BR: Street Trash (1987)

May 30, 2014 | By


StreetTrash_BRFilm: Good

Transfer: Excellent / Extras: Excellent

Label: Synapse Films

Region: A, B, C

Released:  July 9, 2013

Genre:  Horror / Comedy

Synopsis: A  police investigation of recent melting hobos threatens the power of a delusional Vietnam vet and his gang of weirdos.

Special Features:  2006 Audio Commentary #1: director James Muro / 2006 Audio Commentary #2: producer / writer Roy Frumkes / 2006 documentary: “The Meltdown Memoirs” (123 mins.) / Original 16mm “Street Trash” short film (15 mins.)/ Promotional Teaser / Theatrical Trailer / Deleted Scenes / 2013 interview with co-star Jane Arakawa /2013 HD transfer from the camera negative




Based on his same-titled short film, then 21 year old writer / director J. Michael Muro hooked up with his teacher / Document of the Dead filmmaker Roy Frumkes to expand the short’s material into a feature-length film. Frumkes had managed to balance an unusual career as film instructor / filmmaker for several years, but Street Trash provided a plum opportunity to enter the horror / exploitation genre with a bang.

For Muro, the feature was a perfect opportunity to showcase his skills as a Steadicam cameraman, concocting as much slick imagery for a perfect demo reel and making an auspicious debut as another young director with a knack for flamboyant visuals.

As chronicled in Frumkes’ feature-length making-of doc, the film’s production was carefully plotted – most of the scenes were filmed in the auto parts junkyard owned by Muro’s father – but its thteatrical release was poorly handled by Vestron Pictures, a prolific indie label known for B-movies, but whose production brass were not enamored by Street Trash‘s outrageous story and content.

Part of Street Trash’s allure is that incredible poster art which is very true to what actually happens in the film’s first “melt” sequence after a hobo buys a bottle of 1924 Tenafly Viper for a buck, and after one gulp, liquefies into the nastiest Day-Glo gloop committed to celluloid.

Muro’s film benefits from putting the grotesque and the disgusting on a bright spotlit pedestal, and celebrating profane language that similarly spews from most of the film’s characters who live in and around the immense junkyard.

The film’s initial story concerns tough cop Bill (Bill Chepil), and his attempts to pin responsibility of the dead hobo on local gang leader / Vietnam vet Bronson (Vic Noto). Eventually the ongoing saga of hobo brothers / junkyard inhabitants Fred (Mike Lackey, star of the original short) and Kevin (Mark Sferazza) and their efforts to stop Bronson from impressing his warped justice on the junkyard hobos takes over, with Fred soon discovering the source of recent hobo deaths lies in the same bottle of Tenafly Viper which he’s carried in his pocket for most of the film.

Frumkes’ script adds new characters (including an expanded role for future Frankenhooker star James Lorinz) and the detective subplot, but about a third into the film things start to lag ins spite of a steady stream of offensive material, and part of the problem is due to the new material meandering and not really adding much that advances Fred’s determination to find the cause of his friends’ explosive deaths, and stop it dead.

The brothers’ hidden home in a car junkyard swarmed by ‘zombie’ hobos and the assault of a bimbo inside may be punchy, but it also slows down the film’s momentum and delays what’s really needed: another grotesque death. The junkyard environs and  scumbag Bronson have a kind of Mad Max quality that also feels out of place, and the elaborate Steadicam shots evoke the gliding movements of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1982). The end result is a mish-mash of genre ideas, sections from the original short film, and grostesqueries which slow down the narrative.

Case in point is the severing of a hobo’s penis, and the resulting game of ‘catch’ during which Muro’s camera labors to show the severed member being volleyed from person to person until it’s reunited with its bleeding owner; it’s over-the-top and a kind of show-stopper, but it also brings the film to a dead stop for a pre-pubescent gag that grows limp after the first toss and catch.

What’s evident is how Muro was inspired by the variety of offensive material in Frumkes’ lengthy script (the film’s first cut ran more than 2 hours) and crafted some beautifully fluid sequences. Street Trash is more than just a demo reel – it’s a great example of an inventive cameraman and the quality of production value that stems from a team of skilled set decorators, costumes, make-up, and cinematography.

Film restoration expert Robert H. Harris (Lawrence of Arabia!) supervised the film’s HD transfer, and Synapse’s Blu-ray sports a remarkably vibrant, detailed film which even its makers declare looks superior to any of the 10 film prints that were struck decades ago.

Street Trash regains needed momentum on the finale because it returns to the short’s closing scenes, and it’s heightened by beautifully crafted chase scene in the auto part’s warehouse, and an incredible shot involving decapitation by ignited and airborne gas tank.

Muro’s film proved to be a great calling card – it led to a career as a cinematographer and camera operator on top Hollywood productions – but it’s a cult film whose audience might be a little smaller than the shorter but no less outrageous Evil Dead.

Frumkes stayed in the exploitation realm – writing the first two Substitute films, producing a handful of shorts – but this may be his most unbridled celebration of filthy behaviour. Every scene was designed and crafted to offend, from dialogue, ‘melts,’ necrophilia, urinating on a cadaver, vomiting, and the extreme physicality of characters – a large man assaulting skinny Jane, Bronson’s wiry wino wench, a hobo whose bouncing belly eventually explodes and rains on the yard – were captured by the mixed cast of professionals and amateurs.

The richness and candy colours of the ‘melts’ really pop in this new HD transfer, and both the original mono and 2006 remixed 5.1 audio tracks benefit from the excellent sound effects. Rik Ulfik, composer of Frumkes’ Document of the Dead, delivered an adequate synth score, and the making-of doc contains an extract from the midnight “Junkyard Hop” sequence, which uses a Jan Hammer-styled soundalike cue.

Of the two commentary tracks recorded for Synapse’s 2006 2-disc Meltdown Edition, Muro’s is deadly dull for pointing out the mundane and the obvious, whereas the documentarian within Frumkes offers much more historic info. It’s actually quite incredible Frumkes was able to add even more material in his 2006 doc (itself shot and assembled over four years) in which the film’s entire production, post-production, release, legacy, and what-they’re-doing-now statements are address in 2 hours + an ‘intermission.’

Almost every surviving cast member was interviewed, including former student / production P.A. Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects), who was also charged with delivering the three sizes of ‘freshly made’ severed penises to the set. Synapse was able to find and interview Jane Arakawa for this 2013 Blu-ray edition, making this release virtually complete – but as the End Credits detail, material in the doc was assembled from a multitude of SD and HD sources, resulting in a occasional visual anomalies (more in SD to HD upgrading rather than SD resolution).

Other extras include a deleted scenes gallery (unique to the Blu-ray), trailer, a rare promo culled from Muro’s original short film. The only extra that’s still unique to the DVD is a Stills Gallery, featuring B&W production stills.

A podcast interview with composer Darius Holbert is available.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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