I Was A Teenage TV Terrorist
United States - 1985
Director – Stanford Singer
Lightning Video, 1987, VHS
Run time - 1 hour, 25 min.
Produced by Susan Kaufman, the sister of Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, I Was A Teenage TV Terrorist is billed on the box (in very tiny type) as a TROMA Team release. Fortunately, (or not depending on your opinion of them) it was not produced by Troma per-se, just distributed. It’s infinitely smarter than anything they’ve done.
Paul is kicked out of his mother’s house for general disorderly conduct at school and sent to Jersey City to live with his dad. Along with his aspiring actress girlfriend Donna, he shows up to find that his dad is the vice president of Romance Entertainment, an extremely low budgetTV station and a raging unmitigated jerk who in order to teach them some responsibility gives them both the lowest pay possible working in the basement cataloguing piles of junk for an equally vicious and cruel ex-military woman named Murphy.
Paul’s dad also sets them up in a seedy roach motel managed by Rico, the awesomest Cuban super the world has ever seen, and the subsequent domestic vignettes are easily the best parts of this film. Even though the production values are really low on I Was a Teenage TV Terrorist (and besides the mega cheap sounding midi-music this is the only similarity to Troma) the acting is actually pretty damn good. It comes across as a very intentional mockery of contemporary (1984-5) television (though it would help if I could remember any TV from those days besides Sesame Street) Paul and Rico deliver some truly hilarious dialogue, but unfortunately with the exception of Martin Scorsese’s Bad movie for Michael Jackson neither of them did much of anything else, ever. It’s the same with everyone in this film with the exception of J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner who was in, among a few other things, Tim Kincaid’s Mutant Hunt and Robot Holocaust and Chuck Vincent’s Slammer Girls before pursuing a career in forensic psychology.
Finding themselves more or less starving to death, Paul decides to make a little extra cash by selling some of the uncounted gear from the basement. Meanwhile Donna is fired by a director (Ornsteiner) when she tanks her first acting role in a commercial for frozen asparagus. When Murphy finds out about Paul’s side income she blackmails the couple into giving her a cut of the profits. So, abused by all parties concerned, Paul and Donna somehow come up with a crazy plan to get revenge by planting a fake bomb in the TV station. In the process of investigating, Paul’s dad finds out about Murphy’s doublecrossery, and she is fired, but Donna, taking advice from an acting instructional book, encourages Paul to continue with the terrorist scheme. During a subsequent attack, one of the news reporters sees Paul on the set and blackmails him into kidnapping the company CEO in such a way that he will get an exclusive of the story. During the kidnapping Paul takes matters into his own hands and delivers a diatribe on the mindnumbing effects of crap TV. Unfortunately this “message from our sponsors” comes across a little flat and too late in the movie to really have any impact, but it doesn’t seem to matter and I’m not sure it was supposed to considering the film itself more or less did this in a sortof subversive Dada-ist aping of television ridiculosity and our eager consumption of it. In it’s own way, I Was a Teenage TV Terrorist does the exact opposite by emphasizing the content at the conscious expense of visual gratification.
According to Wikipedia some guy was arrested for watching this movie on an Alaska Airlines flight to Moscow, but this doesn’t make any sense to me because last time I checked Alaska Airlines doesn’t have a route to Moscow, and the film is out of print and never made it to DVD. Lack of evidence online leads me to believe this is bullshit, but I’m still hopeful, both for the arrest, and the DVD because it’s definitely worth it.