the AIDS virus with an eminent plan to invade. Parker, Taylor and the other survivors plot an attack on the terrorists’ hideout with the help of a beautiful African-American woman.
Directed by Michael Herz and Samuel Weil (Lloyd Kaufman), “Troma’s War” aka “1,000 Ways to Die”, was critical attack on President Ronald Reagan’s glorification of combat. With a budget of $3 million, it was the company’s most expensive film ever. It received a limited US release and MPAA rejected it for being too violent, so fifteen minute was cut and ended bombing at the box office. Troma suffered financially and was jettisoned from the Hollywood mainstream.
In 2010, an unrated director’s cut with the full running time of 104 minutes was released on DVD, followed by a 2015 uncut Blu-ray release. The heavily censored version has never seen the light of day since its original premiere in 1988.
11. Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD (1990) (Watch on Youtube)
While investigating a string of murders, the klutzy Sergeant Detective Harry Griswold (Rick Gianasi) attends a Kabuki play, where the cast is gunned down by mobsters. As the troupe’s leader dies, he kisses Harry and possesses him with the powers of Kabuki.
Griswold inevitably develops into a colorful superhero with the ability to fly and utilize weapons like heat seeking chopsticks and poisonous sushi. Pairing up with Lotus (Susan Byun), they rid the crime filled streets of New York and topple a maniacal businessman and his thugs who seek to fulfill an ancient evil prophecy that will enslave the world.
Directed by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, “Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD” was developed in Japan while shooting “Toxic Avenger Part 2” when they were approached by Tetsu Fujimura and Masaya Nakamura to create Kabuki superhero movie. They were given one and half million dollars to develop a more child friendly, mainstream accessible film, whereas Kaufman wanted more of the typical Troma style with sex and violence.
An R-rated version was released, but then cut down to PG-13 for investors who were displeased and withdrew the distribution deals. The film played Cannes Festival for several years, but wasn’t released theatrically until 1996.
While receiving positive reviews, Troma fans had mixed feelings. “Kabukiman” would become the second widely known mascot of the company and make an appearance in “Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part 4”. A sequel has been discussed since 2000, but nothing yet has materialized.
12. Def By Temptation (1990) (Watch on Youtube)
Childhood friends, Joel (James Bond III) and “K” (Kadeem Hardison from “A Different World”) are at a crossroads in their lives. “K” has moved to New York to become an actor, while Joel is a minister, just like his deceased father (Samuel L. Jackson), but he becomes disillusioned by Christianity.
The latter decides to pay a visit to his friend in NYC. Upon waiting his arrival, “K” sits in a bar and meets his ideal of the perfect woman (Cynthia Bond), who in actuality is a succubus with a taste for the blood of foolish men who are tempted by her.
Written, directed and produced by James Bond III, “Def by Temptation” is a gruesome 1990s version of the Blaxploitation genre. It features early roles of Bill Nunn and Michael Michele, along with cameos by musicians like Melba Moore, Najee and Freddie Jackson.
While receiving mixed reviews and bombing at the box office, the feature became a cult classic with religious overtones merged with a supernatural horror tale.
13. Vegas in Space (1991)
Captain Dan Tracey (Doris Fish) and two male space travelers are sent to investigate the resort planet Clitoris, filled with shopping and gambling, where only women are allowed. However, in order to land, the three of them must ingest sex changing and pose as showgirls.
They discover that a rare gem known as “Girlinium” has been stolen from the Empress Nueva Gabor, which is used to maintain the sensitive orbit around their sun. If not retrieved, the planet will suffer fatal disasters.
Directed and produced by Phillip R. Ford with a script co-written with Doris Fish (aka Philip Mills), “Vegas in Space” is a campy, sci-fi musical that starred many well-known drag queens from San Francisco. Ford and Fish struggled for eight years to complete the film which involved elaborate sets, costumes, makeup, hair and miniature models.
Unfortunately, Fish/Mills passed away due to AIDS related complications a few months before the film made its theatrical debut.