"Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D." (1990) - ZombieFuel.net
by Bone Jawnson
Through a serendipitous set of circumstances, "Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D." was born. Through some research I conducted prior to and after viewing the film, I discovered that, while filming "The Toxic Avenger 2" in Japan, the team from Troma was approached by the video game company NAMCO to create a Japanese superhero modeled after Kabuki theater. Supposedly, the idea of a Kabuki theater superhero was originally thought of by Troma's Lloyd Kaufman. Beginning with a budget of $1.5 million from Namco, the film began its production. Eventually reaching a budget of $4 million, it became Troma's most expensive film to date.
Now, down to the brass tacks. This film ebbed and flowed from the quirky and goofy to the exploitation and slasher. Rick Gianasi, who portrayed the main characters Harry Griswold and his superhero alter ego Sgt. Kabukiman definitely sold his performance. Through the eyes of a cocky New York City police officer, he undergoes a transformation from confusion about his inadvertent gift to the full acceptance that he is now Kabukiman. Throughout the film, he discovered various powers and tools such as flying, deadly chopsticks, and crime-busting sushi. A second performance that I enjoyed was Bill Weedens, who portrayed the main villain and "evil one," Reginald Stuart. From his first appearance on the screen as Reginald, he looked like a dick and for sure acted like one.
I thought about the movie for the rest of the weekend after viewing it. I felt that it seemed to be a tug-of-war with itself, going back and forth between light-hearted comedy and classic Troma blood, guts, and boobs. I conducted further research and discovered that there were tensions between Namco, Michael Herz (Troma Entertainment co-founder), and Lloyd Kaufman (Troma-Entertainment co-founder). Apparently, Namco and Herz were leaning towards a kid-friendly Kabuki-driven superhero that was safe for families. Kaufman, on the other hand, wanted to adhere to the classic slashery Troma model. What we ended up with was, essentially, a little of both rolled into one. I highly doubt that this is was Namco was after but hey, they bankrolled $1.5 million and we ended up with a firey car crash scene that has since gone on to be an inside joke within future Troma productions.
I liked "Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D." for what it turned out to be, a combo of both funny and gory. I dug the special effects and monster transformation, as I am a die-hard fan of practical effects. This is one of the reasons I prefer independent films, as well as films from the twentieth century. Practical effects can be painstakingly tedious yet artfully executed. Now that I understand the history behind how the film was made and why it is the way it is, I would definitely watch it again, so I can sit back and appreciate this Kabuki hero.