The Film (4/5)
3 things happened to me in November 2000. I got my 2nd job ever at a Waldenbooks in Bradenton, FL. I got a Flu bug that lasted 10 days and resulted in a 103 degree fever for most of that time, and I saw Tromeo and Juliet for the first time. These 3 things may not seem like they would go together, but I had just gotten the job when I had gotten sick, and had called in sick for the duration.
On the first day I was still feeling good enough to get around. I had ordered a VHS of Tromeo and Juliet 2 weeks before from the local Suncoast Video store (remember those?), and it had just arrived as the sickness set in. So I went to pick it up. The only thing was that Suncoast was right next to Waldenbooks, so I had to avoid being detected, which was especially hard because the calendar booth run by Waldenbooks was right outside the store in sight of Suncoast. No worries, I made it, didn't get caught, and got the tape home.
I took a short nap, and a few hours later finally popped it in. By that time the fever had set in, and I was quite ill, this made for one of the greatest strangest viewing experiences of my life. Tromeo and Juliet with all it's bizarre sexuality, violence, and strange imagery practically burned a whole in my brain for the time I was watching it.
Tromeo and Juliet is, naturally, the Troma version of Shakespeare's infinitely adapted tragedy. It came out in the wake of Baz Luhrmann's contemporary adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and as such, has been often confused as a parody of that film. However, in his first book All I Needed to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, director Lloyd Kaufman stated that he had planned to make the film long before Luhrmann's adaptation was even announced.
Lloyd's film is truly a punk rock version of Shakespeare's tale, like Luhrmann's film, it features a contemporary setting, but the comparisons end there. Tromeo and Juliet is a story set amongst New York City's tattoo, piercing, and punk rock culture. It tells the story of Romeo and Juliet with great detail, liberties are taken, it is after all a Troma movie. I, for example, do not remember a 6 foot tall penis monster in Shakeseare's original. It is a violent, sex driven, comedic take on Shakespeare, and because of this perspective is one of the better adaptations of Romeo and Juliet out there (My personal favorite is the Cukor version from the 30's).
I have owned Tromeo and Juliet on VHS, DVD, and now on Blu-ray. The film in it's earlier forms were entertaining, but really ugly. When Tromeo and Class of Nuke 'Em High came in the mail I didn't expect much from the Troma blu-ray experience. I, however, was very wrong. The BD of Tromeo and Juliet exceeds all my expectations for what a Troma movie should like on Blu-ray.
Troma has presented Tromeo and Juliet in an astounding 1080p 1:33:1 transfer that preserves Lloyd's preferred theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer is not without faults, there is moderate film like grain throughout, and some minor instances of print damage. That being said the good outweighs the bad, the colors pop, black levels are solid, and the level of detail that is present is nothing short of amazing. If these initial batch of Blu-ray's are any indication Troma has a good future in HD releases (bring on Bloodsucking Freaks!!)
The audio on the disc is a totally different story. Troma has utilized what appears to be a the same Dolby Digital 2.0 English track from the previous DVD releases. The audio is serviceable dialogue, effects, and music are for the most part clear. There are a few moments of minor hissing and distortion on the track.
Troma has packed this BD disc full of fantastic extras. Many of which have come from prior DVD releases of the film, but there are some new ones here. The BD of Tromeo and Juliet kicks off with 4 commentary tracks. The first featuring Tromeo director Lloyd Kaufman, the 2nd features Kaufman again this time accompanied by screenwriter James Gunn. The third track is a commentary once again featuring James Gunn this time with his brother/Tromeo and Juliet actor Sean Gunn. This commentary track is not really informative, and more on the entertaining side. The fourth commentary track is with Tromeo and Juliet editors Gabe Friedman and Frank Reynolds. The disc is also packed with interviews from the cast and crew of the film. The interviews range from actor to Stephen Blackeheart to Motorhead's Lemmy who narrated the film. The disc is closed out by a bunch of deleted scenes, a visit to Eli Roth's birthday party, a featurette of Lloyd Kaufman's visit to the set of James Gunn's Slither, fan reenactments of Tromeo and Juliet scenes, trailers for other Troma releases, and, of course, The Radiation March. It also features a new introduction to the film featuring James Gunn, Stephen Blackeheart, Lloyd Kaufman, and a number of Tromettes.
Tromeo and Juliet is a B-Movie classic, and quite possibly Lloyd Kaufman's greatest film achievement. If this is your first time with the film this is the way to go, if you have purchased the other releases, it is seriously time to upgrade. The transfer is fantastic, and it is loaded with a slew of extras new and old. The only downside is the reuse of the previous releases audio elements, but the audio is still quite serviceable, and this is not really a problem. This discs comes highly recommended for Troma fans, trash cinema aficionados, and movie lovers looking for something new.