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Tromeo and Juliet(1996)
Updated to be set in the outskirts of New York City, Shakespeare's classic romantic tragedy is transformed into a no-holes barred, punk-inflected Elizabethan stage send-up of the story of a doomed love.
For more about Tromeo and Juliet and the Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray release, see the Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on July 3, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Will Keenan, Lemmy, Debbie Rochon, Stephen Blackehart, Tiffany Shepis
Directors: Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn
» See full cast & crew
Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray Review
The long lost original draft of William Shakespeare's renowned play has been adapted for the screen courtesy of Troma Entertainment.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, July 3, 2010
Troma Entertainment is a long-standing independent film studio specializing in exploitation cinema of the most extreme form. If you're not currently a fan of their growing film library, or you've never heard of the studio itself, I'd suggest you tread lightly through an introduction to their material, since it's not a genre with widespread appeal.
The latest schlock-shock venture to arrive on the Blu-ray format is a joint venture between Troma co-owner Lloyd Kaufman and writer James Gunn. For those unfamiliar with Gunn's work since the release of Tromeo & Juliet, he went on to write both live-action Scooby-Doo films, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and directed the box-office bomb Slither. I personally enjoyed Slither a great deal, but I'm not here to comment on the merits of Gunn's later work, since the subject of this review is his first stab at notoriety with Tromeo & Juliet. As with any Troma film, this wicked take on the Shakespeare classic contains gratuitous nudity, gross-out humor, outrageous dialog, and enough severed appendages to line the sidewalk of five city blocks. I hope William Shakespeare had a good sense of humor, because his literary classic has officially been mutilated beyond repair.
Loosely based on the original story by playwright William Shakespeare, Tromeo & Juliet tells the story of two feuding families in the slums of Manhattan, called the Ques and the Capulets. During the 1970's, the patriarch of the Que family, Monty (Earl McKoy) created a successful business making soft-core productions under the banner Silky Films. He eventually took on a business partner named Cappy Capulet (Maximillian Shaun), who quickly made the moves on Monty's wife, and a play for full control of the business. After a bitter divorce, Monty was left a poor, destitute alcoholic, having given up his rights to the successful business he founded to the partner he unknowingly trusted. As we flash forward to 1996, we're introduced to Monty's son Tromeo, and Cappy's daughter Juliet, who have little knowledge of one another's existence, despite the blood feud raging between their families. During a chance encounter at a costume party one night, the two would-be lovers lock eyes, and start down a tragic path that eventually leads to escalating acts of violence between their family and friends. Most of you know the story from there, but I doubt many can fathom the strange twists that are surely in store during this demented journey.
Though I've witnessed several Troma productions in my day, I wouldn't consider myself an authority on why they attract such a devoted cult following. In the case of Tromeo & Juliet, we have a bit of an oddity within the shock-cinema genre, since Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn essentially take a well-respected (serious) story, and infuse their own brand of over-the-top elements to create a bewildering experience that's hard to dismiss as mundane, but not something I'd consider memorable. I know there are fans who will surely disagree with the assessment I'm about to give, but there were simply too many things that didn't work within my expectations from a Troma production.
Above all else, my main complaint with Tromeo & Juliet has to do with the stab at a legitimate story, which doesn't quite fit in the Troma mold. I'm not saying every film by Lloyd Kaufman should be as outlandish and savagely fun as Poultrygeist, but there's a certain sense of escapism often found in superficial plotlines. For instance, a character like Cappy Capulet would seem less vile if he were to break into song every now and again (I'm only halfway joking), rather than beating the crap out of his wife or daughter, and locking his "little girl" in a glass cube with nothing but lingerie on. Call me clueless, but I failed to notice humor in his character, and found his presence a bit creepy (as I wondered if other viewers actually found his antics amusing).
Aside from the hit-or-miss tone of the plot, this is still a Troma production through and through. Expect excessive gore, abundant nudity (though surprisingly tasteful at times), loads of potty-mouthed humor, and several outrageously violent scenes. Make no mistake, these elements will be off-putting to at least 90% of the general viewing population, but how can you argue with Troma's faithful dedication to that remaining audience? After all, not everyone has the same taste in cinema, and what I find repulsive or mundane may have someone else clutching their side in uncontrollable laughter. That's the beauty of this art form (or any for that matter).
Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 12Mbps), Tromeo & Juliet looks as good as one should expect when accounting for the nature of the source material. It's always a bit touchy to review a production of this sort, since longstanding fans of the film will find the gains on Blu-ray a true revelation, while newcomers may feel compelled to turn it off within the first 20 minutes. Dispensing with the negatives first, we still have substantial print damage from time to time, black levels that lack depth (especially in scenes with the glass containment cell), and there's a noisy level of film grain in a handful of shots. Additionally, the film appears artificially bright, demonstrating a tendency to wash out colors and wreak havoc on contrast differentiation. On the positive side, we have a noticeable boost in color purity (even bordering on garish, such as the purple shade of Monty's shirt in the closing scene), a significant increase in detail, and a night and day difference in the overall stability of the picture. Gone are the instances of artifacting, macroblocking, or edge-enhancement, and in their place is a final product that appears quite faithful to what viewers originally saw in midnight showings at their local trash cinema. Some may cry foul at Troma's continued insistence on using a non-widescreen aspect ratio, but considering the prior DVD editions provided a similar cut, I'd wager this is the way Lloyd Kaufman intended the film to look.
Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Continuing with their trend of neglecting the audio portion of Blu-ray upgrades, Troma includes a lossy 2.0 audio track that mirrors the proficiency of the 2006 DVD release. While it's difficult not to be disappointed in this decision, I honestly can't picture much improvement through a remixed lossless track, since the audio elements are fairly shoddy to begin with. Dialog is reasonably clear when volume levels are stable, but there's enough variation in the proximity of voices to the recording equipment that adjustments occasionally become necessary. In addition to the dialog, we have the infamous punk-inspired soundtrack that lays the framework for the setting of the film and injects a healthy dose of nostalgia for longtime fans. The moments when the music is brought to the foreground mark the greatest strength in the overall mix, since they add a more robust feel that the dialog and environmental effects never manage to pull off. Unfortunately, there are several glaring flaws in the audio presentation that perfectionists will find off-putting. A prime example arrives around the 50:50 mark of the film, when you'll hear a distinct pop, which is followed immediate by nearly a full minute of background static. These moments add to the grindhouse feel of the production, but they don't make for demo-worthy material on your expensive home theater system.
Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Introduction (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 7:14 min): Filmed by Lloyd Kaufman, this interview featurette stars writer James Gunn and actor Stephen Blackehart, as they mockingly imply the year is 1995, and foresee the future benefits of Blu-ray high definition.
Deleted Scenes (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 18:51): There seems to be an audio sync issue with this supplement, since the audio from the first deleted scene (and introduction by Lloyd Kaufman) plays over the second deleted scene. Regardless, there are still some gems included here, which fans will surely enjoy (including the Ron Jeremy scene).
Interviews (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, various lengths): Divided into eight (individually selectable) interviews, this supplement provides a retrospective assessment of the notably wacky experiences often involved in making a Troma film.
Fan Re-Creations (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 8:57 min): Two fans offer a faithful rendition of the romantic encounter within the glass box, followed by a gender-reversing version of the same sequence. In closing, we have some ridiculously stupid re-enactments by hardcore fans.
Rehearsal Footage of Jane Jensen and Debbie Rochon (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 2:33 min): Though the audio is a bit difficult to make out (and there's a phone ringing in the background of the office setting), this will still be enjoyable to any fans pining for more lesbian action (fully clothed) from the two beautiful actresses.
Rounding out the extras, we have four audio commentaries (featuring director Lloyd Kaufman, writer James Gunn, editor Frank Reynolds, and co-star Sean Gunn), a trailer for Tromeo & Juliet (standard definition), a laserdisc intro/outro courtesy of Lloyd Kaufman, and a random collection of Troma extras that aren't specific to Tromeo & Juliet.
Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Tromeo & Juliet is a production I've struggled to fully buy into. Several of the intentionally funny moments in the screenplay lack the clever vibe I often get from other Troma productions (cops standing around wolfing down donuts is an example of one amateur stab at comedy). That's not to say the film is a complete waste of time, since we still witness the usual trademark elements incorporated into Lloyd Kaufman's gratuitous set-ups. However, at the end of the day I simply couldn't find enough value in this repeat viewing to warrant a purchase recommendation. Stick with a rental if you're interested in Kaufman's schlock-shock cinema, but spend your money on something a bit more entertaining.
Tromeo and Juliet Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Tromeo & Juliet, Class of Nuke 'Em High on Blu-ray - January 21, 2010
Troma Team Video is set to release two of its cult classics on Blu-ray very soon: 'Tromeo & Juliet' will come out on March 30, and 'Class of Nuke 'Em High' on April 27. Both will come in an unrated director's cut. Also on April 27, Troma will release a new title, ...
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