Monday, March 1, 2010

Street Trash (J. Michael Muro, 1987)

Mistakenly engaging in substandard intercourse with an unclean but affable tramp, being gang raped and murdered by an unruly throng of bums and lowlifes, and having your lifeless corpse violated by a morbidly obese junkyard foreman are surprisingly not the worst things that can happen to you in the soiled universe that is Street Trash, J. Michael Muro's mucilaginous masterpiece about life on the fringes of a wet society. I'm afraid not. Get this, you could end up expelling slimy ooze from a wide variety orifices. And while the act of ejecting goo may sound like the perfect conclusion to a most stressful day, the gunk coming out of you in this film is not something you want see trickling and spurting its way out of a smallish, helmet-covered hole. Thick, green, yellow, purple and blue, and erupting from places you wouldn't moisture to seep, the stuff basically cooks your internal organs, boils your blood, and causes your skin to liquify. What I'm trying to say is that while being gang raped and murdered does have its drawbacks, the results that occur after taking a swig from a mysterious brand of hooch are, to put it mildly, quite messy.

There isn't much going on in terms of conventional storytelling in Street Trash: A bearded liquor store merchant finds a case of bottles (containing a beverage called "Viper") hidden behind a wall in his basement, dusts them off, and starts selling them to his mainly homeless customers. One by one, the thirsty vagrants try the curious wish-wash, only to find themselves twitching violently and melting into a pool of muck after taking a single sip.

In other words, it's mainly a series of poignant vignettes about living on the street, punctuated with the odd exploding hobo and impromptu game of severed penis football.

The rest concentrates on the tumultuous relationship between Freddy (Mike Lackey) and Kevin (Mark Sferrazza), two brothers living in a junkyard, the gruff existence of an illiterate ("I read like old people fuck") cop (Bill Chepil), Wendy (Jane Arakawa), an idealist junkyard employee who helps runaways on the side, and Bronson (Voc Noto), the self-appointed leader of the junkyard/hobo camp; the yard is actually run by Frank (Pat Ryan), a rapist/necrophiliac who pretends he doesn't like it when his dog licks his crotch, but don't tell Bronson that. Sitting atop his trashy throne with Winette (the lovely Nicole Potter) at his side, his deranged yet wonderfully horny girlfriend, Bronson is a veteran of the conflict in Vietnam (1956-1974) who thinks he's still in "the shit."

As you can tell by the excessive use of the word "junkyard," the majority of the films off-kilter theatrics take place in a junkyard. However, very few people actually melt there. In fact, after a couple of hobos melt early on (including a likable chap played by Bernard Perlman), the melting takes a bit of a backseat. The film's focus shifts to everything from racial politics and shoplifting, to incompetent doormen and the unforeseen dangers that can arise when a hobo and a gangster's moll (the enchanting Miriam Zucker) inadvertently hook up with one another.

The hobo-moll sex scene–while, sure, it didn't end too pleasantly–was strangely satisfying in a sleazy, torn pantyhose gets me off sort of way. I mean, even though she was intoxicated, it gave a glimmer hope to all the unwashed miscreants out there yearning to be included in the drunken sex fantasy Rolodex of all the two bit floozies vomiting in the alleyways of mob-friendly restaurants.

Despite the vileness of the melting sequences, I found much titillation underneath all that pulsating sludge. Of course, I wouldn't put the film in the erotic section, but there was a fair amount of sexiness in Street Trash. On top of the hobo-moll engagement (his foul cock penetrating her slightly pristine pussy with the invasive finesse of a decommissioned streetcar), I thought the sight of Bronson caressing Winette's filthy lower half as she flailed around to be hypnotic.

The scene where a hobo is confronted by a paddy wagon full of garishly made-up prostitutes was like watching the inner workings of my own perverted mind (I was particularly fond of Julie McQuain's stellar work as "Receptive Whore in Van"); and the many shots of Jane Arakawa and her yummy stems walking across the junkyard grounds were a sensuous tonic in the face of all the foulness that surrounded her.

There is much hilarity in Street Trash, which is largely supplied by the lower tier hobos that populate this dingy world, especially M. D'Jango Krunch, Clarence Jarmon, and Benard Perlman. Nevertheless, I thought James Lorinz (Frankenhooker) pretty much stole the show (comedy-wise), as the clueless doorman who doesn't seem to realize that ratting out your mob employer to the police can lead to some disagreeable consequences.

Fluid camera work accentuated by stirring synthesizer flourishes, Street Trash is an adeptly made film that repeatedly tests the limits what constitutes good taste. Filled with globs of nastiness, line after line of un-PC dialogue, and an overall offensive temperament, the film is the cinematic equivalent of watching a droplet of pus slowly careen down the thigh of the world's worst yoga instructor.

And the way the so-called "steady-cam" captured the grime-filled neighbourhoods in all their broken-down glory gave the film an authentic lived in quality that most melting hobo movies seem to lack.

video uploaded by Synapse Films


  1. I hadn't realized that James Lorinz was in Street Trash. I've got to hurry up and watch that one.

  2. I remember seeing this on VHS, and while I was repulsed, I sat through the whole thing. After severed penis football, there is no telling what will come next.

  3. Brilliant work yet again! I've somehow managed not to see STREET TRASH--too much awesomeness, too little time!

    Comment verification: "explat." Someone who renounces citizenship before taking a swig of Viper?

  4. John: James Lorinz is comedy gold.

    Darius Whiteplume: I went into Street Trash thinking it was gonna be nothing but wall-to-wall melting hobos. In other words: The severed penis football game was an unexpected treat.

    Oh, and hey, I'm on the fast track to seeing Eugenie De Sade; it's just a matter of time, baby. (Mmmmm, leggy Soledad Miranda.)

    The Vicar of VHS: Thanks, Vicar.

    By the way, funny review of Curtains.

  5. Thanks, Yum-Yum, for a stellar review of one of my personal faves... STREET TRASH is a true all-time great. :D

  6. No problem, J. Astro. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen with a moderate-sized throng of Street Trash fanatics.