Friday, September 25, 2009

Film Review: STREET TRASH (1987, J. Michael Muro)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 102 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: James Lorinz (FRANKENHOOKER), Vic Noto, Bil Chepil, Mike Lackey, Jane Arakawa, Tony Darrow (GOODFELLAS). Written by Roy Frumkes.
Tag-line: "Things in New York are about to go down the toilet..."
Best one-liner: "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."

STREET TRASH is a greasy, fat man pinning you down in a cracked, faux-leather chair as he tries to pleasure himself. It's a police van full of shabby hookers. It's one tough cop beating a dude within an inch of his life, then vomiting on him. It's a bum drinking some toxic hooch and dissolving into a candy-colored volcano as he (literally) flushes himself down the toilet.

It's a homeless man stuffing raw chicken into his Hazmat pants as he shoplifts your local C-Town.

It's gang rape, necrophilia, and a game of 'monkey in the middle' with some castrated genitalia. All of this is accompanied by gentle clarinet-heavy jazz and honkytonk piano that'd be at home in a Woody Allen credits sequence. Written by THE SUBSTITUTE scribe and DAWN OF THE DEAD zombie Roy Frumkes and directed by Steadicam-maven J. Michael Muro, STREET TRASH is visually magnificent, and has the careening, off-kilter energy of a wild sprint down a squalid alleyway. To pin it down as "about" something- like a case of noxious, hobo-dissolving Viper liquor- would be doing it a disservice.

It's a meandering, slice of (psychotic) life from the most unsavory, dilapidated side of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (where I used to live!). It's almost as if Vittorio de Sica (THE BICYCLE THIEF, UMBERTO D) made a Troma film. Consequently, it's way fucking better than any Troma film, which has earned J. Michael Muro the bitter honor of "Troma's most hated director" according to Lloyd Kaufman. This would be like Ted V. Mikels saying that Russ Meyer is his 'most hated director' or Bruno Mattei saying that Dario Argento is his 'most hated.' I mean, come on.

The acting, by a cast of mostly non-professionals, is sometimes masterful, sometimes hideous, but never less than memorable. There's a brief, hilarious role (as 'the Doorman') by the smarmy James Lorinz (Dr. Franken in FRANKENHOOKER); a terrifying turn by Vic Noto as the femur-wielding Bronson;

and a terrific, likable tough guy played by real-life cop Bill Chepil. This is the stuff that underground cinema dreams are made of, and it ends on a truly appropriate WTF moment. And stay for the end credits, which feature a mind-blowing song (sung in character!) by a sleazy mafioso (Tony Darrow). For similar cheap n' gritty thrills, see: DEADBEAT AT DAWN, BASKET CASE, and THE DRILLER KILLER.

-Sean Gill

BONUS: Make your very own bottle of Tenafly Viper! (click on the picture for a larger view)


Jillaine said...

Probably my fav of the movies I've been forced to watch with you and Joe! And the viper image would make a great tattoo to boot!

Sean Gill said...

Plus I am still trying my damndest to hunt down THIS:

And actually anyone who could help me in that quest would be amply rewarded.

Anonymous said...

Vic Noto just played Hearse on an episode of the Scorsese/HBO Roaring 20's series:Boardwalk Empire. Vic will soon play Chicago Bootlegger George "Bugs" Moran in the film Al Capone:King of crime.

Sean Gill said...

I always enjoy Vic's performances. He's also in Lumet's NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN and Landis' INNOCENT BLOOD. And I really enjoy his anti-establishment quotes on his IMDB bio page.

Gunbu said...

Hey I just want to say excellent review of Street Trash. Probably one of the most fun low budget horror films ever.
I used to watch this movie as a kid (I'm 31 now) and I still enjoy it to this day. I had such a crush on Wendy...
And I might add one of the only movies TO THIS DAY that have an asian american in a normal role... No accent, martial arts, kimono, etc.
When I show it to friends they either love it or hate it—I'm sure you've had similar experiences.
Also what I take from the movie is the director was showing the horrors of war through the forgotten and damaged Vietnam vets. There are many references in the movie to Nam.
My personal favorite line in the movie is in the final scene where Bronson is chasing the kid through the junkyard and Wendy jumps in and tries to help. He throws her to the ground and says, mostly to himself, "I hate your ancestors!". Gets me every time.

Sean Gill said...


Thanks for stopping by! It really is one of the greats, and it never gets old, no matter how many times I watch it. Agreed on Wendy, and on that ridiculous moment with Bronson. The shadow of Nam falls heavily across many of these no-budget classics, from COMBAT SHOCK to THE EXTERMINATOR and beyond. I think some of these underground filmmakers felt a kinship with (or, in some cases, actually were) the dispossessed, curbside veterans.

I, too, love showing this to people for the first time- I generally show it to those who I'm pretty sure will love it in advance, though!