Street Trash on DVD

Tuesday, 05 January 2010 10:10

Like many low budget, gross-out horror movies of the 1980s, Jim Muro’s “Street Trash” features a bizarre premise. The plot feels like at least two films spliced together in a slightly messy fashion. Firstly there is the unwitting discovery of a case of decades-old booze called “Viper” which has the decidedly unpleasant side effect of rapidly melting its imbibers from the inside out.

Secondly, the film follows the 'fortunes' of a group of homeless urchins who are squatting in a car salvage yard. The facility is owned by Frank Schnizer (Pat Ryan), a fat and sweaty man who mistreats and his male employees and abuses the women. However, from the tramps’ point of view it is the terrifying Bronson (Vic Noto) who rules the roost; Bronson is a Vietnam vet with serious anger issues that are exacerbated by his post traumatic stress disorder.

Street Trash on DVDThe rest of the filthy hobos, including Kevin (Mark Sferrazza), Winette (Nicole Potter) and Wizzy (Bernard Perlman) steer clear of Bronson as much as possible, and try to maintain their drunken lifestyle by shoplifting and robbing unsuspecting members of the public and each other. Injected into the mix to spice things up a bit are butch and go-ho detective Bill (Bill Janes), the local Mafia boss Nick Duran (Tony Darrow) and his cocky doorman (James Lorinz).

The main dynamic of the film comes from trying to guess who will die next, be it by drinking the deadly brew or upsetting the highly volatile and murderous Bronson. Needless to say, not many people are left standing by the time the closing credits roll!

This is one colourful movie, and I mean that in terms of the rainbow-like Viper death scenes, the barbed and often blue language the characters spout, and the overall tone of the film. Let us start with the melting deaths, as they are the key selling point. Whilst hardly cutting edge by today’s standards, they do still deliver an hilarious punch twenty-plus years after their creation. Thanks to clever use of prosthetics, buckets of coloured paint, expertly gurning and gagging actors and occasional explosives, each death shocks, delights and intrigues in equal measure.

An added frisson is that if any stray goo lands on anyone standing near the boiling victim, there is a high probability that they, too, will become fatally “infected”, or at least severely burnt by the acid-like eruptions. The two best scenes involve a man melting into a disused toilet, and someone doing a very good 'Mr Creosote' impersonation (see “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life”)!

Initially I thought the film would struggle to engage for 90-odd minutes based just on the lives of some unfortunate lowlifes, but the bold characterisation and often ad-libbed dialogue keep things light and frequently amusing. There is more to it than just a bunch of ragged people drinking and sleeping rough. The film successfully conveys the genuine fragility of life on the streets, with uneasy alliances formed and desperation driving them to lives of petty and not-so-petty crime.

The character of Bronson keeps things lively and edgy, looking and acting very much like John Goodman in one of his many barmy roles. Detective Bill’s investigation is handled a little messily, though it does come into its own when the Mafia boss and his rebellious doorman enter the fray. Lorinz does a fantastic job of breezily talking back and generally betraying his boss, hilariously unaware that the police will not be able to protect him once he leaves the sanctuary of the police station. Darrow smoulders as the affronted boss, furious that he cannot strike his two-bit employee there and then, but prickling with the certainty that revenge will be just around the corner.

The movie’s main flaw is that it features a few scenes of fairly graphic abuse to women; I really do not think the film would have lost much from their removal, though the scenes do serve a purpose in terms of stoking up the audience’s dislike of certain characters, and boost the sense of payback when those characters meet their ghastly ends. They simply cross the boundaries of taste in a film that already dances playfully on the line for much of its running time!

This new DVD release of the movie comes on two discs. The second disc features one of the most comprehensive making-of documentaries I have ever witnessed, wonderfully entitled “The Meltdown Memoirs”. Enthusiastically presented by writer/producer Roy Frumkes, it has a running time of two hours, and covers every conceivable aspect of the film, including period and recent interviews with most of the cast and crew, storyboard and pre-production images, behind the scenes footage, post-production material including the troubled marketing of the film, and follows up on the cast and crew to find out what they are up to today.

Amusingly, this documentary even features a three-minute interlude that suggests you go to the bathroom or indulge in some chocolate! It is as lovingly crafted as the main feature, and a real credit to all involved. As with many budget films, it reveals how selfless those involved were, many undertaking jobs behind and in front of the camera, sometimes for the first time. You would not guess that some of the actors had never been in a film before.

The other special feature is a much, much briefer UK exclusive interview with Jane Arakawa, one of the cast who was not available for the production of the documentary. One final point of interest is that none other than Bryan Singer (“The X-Men”, “Superman Returns”) acted as a production assistant on this movie!

“Street Trash” is released on the Arrow Films label on 11 January 2010, Certificate ‘18’, and with an RRP of £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Movie Review: “Street Trash” (1987)

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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