Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Film Turns 25 Years Old And It’s Still Radical As Shell
On March 30th, 1990, the greatest phenomenon of my childhood was brought to life in film form. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released 25 years ago this year. I was not quite four. Although I didn’t see it for a few more years, I loved it just as much as the original ’87 cartoon which I consumed on a daily basis. I wasn’t the only one since the movie went on to gross over $200 million. Not only does it still hold up (mostly) in 2015, it has quite a few actors I bet you didn’t know were part of this cinematic magic.
1. Sam Rockwell
That’s right, the only good part of Iron Man 2 had one of his first roles in this film as “Head Thug” in a few choices scenes, such as the one below. One of the few extras with actual lines, he really sold the scummy New York hoodlum, setting the stage for his excellent future profession in films like Matchstick Men, Moon, and Seven Psychopaths.
Only Rockwell can make “Regular or Menthol?” sound badass. He even winks like it’s cool. One of my favorite roles of his was in the ridiculously long titled The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as Charley Ford. The other kid, “Got any cigarettes?” guy, sucks, and went nowhere in life or this film.
2. Skeet Ulrich
Before The Craft or Scream, he was known as Thug. He was also uncredited. I don’t think he even said anything. I also couldn’t find a photo from the film of which I was sure was him. He probably wasn’t in this movie. But man, did he ever have that Johnny Depp hair going on. Just not the career. He had moderate exposure in As Good as It Gets and a leading role on the ill-faded but defibrillated back to life show Jericho, but he never seemed to break out.
3. Ernie Reyes, Jr.
Although his face is not seen, he preformed the in-suit martial arts stunt double work for Donatello. What you may recognize him from, however, is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze as Keno, the pizza delivery boy. He went on to make many similar faces throughout the sequel.
Many, many similar faces.
Including in his later years.
But damn he sure can fight! He was later cast in martial arts roles for films such as Surf Ninjas, Rush Hour 2, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of
…wait no, sorry, that movie doesn’t exist, my mistake. Besides some acting parts, he also wrote and directed a film called The Process (titled so much worse as The Ultimate Fight in the U.S.) which features him kicking two guys in suits on a farm because why the hell not.
4. Kevin Clash
Yes, that Kevin Clash. The voice of Elmo and “two totally consenting adults” fame voiced the Turtle’s ever wise and loving father figure, Splinter, giving him an extremely memorable presence. He also did all of the puppetry work! What a guy! Until he maybe did that one thing. He performed many characters on Jim Henson related material like Muppets Tonight, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets from Space, as well as the sitcom Dinosaurs. “Not the sexual predator!”
5. Steve Barron
Although he did not act, he has the distinguished title of the director. Barron followed this up with Coneheads and The Adventures of Pinocchio, so you know he’s doing well for himself. The SNL sketch-to-film formula AND some JTT? How much better can this get?
Although his film career didn’t skyrocket, he did have a pretty great run directing music videos. Some songs include “Africa” and “Rosanna” by Toto, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Take on Me” by A-ha, and “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. Also of note, the production company behind the then groundbreaking effects of “Money for Nothing”, Mainframe Entertainment (now known as Rainmaker Entertainment), went on to do even more innovative work, including the series ReBoot and another personal favorite of mine, Beast Wars: Transformers.
6. Bonus Shit
In what is both awesome and insanely baffling, a “Special Edition” version of the film was released in Germany in 2010 containing an alternate ending, audio commentary from Barron, and alternate takes, specifically ones where Michelangelo’s nunchaku are edited out because of weird legality laws. For example, there is a scene in the film where Mikey has a nunchaku dual with a member of the Foot. It’s badass, comedic, and extremely impressive all at once.
This is the German version of that same scene.
It completely omits the entire encounter! Along with using cuts that hide or remove the Party Dude’s weapon of choice, the scene is also riddled with over the top cartoon-like sounds at every moment of the fight. A lot of this was due to some backlash with concerns that the film was too violent. While it was aimed mostly at kids, all the fighting is pretty tame and almost always punctuated by a joke.
Finally, I’ll leave you with one of the best scenes from the film where Raphael meets Casey Jones for the first time, mostly for the 11/10 yelling of the word “damn” at the end. Also, the man in cab who asks “What the heck was that?” is Josh Pais, the actor who both voiced Raphael and was the in-suit performer, the only one of the four Turtles to do both.
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