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Street Trash: Special Two-Disc Meltdown Edition
10-03-2006, 06:48 AM
Review Date: October 3, 2006
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 9/26/2006
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
In early 2001, Synapse Films made an announcement that sent fans into a frenzy of excitement - the company said it would be releasing the 1987 cult favorite Street Trash on DVD in a deluxe special edition. Though Don May refused to set a formal street date for the title, at the time it was widely anticipated that the disc would hit store shelves sometime by the end of the year, or at the most sometime in 2002. The assumption proved quite innacurate. The year 2001 ended with no sign of the release. Then 2002 passed the same way. As the years went by, the much hyped forthcoming special edition started to become something of a joke for fans, who made fun of the its tardiness, much the same way they made fun of the similarly delayed Cannibal Holocaust disc from Grindhouse ("It's the most anticipated DVD release of the year, for four years and running!"). In 2005, fans of Street Trash received some compensation when Synapse released an essentially bare bones edition, with the promise that the ultimate special edition would follow one day.
Well, that day has finally come.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot1s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot1l.jpg)We begin in a slummy, run-down neighborhood of New York City. Liquor store owner Eddie (M. D'Jango Krunch) is rummaging around in the basement when he discovers an old crate full of small liquor bottles for some concoction called Tenefly Viper. Even though he has no clue what the stuff is or where it came from, he decides to offer it for sale anyways, charging a dollar a bottle. His first "customer" is a local wino named Fred (Mike Lackey), who shoplifts a bottle but doesn't get to drink it because he is pickpoted by a fellow bum named Paulie (Bruce Torbe), who takes the booze back to his makeshift abode and tries to drink it. After no more than a few sips he begins screaming, and then he melts into a horriffic puddle of goo. It would seem that his bottle of Viper was well past its expiration date.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot2s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot2l.jpg)The neighborhood is populated by numerous vagrants, including Wizzy (Bernard Perlman), Burt (Clarenze Jarmon) and Fred's kid brother Kevin (Mark Sferrazza). But the most powerful street person is Bronson (Vic Noto), a psychotic Vietnam vet who lords over the local junkyard, imposing his violent will upon his fellow bums. Thrown into the mix we also have Bill (Bill Chepil), a local detective investigating Bronson and the hobo meltings, perverted junkyard owner Frank Schnizer (R.L. Ryan), his secretary Wendy (Jane Arakawa), and mob boss Nick Duran (Tony Darrow), who has issues with his doorman (James Lorinz) after the young fellow lets his girlfriend walk off with Fred and get murdered in the junkyard.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot3s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot3l.jpg)Street Trash is the warped progeny of writer-producer Roy Frumkes and director James Muro. Working with a fairly low budget and mostly amateur cast, the two filmmakers still manage to pull off a work that is often respectable from a technical standpoint. Under the direction of cinematographer David Sperling and Muro himself (who worked as a steadicam operator), the camera is often cleverly used to bring the action alive, and of special note are the numerous moving camera shots, which lend a dynamic energy to many scenes when combined with some skillful editing. But one of the film's weaknesses is that this energy only manifests itself during the gore and action set pieces. When he is forced to take his actors and crew inside for dialogue scenes, Muro seems much less comfortable and creative. Interior scenes are often drably shot, and the editing makes them drag.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot4s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot4l.jpg)As a movie, Street Trash is almost schizophrenic. Roy Frumkes' script is deeply muddled, and the story is uncomfortably doughnut shaped. The first and final acts are mostly about Tenefly Viper and its melting effects, while the middle veers off onto various tangents. Some of them pay off, but many don't. There is no real focused narrative to it all. Bums melt. People are murdered. The homeless engage in various shennanigans. No doubt there are some viewers who will try and defend the story's rambling lack of focus, saying that the hilarious and disgusting madcap antics make up for any deficiencies. They would probably be right...if this was a shorter movie. Unfortunately, with a running time of a hundred minutes, this uncut version of Street Trash fails to be as entertaining as it might have been with more liberal editing. In rough cut format, the film originally ran over two and a half hours long, and Frumkes' full script seems to have been filled with intertwining subplots and character details that, when lost to the cutting room floor, only serve to make the remaining subplots and character details more confusing. The movie drags far too much for its own good, and Frumkes' zany sense of humor - much of it daringly disgusting - is better suited to writing individual scenes than it is for putting together an entire storyline. His intentional decision - admitted by him on the commentary track - to avoid having any meltings during the middle of the film was a poor choice.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot8s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot8l.jpg)The end credits of the film contain one caption that is rarely noticed. It reads, "Thanks, Anita, for taking me to see I Drink Your Blood when I was six." That credit, referring to the 1971 blood fest and black comedy about rabid hippies and construction workers, sums up the type of creative spirit that Frumkes and Muro seem to have been channeling (it also makes me wonder who Anita was, and what could have possibly possessed her to take a six year-old to I Drink Your Blood, since it was rated 'X' in most markets). The content of Street Trash is brutal, disgusting and bizarre. Anyone who watches just a few minutes will be able to tell that the movie is in very poor taste. In addition to the expected nudity and violence, story also features rape, necrophilia, genital dismemberment and endless bad language. Not surprisingly, the movie has been heavily edited in various markets, yet when one considers how pervasively foul the entire film is, it's hard to imagine that any level of editing could actually bring the whole thing anywhere near to the standards of good taste that the average viewer would expect.
