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Synapse Films presents
Street Trash (SE) (1987)

"I don't need this. I already got trouble with my kids, my wife, my business, my secretary, the bums, the runaways, the roaches, prickly heat and a homo dog. This just ain't my day."
- Frank Schnizer (R.L. Ryan)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 26, 2006

Stars: Mike Lackey, Vic Noto, Bill Chepil
Other Stars: Mark Sferrazza, Jane Arakawa, Nicole Potter, R.L. Ryan, Clarenze Jarmon, Bernard Perlman, Miriam Zucke, M. D'Jango Krunch, Tony Darrow
Director: Jim Muro

MPAA Rating: not rated for (language, nudity, sexuality, disturbing imagery, violence, extreme gore)
Run Time: 01h:40m:59s
Release Date: September 26, 2006
UPC: 654930305799
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C-AB+ A

DVD Review

The problem of poverty and homelessness has been the subject of many extensive sociological studies. It has also been the subject of some great works of literature. Some movies, going back to D.W. Griffith, are sympathetic to the plight of the impoverished and try to effect change. And other filmmakers just like to make movies where you watch the poor and homeless melt in gory detail. If that's what you're interested in, well, Street Trash is the movie for you. And if that's the case, Synapse has a massive Special Edition version of the movie, with a ton of bonus materials not found on its earlier near bare-bones DVD.

The homeless in and around the Statewide junk yard owned by Frank Schnizer (R.L. Ryan) are in a perpetual state of restlessness as they scrounge for shelter, sex and especially something to drink. Among them are pathetic Fred (Mike Lackey) and his younger brother, and overlord Bronson, who kills with a knife made out of a human femur. Liquor/check cashing entrepreneur Ed (M. D'Jango Krunch) runs across a case of aged bottles of something called Tenafly Viper in his basement and decides to sell it to the winos for a dollar a bottle. But it has the unfortunate side effect of melting those who drink it in an explosion of Technicolor hues. The picture follows the misadventures of the homeless community as they fall prey to the Viper, and displays their off-kilter relationships in often hilarious, thoroughly politically incorrect fashion.

The script is pretty disjointed, with few of the characters being established to any degree; those who are, such as Bill the Cop (Bill Chepil) are one-note caricatures of gritted-teeth annoyance. The various denizens of the junkyard are uniformly shown as degraded, filthy and smelly bums with zero redeeming qualities. For the most part, they're just there to provide the periodic special effects extravaganzas.

What the filmmakers do manage well are the nasty effects, which would be hard to take if they weren't so brightly colored as to be ridiculous. Everyone who drinks the Tenafly Viper gets a pretty impressive death scene that usually has some darkly comic element: the first victim dissolves into an abandoned toilet, while another erupts a yellow vomitous substance onto a passing businessman below. The melts become increasingly ghastly as the creators keep upping the ante, but they're topped by an extremely gory decapitation that is quite hilarious. But the photography is first rate for a Z-budget picture. Plenty of oddball angles are used, and there's a ton of excellent steadicam work that helps keep the viewer visually nterested even when there aren't bums exploding in vivid colors.

Appropriately enough, Street Trash has utter contempt for its impoverished subjects, with hardly a sympathetic portrayal to be found. Everyone is venal, nasty and stupid, with the exception of Schnizer's secretary, Wendy (Jane Arakawa). She tries to look after the runaways that congregate in the junkyard, but for her troubles she gets brutally raped by the elephantine Schnizer, a scene that's played for comedy but falls pretty flat. Other sillier sequences work better, such as Bill's hamhanded investigatory tactics and one character's attempts to shoplift entire chickens from the local grocery store. It's a messy film that inspires a few queasy laughs, but its main reason for existence is the effects work. Street Trash is disgusting and funny enough that it has developed a cult following of its own, appalling on many levels. But it's certainly enjoyable for the misanthropic among us.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The transfer on this special edition appears to be identical with the prior single disc barebones version released earlier this year. For a cheap piece of work, Synapse nonetheless gives it a first class transfer with excellent and vivid color, good black levels and surprisingly good shadow detail. Artifacting and other problems are virtually nonexistent. This clearly looks better than it ever has, so fans of the film should be overjoyed.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack appears to be the same as well, and it also sounds fine, with clear dialogue and a synth music score that has reasonably good range and presence. The goopy sound effects have a presence all their own that helps up the nauseation factor. A slightly jazzed-up 5.1 remix is also included, but it's still very center-oriented and there's only a little ambient surround activity. It doesn't gain significantly in fidelity over the original mono, frankly.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) writer/producer Roy Frumkes; 2) director Jim Muro
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:54m:03s

Extra Extras:
  1. The original 16mm short film
  2. Still gallery
Extras Review: The big differentiating factor from the original Synapse release is the plethora of extra materials that quite thoroughly document the picture. Disc 1 features two commentaries, one each by producer/writer Roy Frumkes and director Jim Muro. Frumkes is animated and enjoyable to listen to, and never has a slow moment as he rattles off a ton of background material. Muro is a bit more dry and frequently narrates what's onscreen, but there's a surprising lack of overlap between the two tracks. There's also the original trailer reprised from the first disc.

Disc 2 includes a massive two-hour documentary, The Meltdown Memoirs, shot recently by Frumkes and featuring interviews with virtually all of the surviving cast and crew (except the unlocateable Jane Arakawa). It also features quite a few deleted segments, reminiscences and a look at the locations 20 years after the fact. Quite substantial, the documentary offers just about everything one might want to know about the feature. It also includes a three-minute intermission that helpfully suggests, "Eat some chocolate" and "Go to the bathroom."

The feature had its genesis in a 16mm color short (15m:04s), which is also included on disc 2. If anything, it's even more mean-spirited than the feature, simply providing the setup (though using 1951 Thunderbird as the death juice) and then proceeding to a series of messy melt deaths, with even less attempt at characterization. Mike Lackey also appears as Fred in this original version. The transfer isn't too good, however, with plenty of pixelation and noise that makes much of the screen (especially reds) have an odd checkerboard pattern. There's also a teaser (2m:33s) that was used to try to get investors interested in the feature version. It's rather cryptic and it's hard to see why this would appeal to an investor. The quality isn't the best, with softness and video dropouts, but since the only surviving copy is an old battered VHS not a lot can be said on that count. Finally, a still gallery with 50 shots includes both promotional and behind-the-scenes photos. A very solid package for fans of the movie. What more could anyone want? Alas, the clever stick-on Tenafly Viper labels from the earlier release are not included here.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

A goopy black comedy, Street Trash has something of a cult reputation. Synapse provides a fine transfer that will gratify anyone seeking out its demented charms, and the special edition provides a gratifying array of meaningful extras that will thrill anyone who has a fondness for this picture.

 


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