Monday, June 3, 2013

Street Trash

Street Trash Directed By Jim Muro. Starring Bill Chepil (1987).
   Street Trash is such an overly reviewed classic that I wanted to combine all the best sources I could to give this a decent review, not just one I slopped together, cut and pasted from other writers. I respect it in the same league as other influential 80’s gore masterpieces like Re-Animator, Evil Dead and Basket Case. The way I see it, the filmakers were influenced by the gross out antics of Lloyd Kaufman and the ethics of Italian Neo-realism, am I giving them too much credit? The influences are difficult for me to ignore, there's poverty, oppression,non-professional actors and shit ton of ultraviolence. 

I Ain't No Artfag!
   My first experience with the film was through Fangoria, as soon as I saw those insanely impressionistic, punked out, revolting multicolored pictures, I was on a mission at 13 years old to find this bastard and check it out. My friend Seth and I found The Lightning Video clamshell tape at El Cheapo Video (which had a logo of a broke Charlie Chaplin on each video and the front door). I still have my dubbed copy from the early 80’s. I suffer from a VHS fetish and have a hard time upgrading, so it took me a few years before I saw the uncut version on Fandor and I recommend you chuck all inferior butchered versions and only see the unrated one. The Synapse Films one available now is the definitive version (click the link below). 
         The same David Witten, who invented the Mark of The Devil barf bags and “It’s Only A Movie” brilliant marketing campaign was now in charge of publicity at Vestron Video. He helped seal the financial deal for Roy Frumkes and Jim Muro’s bum-sploitation masterpiece. Muro later became James Cameron’s steady-cam operator and made Street Trash when he was just nineteen years old. The film’s ugly sense of humor uses comedy devices like castration, necrophilia, alcholoholism and gang rape all Troma staples of hilarity. There’s a truly bizarre moment when a man is castrated while pissing and his dick is tossed around like a hacky sack in what Chas Balun referred to as shot in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey style with extreme close-ups.
Arthur C. Clarke is spinning in his grave
   When I first saw Street Trash, I thought of it in the same vein as Class Of Nuke em High and The Toxic Avenger and was not exposed to Art house fare or independent film at all as of yet.
         Street Trash took Fangoria, Gorezone, Deep Red and the splatter film genre by force. It caused a huge impact among drooling gorehounds, who found their latest fix. Lackey, Frumkes and Muro took the independent and neo-realistic film tactics and placed them in a Troma infected wasteland.
         The basic concept of melting winos, erupting in a hail storm of multicolored sinew and organ meat because of poison booze is taken to highly entertaining lengths. These desperate souls are searching for the cheapest rotgut they can ingest for only a dollar a bottle, the infamous “Tenafly Viper” and just trying to make it through their miserable lives. A grouchy liquor store clerk finds the overly expired bottles in the cellar and unleashes the plague. He delves out the contaminated booze like death rations to the needy. The hobos are the main protagonists and are never pitied or despised (to quote Ed Wood psychic Criswell).
Wizzy is pissed or happy, can't tell.
         The locations are centered around a junkyard, a police station, mafia owned restaurant and sometimes in bombastic Vietnam. The film is legendary for some of the most appalling and beautiful surrealistic spectacles of grisly FX courtesy of Jennifer Aspinall (Toxic Avenger, SNL). As the bums choke down the blue-ish poison liquid, they immediately die and explode, becoming impressionistic new wave death graffiti. 

Coke and a full toilet, SFX secrets revealed
   Is this Reagan’s plan to spruce up the Bowery by killing derelicts while simultaneously painting the city in the process? This way an influx of art and commerce will arrive by way of human multicolored organ grenade casualties. It’s just a theory of mine that’s pretty highbrow for this flick, after all this is Street Trash, you scumfuck!
Reagan's plan to spruce up the city
         Bill Chepil is an amazing actor and not since the days of Italian Neo-Realism has there been a stellar non actor performance of “Bill” the Cop. Brilliantly and naturally executed by our next subject, today on "Frank Talk" with Crankenstein (wearing a skinned mask of James Lipton).
         Mr. Bill Chepil who after beating the shit out of a scumbag, kicks his head in a million times and shoves it into the bottom of a urinal stall and then punches his sausage fingers down his gullet and upchucks all over the poor victim’s bashed in head.
too much?
   This is the only credit for Mr. Chepil, who went back to doing what he does best, playing a bad ass cop in real life. Had he made another film, I believe he could’ve rivaled Jon Voight in tough, but sensitive charisma. But alas it was not meant to be. 
   Other favorite characters of mine are Wizzy and Bronson. Wizzy is another working class slob of a non-actor with rubbery features. He’s always giving my least favorite character Hippy Fred (Mike Lackey) shit. Fred and his brother Kevin are the lead characters you are supposed to sympathize with, but I’ve always found them detestable. Fred looks like a human version of Hippy Skippy, a Garbage Pail Kid card. His younger brother Kevin looks like a soiled lesbian version of Ralph Macchio. There’s also Pat Ryan as the Junkyard manager Frank and his Asian punk secretary Wendy (Jane Arakawa). Wendy has a soft spot for the younger brother Kevin and defends their illegal squatting to her lecherous boss. They give you these wretched characters to identify with, but I only liked the mean ones the best like Bronson and Bill The Cop. 
I'm gonna puke again!
         Vic Noto plays Bronson, he’s fucking insane as the menacing, femur bone wielding, junkyard lord and is a genuine Vietnam veteran. He’s haunted by flashbacks of bloodsucking VietCong and eradicates boredom by stabbing yuppies in their cars waiting for the traffic light to change. He carries his diaper-wearing wench Winette (Nicole Potter) around like a ratty, mentally handicapped stuffed animal. Her death later resembles “Dali’s Persistence of Memory” with a pained face attached to a dripping clock. She howls like a feral cat in heat and is jealous of any woman trotting around in the purview of Bronson’s twitchy eyeball.
Zach Galifianakis took too many steroids
   James Lorinz (later the star of Frankenhooker) plays a mouthy doorman who witnesses Mafia boss Nick Duran’s (Goodfellas and Sopranos actor Tony Darrow) puking girlfriend leave with Hippy Skippy (Mike Lackey) on her way to an uninvited gang rape. The gang rape scene is the most disgusting moment of the film, there’s not a shred of likeability to this ugly scene at all. Burt (Clarenze Jarmon), the black man wearing a gasmask has a hilarious moment in the supermarket, similar to the one with Belushi in Animal House where he stuffs lunch items and raw chicken down his pants.    
I contracted botchalism thanks to you
   The political context is subtle, but cannot be avoided, certainly the Reagan era of shutting down mental hospitals and slicing the underclass at the knees by taking away social programs and food stamps from the truly desolate and feeding it into an already over-bloated military gave the film a social political standpoint. It all ends with an inspired moment of a gargantuan CO2 cartridge flying at top speed that removes head and shoulder meat along with it. I urge you to re-watch this film because it still holds up, Fandor currently streams the completely unrated version available from Synapse and the DVD is worth buying because of the incredibly entertaining interviews and extras (with some that didn’t appear in previous DVD versions). Also available to stream via

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