Street Trash is by and large superior to many of the other exploitation films that were hitting drive-ins, grindhouses and video stores during the 1980's. It is aesthetically polished and innovative, and treats its content with a darkly humorous wit that isn't common amongst filmmakers. But the film has its flaws, and its over-the-top style must necessarilly limit its audience. It is an exploitation film to be recommended only to exploitation fans.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot5s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_shot5l.jpg)The transfer on this release is the same 16x9 enhanced widescreen 1.78:1 master that appeared on Synapse's bare bones release last year. As anyone who has seen that disc can attest to, the restoration done by Synapse is exceptional. Remastered from the original 35mm negatives, color reproduction is excellent and the transfer delivers a level of clarity and detail that surpasses the restored DVD versions of many similar cult films. The film elements have been scrubbed so clean that the few scratches and specks which do remain become jarringly noticeable. Night scenes are by and large very good looking and are easy to watch, though shadow detail is not always great. On the other hand, daylight scenes usually look spectacular. All in all, this is an impressive presentation in almost every respect.
Street Trash is presented with two audio options. The first is the film's original 2.0 Mono mix, while the second is a new 5.1 Surround remix. In terms of raw audio quality, the new mix has a clear advantage, with superior fidelity and great use of additional speaker channels. Dialogue is understandable but slightly muffled with both tracks, but neither one has any unusual issues with background noise or distortion. One would think that in a cheap production such as this, a new Surround track would be overkill, but the 5.1 mix comes across as the superior of the two, with the film's agressive original sound design taking full advantage of the potential offered by a new audio mix.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_menul.jpg)This comprehensive special edition kicks off with two brand new commentary tracks, the first with Roy Frumkes, the second with Jim Muro. Both men are amiable and give a comprehensive insight into the making of the film. Frumkes come across more as the creative personality behind the enterprise, and spends much of his time talking about the plot, and focuses especially on how the story changed as new scenes were spontaneously written or actors ad-libbed. On the other hand, Jim Muro's track isn't quite so good a listen. There are more quiet spots, and Muro spends a lot of time simply narrating the feature. The most amusing point of the commentary, in fact, is at the very end when Muro suddenly disappears and actor James Lorinz takes over for him!
As nice as the commentaries are, however, the main attraction will probably be the new two-hour Roy Frumkes-directed making-of documentary, The Meltdown Memoirs. Anyone who's been following the progress of this release knows that the big reason for the hold-up of the special edition was that Synapse was waiting for Frumkes to complete the documentary, and after five years we finally get the big pay-off. Every aspect of the production and the post-production is covered. Frumkes interviews almost every major participant in the film (the one exception is Jim Muro, who strangely only appears in archival footage). The piece also features reams of behind-the-scenes footage, and some tantalizing glimpses at scenes that didn't make the final cut. From a technical standpoint the documentary is not the most sophisticated piece of work (something which Frumkes addresses in his liner notes on this release) and, like the finished movie itself, the running time is exorbitantly long. Nonetheless, it remains a highly satisfying and mostly enjoyable look at the making of Street Trashhttp://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot1s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot1l.jpg)
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot2s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot2l.jpg)The next attraction is the original 16mm short film that the feature was based on. It essentially plays like a shortened verison of the final product, and all of the key scenes on display here later made their way into Frumkes' script. Actors Mike Lackey and Bernard Perlman both appear, playing the same roles that they would in the final movie. However, the short film, while lively, has nowhere near the technical polish that is seen in the feature. It's a rare find that is certainly worth watching, despite being rough around the edges. The video quality on display here is rough too. The short looks colorful, but is soft looking and is taken from a rather beat-up source.http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot4s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot4l.jpg)
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot6s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/strashse/strashse_eshot6l.jpg)The special features are finished off by a teaser trailer that was shot specifically to raise capital from investors, a lengthy still gallery, a theatrical trailer and liner notes by Roy Frumkes on the making of the documentary.
On a side note, fans who are trading in the first Synapse release for this new one will want to make a photocopy of the amusing Michael Felsher liner notes, because they aren't included here. The Tenefly Viper bottle labels that appeared with that release are also not included here.
Street Trash is a movie that I'm a little conflicted over. There are certain things about it that are impressive, notable and humorous, but there are also things about it which don't work or don't sit right. Regardless, it's easy to understand why the production has managed to earn such a loyal cult following over the past twenty years. Synapse Films gives us what is sure to be the definitive video release of the film, and the extras are more than enough to justify an upgrade for those who own the company's previous release. The most anticipated DVD release of 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 has finally become one of the best releases of 2006.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A-
Running Time - 1 hour 41 minutes
English 2.0 Mono
English 5.1 Surround
Audio commentary with writer-producer Roy Frumkes
Audio commentary with director Jim Muro
The Meltdown Memoirs documentary
Original short film
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