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Street Trash (Special Meltdown Edition)

Synapse Films // Unrated // July 9, 2013 // Region 0
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 15, 2013 | E-mail the Author
The Incredible Melting Man comes out on Blu-ray in a couple of weeks, and for your $19.97, you get one (1) and only one incredible melting man. Street Trash will run you a few
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more bucks, yeah, but you get...I dunno, I wasn't keeping a running tally, but something like eight incredible melting men. It's just a better value, and with the economy the way it is, we all need to stretch our incredible melting man dollars as far as they'll go.

Anyway, Street Trash is about this case of cheap, radioactive hooch that liquefies all the bums desperate enough to take a swig. I mean, there's other stuff too, like the detective (Bill Chepil) who doggedly investigates all these goopy puddles of homeless schlubs, a six and a half foot tall psychopath named Bronson (Vic Noto) who's pretty much crowned himself King of the Bums, and a pair of runaway brothers (Mike Lackey and Mark Sferrazza) who have very different ways of dealing with life in a tire fort.

If that doesn't read like much of a coherent summary, then...well, yeah, a plot would probably just get in the way. Street Trash is chaos: artfully designed, gorgeously photographed, ferociously imaginative, completely unhinged chaos. These poor bastards melt in beautiful bursts of color, lovingly rendered with a painterly eye. The makeup effects are wildly ambitious, eager to showcase something even the most rabid gorehounds had never seen every single time a bottle of Viper is cracked open. The scale of the urban decay and the production values behind its most glorious sets...I mean, it's dingy, it's dirty,
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but it's a visual knockout too. ...and speaking of stuff you can't help but marvel at, you also get 'Nam flashbacks with Vietcong vampires, a bunch of sadists playing keepaway with one sadsack's severed wiener, offscreen necrophilia, a five-finger-and-two-pant-leg discount in a supermarket, and a whole lot of full-frontal nudity out of the deal too. It's the greatest movie Troma never made.

When Street Trash is waistdeep in exploding bums and generally reveling in its dementia, it's amazing. Who needs coherent storytelling when you have a homeless guy flushing himself down the toilet in a psychedelic explosion of color? It's just that what passes for a plot is so thinly sketched that when Street Trash takes its meds and decides it's time to be a movie again, the whole thing screeches to a halt. A good bit of time is spent palling around with this small army of bums, and between the streets, the scrapyard, the dump, and...I don't know, Mobville in Little Italy, it builds all these different worlds. At the same time, there's basically no story, and all the character arcs and relationships and stuff are underdeveloped, so I kind of just sat there waiting for the Clozapine to wear off and for Street Trash to go batshit insane again. It feels like the movie either needs to be longer to better flesh out its many characters and subplots, or it needs to be tightened up so it can just maniacally scream ahead the entire time. As it is, the pacing throughout this cut of Street Trash is a little too stop-and-go for my tastes.

Here's the thing, though. When I watched Street Trash for the first time this afternoon (and no, I don't know how it took me this long either), I walked away from it with a mixed but generally positive reaction. The uneven pacing was a drag, sure, but when the movie's firing on all cylinders as it very frequently is, there's not a whole hell of a lot else like it out there, and its Ultraslime-caked depravity and startling visual eye are just straight-up entrancing. The short answer would go something like "good but not quite great". Afterwards, though, I found myself completely sucked in by Street Trash's hours and hours of extras, and I was head over heels in love with the movie by the end of it all. Now I'm desperate to give the flick a fresh look, and if not for this pesky deadline looming over me, I'm sure I would, too. I'm pretty sure when I give this disc another spin, I'm going to look back on this review and shake my head at how wrong I was. If Future-Me were writing this review, he'd probably give it DVD Talk's absolute highest rating. Present-Day-Me is going to opt for a bold, italicized Highly Recommended instead.

Just...just click on any of the screenshots scattered throughout this review. If you don't feel like scrolling, I'll throw one more at you:

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Honestly, there's not a whole lot I could tell you that this screencap doesn't do faster and better. This high def presentation of Street Trash puts the "gore" in gorgeous. Nevermind the fact that the movie was shot on a shoestring; the crispness and clarity showcased here put just about every other '80s-era Blu-ray release to shame. I'm genuinely in awe of how razor sharp and richly detailed this disc is. Its colors pack a hell of a wallop too. No speckling or wear of note ever sneak onto the frame, and the bitrate's hefty enough to sidestep any sputters or stutters in the AVC encode. Film grain is present but unintrusive, looking completely natural rather than having its texture digitally smeared away. It's always a good thing to have a perfectionist like Don May at the helm, and this disc comes after a
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short delay to get everything just right. It was worth the wait too 'cause this disc is flawless.

Street Trash claws its way onto a dual-layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

Street Trash piles on four -- count 'em! -- 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Okay, okay, two of them are audio commentaries, so we'll get into all that later. As for the stuff you're interested in for this chunk of the review, Street Trash is presented in both its original mono and in a shiny 5.1 remix. It's no fun to say this, but I felt kind of let down by both of them. The two-channel mono track seemed a little too shrill for my ears, and I had to dial the volume down a lot lower than usual for it to be comfortable. The remix, meanwhile, had me cranking up my receiver quite a bit higher than normal.

