Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Marc Sferrazza
Directed by James Muro
Distributed by Arrow Video
It’s hard to say much more about Street Trash than previous reviews of the US Synapse release have already done, but just in case you’re unfamiliar with this melt movie classic, here’s the skinny:
Mike Lackey stars as Fred, a bum living in a New York junkyard trying to go about his daily business amidst a cornucopia of other characters, including batshit crazy (and violent) Vietnam veteran Bronson (Vic Noto), serial-killer-chasing cop Bill (Bill Chepil), young vagrant Kevin (Mark Sferrazza), and many, many more. There are so many characters and mini plot threads involved that, in the hands of less talented filmmakers, it’d make your head spin. Fortunately for us, the young Muro possessed the skills to produce something not only cohesive and coherent, but also captivating. Not to mention hugely entertaining.
Part of what is so captivating about the film is the tone – it’s a filthy, grimy, low-brow piece of work that just oozes the feel of the low-budget ’80s scene. However, all of this is encapsulated within some of the most impressive low-budget direction, cinematography, and special effects work to come from the period. Muro keeps everything in the film well lit, with plenty of primary colours, and in doing so squeezes every single last piece of value from the production design, especially with ingenious use of existing locations (the junkyard itself suits proceedings perfectly). Street Trash is a film that looks as though it cost at least three times what it did.
The other part of what makes Street Trash stand out is the special effects. I did mention this was a melt movie, didn’t I? You see, amidst the plethora of other activities involving our cast of derelicts runs (what was originally supposed to be) the main thread – a local liquor store owner discovers an ancient box of “Tenafly Viper” wine bottles in his basement and decides to pawn it off to the local bums for a dollar a pop. The problem is…one gulp of the stuff is enough to send your body into a colourful, and occasionally explosive, meltdown.
Not content to sticking with the usual blood and guts, the effects team of Street Trash treat us to an entire palette of dripping liquids and goopified remains. People literally turn into bubbling piles of half-melted limbs; red, green, blue, orange, purple and yellow goo flows from orifices and bursts from bodies; one character beats the hell out of another and pukes on him out of pure spite; breasts explode in a yellow/green eruption; a flying gas canister results in an awesome decapitation; and one particularly unfortunate hobo is forced into a game of “piggy in the middle” with his newly severed penis.
Street Trash’s cult status is richly deserved. Though it may seem quite inaccessible on the first viewing owing to the fact you really, really want to take a shower quite soon in, stick with it. You’ll be more than thankful that you did.
Arrow Video’s DVD presentation of Street Trash is something to behold. The fully uncut widescreen transfer looks nothing short of phenomenal. Right from the opening frames the colours are vivid, the picture exceptionally clean, and blacks solid as a rock. Occasional grain and the odd blemish pops up, but considering the source material this is a restorative master class – the film has never looked this good (bar the Synapse release), and likely won’t ever again…unless a Blu-ray release makes its way into the world.
Sound-wise the audio track is standard Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but it’s perfectly adequate and clear. Nothing more is particularly necessary for this movie.
On the second disc of this two-DVD set, comes Roy Frumkes’ Meltdown Memoirs documentary. Clocking in around two hours, this is a fantastic piece of work, roping in just about everybody involved in the production to share in-depth information, anecdotes, and much more about the making of Street Trash. The origins of the film, pre-production, shooting, cast and crew experiences, distribution, the premiere, and even what the main figures involved are up to nowadays are covered to the furthest limits. Trust me, if you’re a fan of the film, or low-budget filmmaking, this documentary is worth the price of the release all by itself.
Additionally, we have a UK exclusive interview with actress Jane Arakawa, who plays Wendy in the movie. This is a relatively short interview but still interesting as she recounts some more of her experiences making it.
The set also boasts some impressive artwork by Arrow’s go-to artist Rick Melton, along with a poster of the same; however, if you’d rather the original artwork, the cover is reversible.
Now, the crux here is whether you already own the US Synapse “Meltdown Edition” double-disc set. It appears to have an equal quality transfer, the Meltdown Memoirs documentary, plus more…including the original short film that inspired Street Trash. If you already have that, a double-dip isn’t recommended unless you really want the poster or box artwork for your shelf, or desperately need a few extra minutes with Jane Arakawa.
If, however, you’re in the UK and haven’t imported Synapse’s release, look out for this one hitting shelves on January 11th. You won’t regret it.
4 out of 5
4 out of 5
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