Monday, December 7, 2009

Street Trash (1987)

Today, it's hard to imagine how we genre fans were first touched back in the mid 80s by this scrappy little independent movie about a shipment of liquor that has gone bad and now causes winos to melt and explode; but it's safe to say that Street Trash was truly something special. A tour de force, it is both heart warming and melting. And, if you're in Canada, this spring you will be able to relive the experience on the big screen. You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll ooze.

Street Trash takes place in a New York junkyard populated by bums and winos and shows how they have turned it into their own kingdom, with the king being Bronson, a truly frightening deranged Vietnam vet. The main characters are Fred and Kevin, two brothers who live in a tire igloo and the first half of the movie is like an anthropological study of the world of the bums. Homeless characters aren't often featured in movies, and what makes Street Trash unique is that it takes them on their own terms. You can't see them escaping to a productive life, and the film isn't particularly interested in that anyway. It's more of a bum soap opera for the first half, which some viewers find boring. Not me.

Into the bumocracy comes 'Tenafly Viper', a well-aged hooch that a local liquor store is selling at rock bottom prices, unaware that it's gone bad. Very bad, in fact, as it causes people who drink it to melt into multicolored goop. I've read a review that claimed the hooch is supposed to have been spiked by the government, which if it's true, I never picked up on in all the times I've watched the movie. Then again, I've generally been on hooch myself when I've watched Street Trash; audience participation, you know. The effects, by Jennifer Aspinall and Scott Coulter, are incredibly inventive and over-the-top. I can't wait to see them with an audience.

In fact, much of the film goes way beyond "politically incorrect" to a territory of offensiveness past the town of South Park. One comedic interlude consists of the bums playing "keep away" with an unlucky fellow's severed penis. Another scene is a lighthearted rib tickler about necrophilia. It's a testament to the film that it wallows in sleaze without becoming too goofy (like most Troma films), or particularly alienating. Well, a scene suggesting an off-screen gang rape is a bit much, but wisely is not played for laughs. Overall though, a film whose end credits feature a lounge song about a mafioso being melted can't be taken too seriously.
Street Trash was screwed over by bad distribution the first time around and has been somewhat redeemed by a deluxe DVD edition that features the original 16 mm short, cut scenes, and a feature length documentary entitled The Meltdown Memoirs that is the single best making-of doc I've ever seen.

Even better, the degenerates at Vagrancy Films have secured the rights to screen one of only a handful of 35 mm prints in Canadian theatres and are going to do so in Spring 2010 in various locations in Canada. One of which is Toronto, which means that I will finally get the chance to see people explode on the big screen. (God willing, I'll even be sober this time.) Which is all I've ever really wanted to do in this life.

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