Friday, October 11, 2013

Street Trash

Street Trash (1987)
Dir. James Muro
Written by Roy Frumkes
Starring Mike Lackey, R. L. Ryan, James Lorinz, Vic Noto, Bill Chepil

HOoooh boy, where to start with this one? I guess the melting, that’s the place to start. So, a guy who runs a wine store finds a crate waaay in the back with some ancient hobo booze called “Tenafly Viper,” which he decides to market for $1 to the cadre of derelicts who abide in the adjacent junkyard (they steal it anyway). Drinking this liquid causes them to almost instantaneously melt into gasping puddles of rainbow dayglo goo*. And so begins the most tasteful portion of STREET TRASH, a movie specifically written to “...democratically offend every group on the planet,” according to writer Roy Frumkes (director of DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD, the classic doc on the making of DAWN).

Don’t be fooled by the troubling whiff of narrative you might get from my description above; this is an essentially plotless, episodic scenario which just follows the various hobo characters from the dump** as they get involved with melting, murder, rape, necrophilia, the mob, brotherly disputes, decapitations, genital mutilations, more melting, underaged sex, shrill feminists, racism, mentally ill rants, still more melting, deranged Vietnam vets, parachute pants full of raw ricken, sweaty fat guys, a van full of hookers, and pretty much anything else imaginable that you can squeeze a few inappropriate laughs out of. The emphasis is on the laughs (or cringes, anyway) more than the horror; it’s not like this one is striving for an atmospheric sense of the heartbreaking fragility of mortality or something. It’s mostly just an excuse to string together a bunch of outrageously un-PC moments and goopy special effects. But you know what, as far as movies like that go (looking at you, Troma) this is definitely one of the more enjoyable ones. It has a good pace, energetic photography, a genuinely funny cartoonish cast, and its earnest desire to offend literally everyone in the world makes certain it never gets too mean-spirited. There’s a gang-rape and murder scene (off-camera, fortunately) that might be pushing it a little too far into unfunny, misogynist territory, but fortunately a subsequent scene where the hobos play keep-away with the bloody severed dick of a colleague who’s futilely trying to recover his unfortunate member ensures there’s something here for the ladies as well. And the fact that they set the rape to wacky Benny Hill type music makes it more fun, I guess.

Can't we have one horrific yellow melting incident without all turning on each other?

A part of me thinks the movie is well-made enough that it might have benefitted from a more cohesive script which paid off the things it set up better. It seems like a lot of these scenes include detail and exposition that never end up impacting anything. Hell, the whole hobo-melting Viper wine doesn’t even factor into the climax (though a severed head that looks up a girl’s skirt does, so don’t feel too bad for me). But then again, the movie has so many terrible, funny ideas that it might lose it’s freewheeling awfulness if it tried to lock it down into something that made sense. Case in point: about ¾ of the way through, we’re introduced to a whole new set of characters, most notably a Mob boss who runs a club and a dryly suicidal doorman who just can’t deal with his boss’s crap anymore and just buries him in caustic verbally abusive one-liners. These guys have exactly nothing to do with anything else in the movie, but they also provide a few of the movie’s funniest scenes (mostly because James Lorinz, who would later memorably portray Jeffrey Franken in FRANKENHOOKER, is sublimely hilarious as the doorman who knows he’s playing with fire but just can’t keep his mouth shut anymore). In a normal movie, logic would dictate you cut out this subplot that in no way whatsoever relates to any other character or plot in the movie. But this movie says, fuck logic, we’re going to do whatever we have to in order to throw a bunch of colorfully grotesque scenes of cartoonish depravity at your face for 91 minutes, and you’re going to like it.

Now that is one big pile of shit.

There’s a scene here where the Joey-Pants-by-way-of-Gary-Busey over-the-line cop (Bill Chepil, apparently a real NYC cop), confronted with a mob hitman pointing a gun at him, asks with Holocaust-movie-level seriousness: “wouldn’t you rather die in combat than rot in jail?” Yeah. The guy thinks for a minute, seems to agree, and puts away his gun. The cop then proceeds to beat the guy to a bloody pulp, drag the body into a urinal, stick his fingers down his own throat and vomit on the corpse***. If you’re like my brother and I, that alone will make you laugh hysterically for the remaining 40 minutes. If not, maybe you’d better stay away from this one.

*This movie has the dubious honor of making me realize there’s a subgenre of horror films called “Melt movies,” for reasons that are all too obvious.

**Holy shit, is this actually a remake of Kurosawa’s DODES’KA-DEN?

***Between this and MY SOUL TO TAKE maybe I should have included an “extraneous revenge vomiting” item on my checklist


  • LITERARY ADAPTATION: Uh, I'm thinking no.
  • SEQUEL: No, but a member of the brotherhood of "Melt Movies"*
  • REMAKE: Nope, one of a kind, for whatever reason.
  • SLUMMING A-LISTER: Not even close.
  • BOOBIES: Yep, including one set that you can actually enjoy because it's not rapey.
  • DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: Loss of head, arm, legs, and entire body.
  • ENTRAILS? One hobo explodes, so yeah
  • CULTISTS: None
  • ZOMBIES: Nope
  • VAMPIRES: None
  • CURSES: None, unless you count the curse of grinding poverty.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Quite high. It is on DVD, though, with a full 2-hour "making of"
  • ALEX MADE IT THROUGH AWAKE: Awake and attentive.

*Speaking of which, Bryan Singer was a production assistant on this one! He ought to put a melting X-Man into his next movie as tribute. Maybe cast the vomiting cop or something.** **Holy shit, I just remembered there IS a melting X-Man in the original movie. Good on you, guy.

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