STREET TRASH: Thank Heavens This Wasn’t Released in Smell-O-Vision


If you’ve ever seen the infamous poster and video box art for Street Trash (the one with the guy getting flushed down the toilet while his severed arm dangles from the chain) you would think the movie’s nothing more than a non-stop barrage of melting winos. But that’s not the case; the melting winos only account for a modest portion of the movie which runs 103 minutes, a pretty exhaustive running time for a late 80’s splatter gore epic. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to watch between the bum meltdowns. Street Trash is one of the most cheerfully offensive and unabashedly entertaining genre offerings from the 1980s, a skyscraper-size middle finger to the decade that brought us teased hair, yuppie scum, and the goddamn Brat Pack.


The story follows two young brothers who have run away from the home and now live secretly in a New York auto graveyard on the shores of the city’s befouled East River. Fred (Mike Lackey, who also did the special make-up effects) spends his days traipsing the streets looking for an easy payday and an occasional bottle of booze while dressed like Torgo from Manos The Hands of Fate; his younger brother Kevin (Mark Sferrazza) mostly hangs out in their improvised shack pining for Wendy (Jane Arakawa), a sweet but put upon young woman who works as a secretary for her perpetually horny boss, the loathsome Schnizer (the late R.L. Ryan, probably best known for playing the loathsome and corrupt mayor of Tromaville in The Toxic Avenger). During a frenetic opening credits sequence Fred steals some money from his nemesis Wizzy (Bernard Perlman), a creepy old dude who works as a collector for Bronson (Vic Noto), a vicious and psychotic Vietnam veteran who rules over his own squalid criminal empire based in the same junkyard where Fred and Kevin live and whose weapon of choice is a knife he carved out of a human femur bone. As if having Wizzy regularly kicking his ass wasn’t bad enough, now Fred has Bronson to deal with.


Meanwhile a tough cop named Bill (Bill Chepil, a real-life former NYC cop) is out to bust Bronson and has been snooping around the junkyard turning the bums he arrests into his informants. To make matters worse a woman is found dead in the junkyard and her understandably pissed-off boyfriend, local mob boss Nick Duran (Tony Darrow of Goodfellas and The Sopranos), wants revenge. Of course there is the matter of winos melting all over the city. The police are baffled but the culprit is in fact the very thing these bums covet the most: a special brand of booze called Tenafly Viper. The proprietor of a local liquor store finds a box of Viper dating back to before Prohibition hidden behind the wall of his storeroom and decides to make some quick cash by selling it to his less fortunate clientele at a dollar a bottle. The stuff starts flying off the shelves but unbeknownst to the local boozehounds snapping up the cheap booze the Viper has turned rather toxic in the six decades it’s been stowed away, hence the melting.


Anything goes in the world of Street Trash created by director James Muro and writer/producer Roy Frumkes. No taboo is safe from being smashed to pieces. Imagine if someone threw together Ironweed and Cannibal Holocaust and then hired Charles Bukowski, Ralph Bakski, and Hunter S. Thompson to make the damn thing. You with me so far? This is a true kitchen sink movie – it has nearly everything from colorful gore to weird sex to insane Vietnam flashbacks, and then it goes back for more colorful gore. And when I say colorful gore I ain’t whistling’ “Dixie”: during the eight imaginatively gross meltdown sequences you will honestly see all colors of the rainbow. Until the last half-hour the gore is used sparingly leaving plenty of room for some decent character development and batshit shenanigans.


Watch as friendly bum Burt (Clarenze Jarmon) tries to scrounge up a decent dinner for the guys. Thrill to one of the greatest hand-to-hand fight scenes in movie history as the fearless cop Bill beats the shit out of a mob hitman and then adds insult to injury in a very unique fashion. Witness Bronson and his goons playing a game of Keep Away with some poor guy’s severed johnson. Don’t worry if you think I’m giving too of the story away; reading about is one thing, but you have to see it for yourself. The surprising thing about is the heart and soul that exists beneath the multi-colored carnage. This was a true labor of love for all involved and the intelligence and professional craft on display shines through in the movie despite its low budget. The melting effects are amazing and perversely hilarious. Director Muro acted as his own Steadicam operator, giving the film a prowling energy that never rests. Although Street Trash would be Muro’s sole directorial effort he would become the film industry’s most in-demand Steadicam operator working with Hollywood heavy- hitters such as James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, and Michael Mann.

Roy Frumkes is a well-known independent filmmaker best known for making Document of the Dead, a fantastic documentary on the career of George Romero that mostly focuses on the making of Dawn of the Dead. Frumkes’ screenplay provides Street Trash with a beating heart and an imagination that would have most people hauled off by the men in white coats. Instead of the usual bland, squeaky clean teenage cannon fodder we get a diverse gaggle of drifters, alcoholics, and assorted unsavory lowlifes fighting for their own survival as the world mostly disregards their presence. The characters are well-drawn and brought to life by a company of actors that work well but to this day remain mostly unknown.


In fact the only actors from this movie who would go on to achieve any recognition are Tony Darrow, a former Las Vegas entertainer who would make a career out of playing mob types, and James Lorinz (The Doorman), who parlayed his kick-ass funny performance into roles for Abel Ferrera (King of New York) and Frank Henenlotter (Frankenhooker). Darrow and Lorinz have several amusing scenes in which they demonstrate their mutual talent for improvisation and develop an antagonistic chemistry that becomes the comedic highlight of Street Trash. Originally they were only supposed to have one scene together but their comic teamwork worked so perfectly for the film that Frumkes wrote two additional scenes for them, including one that kicks off the end credits in splattery fashion. Darrow even gets to sing the end credits song.

Street Trash is a guaranteed good time for anyone who isn’t easily offended and a bona fide classic of underground horror cinema. See it if you’ve got the nerve.

Last month Synapse Films released a fully-loaded Street Trash Blu-ray featuring a brand new HD transfer and tons of terrific bonus features. You can buy it HERE.

Here’s the original short film that inspired the feature.

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