Once in a black, bloody moon there comes a genre film that questions the taste of a culture, its values, and its morality. Street Trash questioned all three, finding that devotees of genre cinema were quick to embrace its consciously undignified manner, sloppy effects, and positively rowdy energy. Anything but slick, this celluloid kick-in-the-balls was (and remains) notable for thumbing its nose at any pretence at good taste, trying its damnedest to offend everyone. Needless to say, it succeeded, becoming (albeit slowly) a midnight sensation. Eschewing story logic and characterization for the pure, raw joys of exploitation, this taboo-breaking low budget triple threat is a die hard fear fan's slice of goofy, gory bliss, combining violence and comedy into a ridiculous, fast moving shlock show that makes fun of both itself and our larger culture. The kind of movie that studios like Troma should have made, Street Trash is, quite simply, a gorehound's wet dream. Available in the past largely via bootleg imports and bare bones DVDs, Street Trash has been largely ignored by the critical establishment. Synapse Films (the champion of rare, controversial horror and exploitation goodies), already having releasing a one disc edition of Street Trash, has now given this underrated flesh-feast the respect it deserves in a two disc special edition complete with technological polish and exhaustive supplements.

In a story that exists simply as a skeleton of ideas upon which to hang scenes of visual excess and feverish violence tinted with grim humor, Street Trash features a bad bit of booze being sold to the homeless denizens living in a nearby junkyard. A box of mysterious, long forgotten liquor is discovered behind a vent in the back of the store by the querulous owner. Called "Tenefly Viper," the bottles are unloaded to the homeless for a cheap price, and before we know it, snot, puke, and green 'stuff' is flooding the screen! Before a rapidly developing virus/infection -- caused by the liquor and spread rather like a modern zombie epidemic -- is began, we follow the lives of the area's homeless citizens. Included in this motley crew are Fred (Mike Lockey), his young brother Kevin (Bill Chepil) and their good buddy Burt (Clarenze Jarman). Their homely little junk shed is ruled over by Bronson (Vic Noto), a psychotic chap whose hobbies include rape, murder, and robbing the weakling inhabitants of the dump. Delirium is the order of the day here not thematic subtlety, as is obvious when Fred wanders on down to the liquor store and steals a bottle of "Tenefly Viper." Stolen by a homeless friend whom he meets on the way home, Fred is spared the body melting that kick-starts a chain reaction of violence and leaky death. Amidst all this melting, junkyard hysterics, and homeless fun, the sleazy plot introduces Bill, an aggressive cop, an angry mob boss, and a repulsive garbage man desperate to hump anything -- alive or dead, conscious or otherwise.

As can be seen, the plot is everywhere at once, unable (or perhaps unwilling) to limit itself to any clear, definable dramatic emphasis. So many characters, sub-plots, and explosions of action bombard the senses that characters soon cease to matter, overshadowed by the carnage happening to them. While this would be the death sentence of a straight horror film or comedy, it only makes for a more infectious mood in this hybrid of cum-and-blood nonsense! A chaos of half-realized plot threads, minimal characterization, and cheap production values, Street Trash is devoted to sensation, not sense. The energy, cheap but generous effects, and enthusiastic verve of the production wears its cheap integrity and gorilla-style like a green, melting badge of distinction. This is Monty Python high on crack and playing with slime. Logic and aesthetic sensibility are forgotten, shoved aside for effect and speed. Dark humor, sexual audacity, and the filthy squalor of living in the ghetto are lent a cosmic, gritty focus by the graphically depicted suffering of the winos, dealers, and everyday folk. Nothing is clean here, neither people or streets. Even the booze is impure. Morals are gone with the last bit of hooch, and the everyday customs, habits, and rules of both the city and its denizens are as much a scourge -- a force of violence -- as the bad liquor that simply invites characters to unleash their primal tendencies of greed, rage, and lust. Dark themes indeed, but treated with a broad, silly humor -- with child-like honesty and simplicity. Director Jim Muro and writer Roy Frumkes have crafted an honest, down-and-dirty thriller that pokes fun at the very genre it celebrates.

Continuing their preservation of bypassed counter-culture classics, Synapse has restored Street Trash from it's original negative, resulting in a high definition 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen print. Offering a more honest picture than the full frame transfers that have made the rounds on DVD, this transfer's composition is a revelation. Clarity is improved, as are the colors. Beautiful splashes of green, red, and black, add to the repulsive effect of the stickier scenes. Yes, there is some grain, but never enough to distract from the viewing experience. The grain that is present is nothing compared to other incarnations. Approved by Frumkes, the visual presentation manages to clean up distractions without over polishing, retaining the low budget look and feel that is partially responsible for the film's aesthetic. Sound is just as impressive, featuring the Dolby Digital Mono mix from a past release as well as a new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track.

Extras are where Synapse always delivers, and Street Trash is no exception. A pair of audio commentaries from writer/producer Roy Frumkes and director James Muro are easily the most significant supplements on disc one, with the former coming across as better spoken and more enthusiastic, while Muro's talk is more technical (if no less revealing). Frumkes is never less than engaging as he recounts how he earned funding for the picture, cast the film, and found locations. We discover that a real liquor store was used, how the cast interacted, and with what extraordinary detail he approached the melting scenes. All the while he points out intriguing things about the film at hand. Director James Muro, not as personable, is certainly a professional, and it shows in his approach. He discusses various scenes, the process of shooting, and how he prepared for certain compositions. Less fun, this track is certainly informed. Disc one also includes the expected animated menus and theatrical trailer. Disc two features the much hawked, well worth the wait Roy Frumkes' two hour documentary, which covers the making of the movie. The Meltdown Memoirs is at once both as entertaining and darkly comedic as the film (as a beginning bit with the girl and the dildo scene shows!), with Frumkes putting the film in context, and discussing his as goals, the aesthetic/financial challenges, and the turmoil that surrounded the production. Both Jim Muro and Mike Lackey are featured, with Frumkes narrating the piece, including scenes from 1985. Of special note are stories involving the inspiration for the project, how Denise Labelle was induced into working with the team, and the cautionary tale of 'the butter knife.' Throughout a sense of discovery is blended with infectious play, with the ambience of dumpsters and trash lending a nostalgic feel. Of even more note is the section where the marketing ploys are discussed, including poster art, and the intriguing mentions of where most of the cast are now, and what they are doing. This could have easily been touted as a stand alone disc, though thank heavens (and your wallet) that Synapse saw fit to include it as an extra! Following this exhaustive feature is the 16mm short version of Street Trash, good for a quick comparison of mood and footage. A huge photo gallery is next, featuring almost too many behind-the-scenes photos. Synapse has created with their 2 disc special edition of Street Trash not only a celebration of one of the genre's most independent movies but, in addition, a history of its making. As much a behind the story look at its cast and crew as it is a definitive edition of the movie itself, the package is a great green exhaustive time capsule.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Synapse
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review