The ’80s were a special time for horror films as the art of prosthetic gore and special effects really came into their own in a big way. From werewolf transformations and alien things to slashed throats and decapitations, the days of time-lapse photography and simple splashes of blood were left behind in favor of elaborate and often awesome visual creations.
One of the joys of growing up then was the presence of Fangoria magazine on newsstands offering up the first glimpse, usually in color, of the wildly imaginative and often grotesque creations to come in upcoming horror films. It put films and filmmakers on fans’ radar well before the internet took over those duties, and one of the movies that it helped hype up for me was Jim Muro‘s DayGlo, chuckle-filled nightmare, Street Trash.
The film is a low budget exploitation picture about a case of cheap wine well past its “sell by” date that causes the imbiber to melt down (or explode outward) in a neon-colored rainbow of flesh and viscera. There’s a dash of social commentary in there, too, but it’s never enough to distract from the sleazy shenanigans. And things do get pretty damn sleazy. Thankfully Synapse Films, like myself, are fans of the sleaze, and they’ve recently released a special edition Blu-ray of this ’80s classic.
Keep reading to see what I learned from the commentary track for Jim Muro’s Street Trash.
Street Trash (1987)
Commentator: James Muro (director)
1. The film was produced in Brooklyn in 1984 and shot throughout NYC.
2. The wrecking yard where most of the film is set belonged to Muro’s father. The filmmakers also acquired most of the vehicles and set-dressing from there as well as the junk yard next door.
3. The nude couple caught in bed and who consequently run down the stairs in all their naked glory were friends of the director, and since they were dating they volunteered to do the scene. Fairly sound logic I guess.
4. For the film’s premiere the cast and crew arrived hanging from a garbage truck as opposed to renting a limo.
5. The liquor store owner is played by one of Muro’s film school teachers.
6. The DP (David Sperling) was chosen via coin toss as Muro couldn’t make up his mind between the two contenders.
7. The first meltdown (in the destroyed bathroom) required four different sets/locations including an over-sized toilet.
8. They decided to go with the bright DayGlo colors instead of the traditional blood look because it would “be quite amusing.”
9. The businessman who gets nailed in the face with falling, yellow goo is played by producer Roy Frumkes.
10. Street Trash was apparently meant to be Muro’s thesis film for film school. It was not accepted. He was not surprised.
11. Scenes between the restaurant doorman (James Lorinz) and the establishment’s owner (Tony Darrow) saw the two have such fun together that Muro let them riff their way through two mags of film. He also ended up extending their roles with additional scenes.
12. The scene where the bums and winos play keep-away with one of the guy’s dismembered members featured three different fake peckers. The largest one, the size of a football, was used for shots of the wiener flying through the air.
13. The shot of the police station’s front desk was filmed in a working station in NYC that’s specifically used for film requests. They rented it for the day which included the use of real cops in the background.
14. Muro is pleased when Bill the Cop (Bill Chepil) is killed as he likens it to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in how it’s an unexpected outcome for a lead character.
15. The melts were all done in stages, and Ed the liquor store owner’s involved a little person for the final shot.
16. The dying bellow that Bronson’s wench lets out as she dies is actually a recording of the kitten seen earlier during the fire escape melt.
17. After the end credits begin the film offers an additional scene featuring the doorman and restaurant owner. It’s a funny return to these two characters, and on the commentary track Muro actually exits to be replaced by Lorinz. The scene was filmed in Muro’s dad’s office at the wrecking yard, and Lorinz recalls everyone drinking “real booze” for the scene. He keeps talking through the end credits and offers up some fun anecdotes about the film and his post-Street Trash career which included the lead role in Frankenhooker.
Best in Commentary
- “I just remember thinking when I was directing these actors, are we really doing this? We’re really having them go into this place where they have this kind of racial argument going on?”
- “This shot was definitely pretty horrifying when you think about it.”
- “I do know that the explosion is one of the best things in the movie. We just took every piece of junk that we could find, food items, left over pizza from the crew’s lunch, it is all in there. Foam rubber, methylcellulose, and all this sizzling stuff on the car worked real good.”
Street Trash is a movie in three acts that probably could have benefited from losing act two. All of the character and plot strands are jammed in here while the film’s call to fame (and reason for being) is only teased in the beginning before being back-loaded to the final thirty minutes. Character and plot aren’t normally things to complain about, but here they’re the film’s weakest elements, and the middle section grinds the film to a halt.
Once things start rolling again, though, the joy returns along with more meltdowns, epic brawls and creative uses for oxygen tanks. Make no mistake, Muro and company deliver a truly sleazy, crass, and more than a little offensive movie that you’d be hard pressed to see produced today. The death by gang rape is bested only by a dash of necrophiliac rape, but as nasty as it gets the comical tone remains throughout.
Even with its many faults the movie remains a fun reminder of a decade in film where literally anything went, and while it’s clear to see it as an inspiration for films like Hobo With a Shotgun, it also stands on its own two nearly liquefied feet.
Muro’s commentary isn’t overly raucous, but he shares some fun anecdotes and many kind words for his cast and crew, but it’s only the first of two commentaries present on Synapse Films’ new Street Trash Blu-ray. The copious special features also include a second track from producer Roy Frumkes, Muro’s original short film, an interview and deleted scenes. The best feature by far though is Frumkes’ two hour making-of documentary, The Meltdown Memoirs, which include tons of behind the scenes footage as well as new and old interviews. Mister bigshot director Bryan Singer even appears to chat about his work as a Production Assistant on the film.
What, you thought those prosthetic penises were going to drive themselves back and forth to the set?
Buy Synapse Films’ Special Meltdown Edition of Street Trash from Amazon.
Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives