The ultra-low-budget exploitation flick STREET TRASH (1987) certainly lives up to its name in more ways than one. Not only is it rather trashy when it comes to generally poor or histrionic acting, bawdy humor, gore, and several lingering flashes of T&A, but it is also one of the few films set in New York City's skid row that was actually filmed almost entirely in authentic skid-row venues.
The centerpiece of the paper-thin plot is a case of decades-old hooch called Tenafly Viper, discovered in the miasmic basement of a skid-row liquor store by the store's proprietor. The unscrupulous vendor decides to exploit his seemingly serendipitous find and pad his pocket by selling the stuff to local winos for a buck per bottle. But unbeknownst to him and his unwary customers, the stuff has gone sour and has transmuted into a volatile toxin that literally melts those who consume it into a pile of day-glo goo.
Though STREET TRASH is blatantly and disgustingly lowbrow, it is nonetheless wildly entertaining and, from a technical standpoint, very well made. The make-up FX are skillfully and artistically executed, and never have latex appliances looked so simultaneously gross and hilarious. The action does lag in a few spots, but most of the time there is a constant flow of either gore, skin, or bawdy gags. Also, in contrast to many near-zero-budget exploitation films, the cinematography is fabulous--director Jim Muro shot the entire film using a rented steadicam, and he was so skilled at it that he went on to become one of Hollywood's greatest steadicam operators, working on such films as TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991), TITANIC (1997), AND RED DRAGON (2002)--and the editing is near perfect, making STREET TRASH look like a more mainstream, bigger-budget film.
While the acting skills of many of the principals leave a lot to be desired, STREET TRASH does feature a few thespians worth noting. Genre fans will recognize James Lorinz from his role as the mad scientist in the exploitation satire FRANKENHOOKER. In an earlier role here, Lorinz plays a lippy doorman in the employ of a mob boss, and he steals the show in nearly every scene in which he appears. Actor Tony Darrow portrays the aforementioned mob boss, and Darrow parlayed his debut role here into a career of playing similar types in more mainstream gangster flicks, including critically acclaimed films like GOODFELLAS (1990), BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (1994), AND MIGHTY APHRODITE (1995).
The DVD release of STREET TRASH from Synapse is a no-frills disc, but its definitely worth the price of admission. It offers a digital transfer of the film--which has been nicely restored and is completely uncut--in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (enhanced for 16x9 TVs), and the stereo soundtrack is also nice and clear.
Sick? Yes. Foul? For sure. Gross? Often. But its also a lot of fun. STREET TRASH is definitely not for everybody, but for those who enjoy exploitation horror flicks from the 1970s and 1980s, STREET TRASH is definitely one of the best. And the DVD from Synapse will make a fine addition to the collections of those who enjoy such films.
on January 19, 2007
"Street trash makes Herschell Gordon Lewis look like Mary Poppins," - Wes Craven
"Loathsome, foul and degrading, Street Trash is a real treat for anyone who thinks they've seen it all." - George Romero
"Yeah, that's the bits I like." - Den Dennis (The Comic Strip Presents...More Bad News - 1988)
Produced and written by Roy Frumkes (The Substitute), and directed by J. Michael Muro, who since done stedicam work on such films as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), L.A. Confidential (1997), and Titanic (1997) to name a few, Street Trash (1987) features Mike Lackey, Marc Sferrazza, Jane Arakawa, Bill Chepil, Pat Ryan (The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High), Vic Noto (Innocent Blood), and Tony Darrow (Goodfellas, Analyze This, "The Sopranos").
The story basically involves the activities of two inner city homeless brothers named Freddy (Lackey) and Kevin (Sferrazza), who live in an auto scrap yard occupying a dwelling consisting of old tires. Thrown into the mix early on is the appearance of some funky looking booze called Tenafly Viper, which was found in the cellar of a liquor store by the store's proprietor. Subsequently he decides to pawn it off on his clientele, most all of whom are shiftless, degenerate dirtbags, for a buck a bottle (needless to say they snap it up). Turns out the stuff is rotgut, literally (unbeknownst to the liquor store owner), so much so it causes the individual ingesting the crud to melt from the inside out. Along with the exploding bums Freddy and Kevin also have to contend with Bronson (Noto), a large, sadistic, psychotic Vietnam veteran who rules the scrap yard with an iron fist and a dagger made of from a human femur bone (think a low grade Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now). Things get especially hairy when a local mobster (Darrow) finds out his girlfriend's been murdered (among other things) by the skid row denizens populating the junk yard, and a renegade cop with a serious grudge named Bill (Chepil) starts rousting everyone for kicks.
I guess the first thing one should know about this film is that there really isn't much of a story, which, in most cases, would probably be a disadvantage, but not so here (for those of us who tend to dwell in the cinematic sludge this is fairly common occurrence). Probably the best thing you can do is sit back and let the experience envelope you in its grimy, odious, putrid fetidity, which comes off as a sort of sewage laden mix between the films of John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis. I did learn a number of things from this movie, including the following...
1. One can actually make a home out of discarded tires.
2. If you wear baggy enough pants to the grocery store, you can steal enough food to feed at least three people.
3. I wouldn't eat anything that came out of a homeless man's pants.
4. You can thin out homemade hooch by urinating in it.
5. An alley is a great place to pick up broads, especially if you're a greasy bum (and the broad is wasted out of her gourd).
6. Your puke breath must be really bad when a bum won't even kiss you.
7. Frank, the morbidly obese owner and operator of the scrap yard, isn't adverse to a little necrophilia.
8. The homeless don't particularly covet showers.
9. A severed ding a ling a can be used in lieu of a football in a pick up game.
10. You never defile Bronson in front of the men.
If you like your movies messy, in a visceral sense, then you've come to the right place as this spectacularly over the top nugget of gooey nastiness is right at home next to Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (1992). I'm unsure the deal with the Viper booze, but its effects are instantaneous and highly satisfying. There's some seriously nasty melt action here, perhaps my favorite being the early scene with guy sitting on the toilet, taking a slug, and then reduced to a slimy, festering pile floating in the bowl. Along with the gratuitously goopy goodness there's also a whole lot of comedy, a few fights (the most memorable being Bill the cop going toe to toe with Bronson), some female nekkidness, a severed male member, and whole lot more. The acting was pretty rank but it didn't take away from anything for me, especially given the entertaining dialog throughout. The two best lines (at least of the ones I could post here), in my opinion, are the one I used for the title of my review and the following, occurring after one of Freddy's acquaintances, after shoving copious amounts of food down his pants, is busted by a manager in a grocery store ...
Store manager: I'd like to know what you're doing with all that chicken in your pants.
As I said, there's a decent amount of comedy here, the funniest part for me, beside the flying woody sequence, was when Freddy picked up the drunk broad in the alley, after she just finished puking. As he was dragging her back to his Goodyear abode, she kept trying to kiss him and he kept try to avoid it, given her puke breath and all. To sum things up this is a completely vile and disgusting affair, one definitely worth the time if you have the stomach.
This new 2 DVD set released in 2006, entitled 'The Meltdown Edition', includes an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer, audio in a newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and the original 2.0 mono, two audio commentaries featuring producer Roy Frumkes and director James Muro, a two hour documentary entitled The Meltdown Memoirs, which details the history and the making of the film, the original 16mm short film that inspired the movie, a Street Trash promotional teaser, a behind the scenes still gallery, liner notes, and the original theatrical trailer. The interesting thing is, while the 2006 DVD release contains a ton more stuff than the original 2005 DVD release, the newer version is missing one really cool element...with the original DVD release there was included two printed label stickers so you could create your own bottle of Tenafly Viper.
on March 29, 2015
Much has been said about Street Trash. I am by no means a movie critic, but I have watched enough films, both good and bad, high and low, to know what's good and what's not. Yes, the humor and yuks are lowbrow at times, but also clever and satirical. The cinematography is top notch, thanks in part to the awesome steadycam work of Jim Muro.
I feel like this movie was ahead of it's time even though watching it now, it's clearly a period piece of the Troma generation. If you like messy gore, silly humor, running gags and can appreciate the finer points of a low budget film, you will undoubedtly enjoy this movie. Don't drink the Tenafly Viper!