It's not much of a remix, honestly. Dialogue and effects have a nasty habit of bleeding into the surrounds. Just as one case in point, there's a brawl in the junkyard where you hear the same grunts, groans, punches, and clunking metal all at once in both surround channels, both of the front mains, and the center. Some sequences do a respectable job fleshing out a sense of atmosphere, but don't expect much in the way of directionality. It's no surprise that a remix of a quarter-century old cult classic would have dated dialogue, not much going on in the lower frequences (aside from that 808-style drum machine kick anyway), and a generally boxy quality, but even when grading on that kind of curve, Street Trash is still sort of a disappointment. Completely listenable, don't get me wrong, but not up to the standards I usually set for Synapse. To be fair, absolutely no one else has made any of these same complaints, so take this review for what it's worth.

Also on the bill is a set of English (SDH) subtitles.

  • The Meltdown Memoirs (2 hrs., 4 min.; SD): If you recognize the name of Street Trash writer/producer Roy Frumkes, chances are it's because you're familiar with his Document of the Dead projects. We're talking about a guy who knows his way around filmmaking documentaries and then some, and The Meltdown Memoirs is phenomenal. Hand to God, based on a single viewing, it's already one of my all-time favorite movies-about-movies.

    As you'd probably expect from a two hour doc, The Meltdown Memoirs is startlingly comprehensive, featuring basically every surviving member of the cast and crew. (There's really only one notable omission, and skip down to the next bullet point for that.) There's also a fair amount of 16mm interview footage and behind-the-scenes stuff from the mid-'80s, not to mention peeks at some original audition tapes and a cable access showcase. The Meltdown Memoirs tackles...well, everything: casting, financing, storyboarding and conceptual art, production design and cinematography, the goopy make-up effects, transvestite cakes, a pig's head washing up on the beach right where one actress was supposed to play dead, future A-list director Bryan Singer recording himself peeing, crappy coffee cakes, how a bat lady led to a real detective being cast as a cop in the movie, the metric ton of stuff that was yanked out of the nearly three hour long first cut, why Street Trash cratered theatrically and on home video, what everyone has been up to since filming wrapped, and, like, 154,000 other things.

    You might be reading this and thinking "two hours about Street Trash?!?", and I was right there with you beforehand, but I was honestly sad to see it end. It's so infectiously fun. Much like Never Sleep Again, the people, the personalities, and their ridiculously incredible stories are make this doc what it is. The Meltdown Memoirs works brilliantly as a documentary about the production and release of a wildly unconventional
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    splatter-comedy, and it works every bit as well as pure entertainment. Besides, how many documentaries have alternate melting boob makeup effects tests? Absolutely essential viewing.

  • Jane Arakawa Interview (9 min.; SD): Jane Arakawa was just about the only surviving member of the Street Trash cast/crew who didn't pop up in the feature-length doc, and it wasn't from lack of trying. Frumkes eventually was able to track her down, and here, she reflects back on the shoot and rightfully gushes about her rock 'n roll lifestyle with Bernard Fowler.

  • Audio Commentaries: Roy Frumkes spends most of The Meltdown Memoirs on the other side of the camera, but he takes center stage on the first of Street Trash's two commentary tracks. As it turns out, this conversation is every bit as compelling as his feature-length doc with surprisingly little overlap. You're treated to stories like a very devoted D.P. filming in a garbage truck as it's closing, how the screenplay was written with thirteen (!) major roles, a smaller part that could've gone to Burt Young, and even a few ideas about what'd happen in Street Trash 2. Again, if you pick up this Blu-ray disc, you really owe it to yourself to give Frumkes' commentary a whirl.

    Director James Munro's commentary is solid but not quite required listening when you're already four hours deep into the extras. It's more technically oriented, which is a nice contrast, delving into stuff like the execution of the 'rocket' that closes out the flick and the use of at least a little live instrumentation in an era of all-synths-all-the-time. There are plenty of great stories here too, such as choosing a D.P. based on a coin toss. There's a special guest that pops up in the end credits, although it'll all sound awfully familiar if you've already given The Meltdown Memoirs a whirl.

  • Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (7 min.; SD): The best of the deleted scenes had already been spliced into The Meltdown Memoirs, but another five chunks of footage are heaped on here. More hookers! More yuppie melting! More improvs!

  • Street Trash - The Original 16mm Short (15 min.; SD): All melting bums, all the time! This streamlined short shares a lot of the same DNA as the feature-length flick it eventually spawned, including the casting of Mike Lackey as a Torgo-lookin' lead.

  • Rare Promotional Teaser (4 min.; SD): A teaser with wholly original footage was produced to raise a little cash for the feature film. Long thought lost and rediscovered a little while back on VHS, it's found its way onto this Blu-ray disc too.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): The one and only high-def extra is a theatrical trailer.

The Final Word
If you're aching for lush characterization and tight plotting, then...well, to read this, you would've had to scroll past a picture of a homeless guy spewing green and purple goop an' getting flushed down a dingy toilet, so I don't know what's wrong with you. If you're game for a hundred minutes and change of artfully photographed depravity, though, then lemme introduce you to Street Trash. A tremendously unique cult classic, a drop-dead gorgeous high-def presentation, somewhere in the neighborhood of six hours of extras: yeah, Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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