Color, 1986, 82m.
Directed by Richard W. Haines & Samuel Weil (Lloyd Kaufman)
Starring Janelle Brady, Gilbert Brenton, Robert Prichard, R.L. Ryan, James Nugent Vernon, Brad Dunker
Troma (Blu-Ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

"What's goin' on / At Nuke 'Em High!" So blasts the unforgettable theme song of this, Troma's first major release after their surprising cult success of The Toxic Avenger. Once again we have a cartoonish story of toxic waste causing havoc in Tromaville, this time when a power plant malfunction dumps tons of radioactive slop into the water supply of a nearby high school. Soon the honor students all become punked-out gang members called the Cretins, school nerds are spewing green glop out of their orifices and diving out of windows, and the nuclear's plants doing its best to ignore the problem while the whole town seems to be going to hell. Meanwhile good kids Warren (Brenton) and Chrissy (Brady) get a little bit concerned when the latter winds up pregnant and spontaneously releases a mutant baby monster in the girl's bathroom.

Though technically not a Toxic sequel, this film continues the same aesthetic in a similar setting. Sophomoric humor, idiotic characters, amateurish performances, and lots of spewing bodily fluids make it quite clear this isn't one designed to impress critics, but for anyone willing to groove along with that familiar free-associative Troma vibe, it's a lot of fun. There's some odd drug commentary with the nuclear menace being spread through contaminated joints, a school dance features enough eye-popping colors and new wave music to rival the best moments of Square Pegs, and there's a throat-punching scene still able to knock the wind out of eager horror fans. Though it didn't become quite the same fan favorite as Toxie, this did go on to inspire two lesser '90s sequels and became a very steady favorite on home video.

Speaking of which, this has to be one of the most confusing Troma titles on home video. Originally it was rated R in theaters, then released to VHS courtesy of beloved '80s favorite Media Home Entertainment whose box advertised 85 minutes but delivered 81. Then the DVD came out branded as an 82-minute "unrated director's cut," presumably to cash in on the same success enjoyed by the much more graphic unrated version of The Toxic Avenger. This one doesn't seem so different, though; the film isn't that gory in any version, consisting mainly of the aforementioned slobbery goo, a severed arm here and there, and a really painful bit involving a nose ring. Some fans claimed the director's cut actually abbreviated some footage, but it'll take a stern Tromaphile to sit with both playing side by side to examine every frame. Meanwhile a Japanese VHS and DVD scraped together a longer 96-minute cut by reinstating some lost scenes which were included as extras on the DVD, consisting of a few cafeteria conversations and some other random bits of extended business. Frankly these restored scenes would just make the film drag on a lot longer, so don't knock yourself out trying to track it down.

Troma's Blu-Ray edition, their second one out on the market, proves to be an interesting test case in how their "retro" classics might fare in HD. Thankfully, the conclusion here is "pretty darn good." The processed opening logos and credits still look rather grungy and dupey, but the main body of the film improves dramatically over that recycled standard def transfer we've had to endure for over two decades. Colors pop off the screen beautifully, and the transfer has a fine, filmic texture that's much more satisfying than the overly compressed, pale DVD edition. This also looks miles better than the dupey theatrical prints; in short, while this will always be limited by the nature of its production, Troma fans should be very pleasantly surprised by how solid this looks for 99% of the running time. The somewhat temperamental menu screens navigate to a variety of special features, most carried over from the DVD. You get the theatrical trailer, the familiar batch of deleted scenes and a hilarious audio commentary by Lloyd Kaufman, who co-directed under a pseudonym. As usual he emphasizes the DIY nature of the project, the means used to recruit actors as cheaply as possible, the challenges of finding a stuntman to fly out of a window, and the mechanics of having a spike-covered monster rampaging through the set. "Nuke 'Em High School Sweethearts" features married Troma actors Robert and Jennifer Prichard talking about meeting and falling in love while making The Toxic Avenger along with some amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and "The Man Who Made the Nuclear Power Plant" is a very brief audio interview with FX artist Theo Pingarelli. The non-film-related "Tromatic Extras" consist of "Troma T&A" (a Tromette of the week waxing philosophical while showing off her titular assets), "Vintage Troma" (a graphic but amusing camcorder bit with Kaufman watching an uncovered tape of a Troma employee relieving himself on-camera into some company property), and the familiar Troma PSA, Radiation March, and bonus trailers for Surf Nazis Must Die, The Toxic Avenger, Combat Shock, Tromeo & Juliet, The Last Horror Film, and Sgt. Kabukman NYPD -- all of which deserve the BD treatment as soon as possible.

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