If you were a child of the 80’s you will remember perpetual phrases like ‘eat my shorts’, recall that Vanilla Ice was a rap legend and call to mind a bodacious cartoon about four genetically modified ninja turtles. If you were a fan of the cartoon series, action figures and comics, you felt a natural compulsion to enter the obscurity of the cinema to watch four misanthropic sewer-dwellers called Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. There‘s just one thing to say, “Has anyone got any pizza?”.
The sequel to the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, ‘The Secret of the Ooze’ delves into the turtle’s genesis. The evil dweeb Shredder didn’t die in the first movie, he’s back with his evil foot soldiers, and to top-it-off, he has kidnapped a madcap scientist along with a canister of green ooze. With the reluctant help of the scientist, Shedder uses the ooze to create ‘Tokka’ and ‘Rahzar’, two mammoth creatures that rampage through the streets of New York. Shredder uses the last vial of ooze to transform himself into the colossal ‘mean-ass’ super shredder. Will the turtles survive this onslaught? Only with the help of the scientist, Professor Jordan Perry…
Working for a company called ’Techno-Global Research Industries’ (TGRI), Jordan Perry’s introduction is via a news broadcast by April O’Neil (the turtles enduring friend). With his orange jumpsuit, black bow tie and bulky glasses, he fumbles through the interview. Not realising the broadcast is live, he stares at the camera in a perplexed manner and begins to ramble. The turtles are watching the broadcast on their TV. Raphael intones, ‘Man, who is this spasmatic?’
This spasmatic scientist is Mr David Warner. Who would have thought that a classically trained theatre actor like Warner, who played Macbeth, would share screen time with four giant turtles? You’ve gotta love this movie. It’s a genuine abstract whirlwind filled with unpretentious ’David Warner’ pleasure. There’s something oddly eccentric about his performance. At first the professor comes across as a corrupt one-dimensional character but as the film progresses we realise he’s a decent down-to-earth kinda guy who has a good heart. When he unleashes Tokka and Rahzar out of their cage, there is a nice little in-joke. As Shredder growls in frustration about them being infants, Warner reacts by saying, ‘what did you expect? They’d come out quoting Macbeth?’
The ’Secret of the Ooze’ is a non-stop schizophrenic slapstick movie with tons of energy. It doesn’t give you a second to breathe. Warner flourishes within this comical mayhem. Instead of playing the malicious evil guy, he infuses his performance with an excessive amount of overplayed absurdity. He’s like a wacky scientist from a 1950s B-Movie with his long lab coat, fluffy hair and specs that float on the edge of his nose, he spouts psychobabble about “mutagenic properties“, “radiated waves” and “antimutagens’. This is classic kids cinema.
After Donatello rescues the professor from the super-scumbag Shredder, they disappear into the sewer system. When they meet back up with master Splinter at the turtle’s new hideout, Warner observes the environment with bewilderment. The turtles flabbergast him. Explaining the accident of their creation, the professor plunges them into an existentialist quandary. In a way, he’s like the turtles father, accidentally giving them life out of TGRI’s discarded ooze. Warner then develops an ‘antimutagen’ formula to defeat Tokka and Rahzar. The scene in the underground lair becomes filled with whimsical originality. Mixing up the chemicals, he grabs a piece of pizza, eats it, licks his fingers and intones, ‘Pepperoni Heaven’. This scene is similar to his performances in The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse and Time Bandits, even though he’s not the evil villain, Warner always seems to be the outlandish alchemist, mixing up weird and wonderful chemicals. When all the ingredients are mixed together the turtles understand that Tokka and Rahzar have to ingest it before it becomes effective. Warner faces them, trying to be hip and with the times, replies, ‘Affirmative. Yes. Yo. Right on…my man’. Its one of the zaniest lines in the movie.
The end sequence is hilarious. When the turtles confront Tokka and Rahzar in a nightclub, Warner randomly starts to gyrate in the middle of the crowd, slammin’ and jammin’ to Vanilla Ice’s rap song, ‘Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!.’ It verges on the edge of Gonzo (exaggerated and abstract). The nice thing is when everything is resolved Warner leaves a nice little message for the turtles with April O’Neil on the TV , ‘Thanks for your help…dudes’.