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February 2010

Street Trash

cast: Mike Lackey, Vic Noto, Bill Chepil, Marc Sferrazza, and Jane Arakawa

director: Jim Muro

100 minutes (18) 1987
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
review by Gary McMahon

Street Trash

It's been a long time since I first saw Jim Muro's Street Trash, and to be honest I was worried that the film wouldn't hold up. That it would be, well, a bit rubbishy, really. So I inserted the disc into my machine with trepidation (well, with my hand, but you know what I mean), dimmed the lights, and sat back in my armchair with a nice slug of single malt. I should have been drinking Tenafly Viper, but that drink isn't real. It's just in the film, you silly sausage... And what a film it is. I should have trusted my instincts and realised that a trash classic like this never fades; if anything, it gets better with age. Or worse, depending on your point of view...

There's a plot, of sorts, but it's so slight it doesn't really matter. Something about a bunch of skid-row bums drinking cheap hooch (the aforementioned Tenafly Viper) and the liquor causing them to melt. These bums live in a junkyard, where the fat sex-pest owner is always chasing his secretary for a shag, and everyone seems to hate everyone else, and they're all looking for a reason to fight. There's a sort of leader - a psychotic Vietnam veteran named Bronson. He has a knife made from the bone of a man's leg. There's an insane policeman, too, who beats people up and then vomits on them. Yes, it's that kind of film.

The masterstroke here is the ingenious use of special effects. Rather than having the bums melt in gorily realistic ways, they melt down into pools of multi-coloured expressionist gloop. There's no blood, just coloured slime, like paint, and this makes the meltdowns so surreal that they're almost beautiful. Almost, in a weird kind of way...

There's something gloriously, brilliantly... renegade about this film. It thumbs its nose at everyone, not caring who it offends. In the process it almost becomes anti-offensive: if something here upsets you, it's clear that your sense of humour just isn't working properly. An example of this is the scene where one of the homeless men has his penis severed, and the others throw it around as part of a sick game of piggy-in-the-middle. It's hilarious. The scene is so daftly done that it simply isn't offensive. Ditto when a guy melts noisily into a toilet bowl, desperately reaching for the chain as he drains away through the U-bend.

There's also a great exploding-body gag. Possibly the best I've ever seen. Oh, and that scene right at the end, the one with the oxy-acetylene gas canister... pure genius. Really, it has to be seen to be believed. Street Trash seems to exist in its own little universe, a grungy, half-demolished New York City where even extreme violence and gang rape are funny and entertaining. It's a world I'd hate to live in, but one I love to revisit via the medium of DVD. A giddy exploitation classic, this cheeky little bastard of a film does exactly what you'd expect, and more. And less... Oh, just watch it and see for yourself.



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