Review: Street Trash (1987)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #724

Also known as Horror in Bowery Street
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: September 16, 1987
Sub-Genre: Body Horror/Melt Movie
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $500,000
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: J. Michael Muro
Producer: Roy Frumkes
Screenplay: Roy Frumkes, J. Michael Muro (uncredited)
Special Effects: Jennifer Aspinall
Cinematography: David Sperling
Score: Rick Ulfik
Editing: Dennis Werner
Studios: Street Trash Joint Venture, Lightning Pictures
Distributors: Lightning Pictures, Arrow Video (Blu-Ray)
Stars: Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Vic Noto, Mark Sferrazza, Jane Arakawa, Nicole Potter, Pat Ryan, Clarenze Jarmon, Bernard Perlman, Miriam Zucker, M. D’Jango Krunch, James Lorinz, Morty Storm, Sam Blasco, Bruce Torbet

Suggested Audio Jukebox ☢

[1] Chuck Berry “Downbound Train”

[2] Randy Crawford “Street Life”

[3] Tony Camillo “We Do Things My Way”

Nobody likes a hangover. It’s one thing drinking to excess but entirely another waking up the next day feeling like death reheated and, despite our very best attempts to forego this stage of the process, there seems no real foolproof way of avoiding the inevitable. So-called hangover cures actually date back almost as far as these poisons of choice themselves. Ancient Romans swore blind that consumption of a fried canary would alleviate the symptoms, the Greeks believed stoutly in the power of cabbage to take the edge off, the French have been known to add salt to a strong cup of coffee and the Puerto Ricans lift their drinking arm and rub half a lemon under it. Personally I’d rather stick to the tried and trusted method of necking a pint of good old H2o before bedtime, although even this doesn’t guarantee that the morning after will be any less skewwhiff an affair.

It’s ultimately all about watching your measures, going easy on mixing those drinks, and recognize the plateau one arrives at shortly before complete inebriation takes over. However, it’s also advisable to read the label beforehand. You see, certain alcoholic beverages tend to disagree with their subject’s metabolism and it really is wise to know your enemy, or else you could find yourself coming to in a dumpster two days later, spooning a sewer rat. Booze need not concern itself with our dignity or safe delivery as we are expected to appreciate the risks prior to that primary gulp and woe betide us if we fail to do so. Mind you, it’s one thing guzzling back absinthe, but when the tipple in question has the ability to eat you from the inside like rampant ringworm, it’s time to give tee-total a shot.

Speak of the devil, word on the street has it there’s a decidedly potent brew going around down at Greenpoint, Brooklyn as we speak. Apparently, there’s a whole case of the stuff selling at a buck a pop at some liquor store that the owner stumbled across in his basement.

This heady concoction goes by the name of Tenafly Viper ☠ and, though over sixty-years beyond its shelf life, the local hobos can’t get their grubby hands on enough of the stuff. Curiously, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal going on in the way of repeat custom, but that matters not to the store owner as bums are a dime a dozen in this neck of the slums.

One such pair of vagabonds are rascally rogue Fred (Mike Lackey) and his equally destitute younger brother Kevin (Mike Sferrazza). Their two-berth junkyard condo is what you would call a “fixer-upper” and they’ve made this squalid crawlspace their home street home using spare tires for insulation.

The rent is cheap at this scrap heap and owner’s assistant Wendy (Jane Arakawa) sees no justifiable reason to turf them out, despite constant pressure from her sleazy boss Schnizer (R.L. Ryan) to cut these wastoids loose. Kevin and Wendy appear to be getting on rather famously and, while Fred’s out there wheeling and dealing, they’re taking flirting to prejaculate levels and one quiet moment away from finally consummating their blossoming relationship.

Alas, things aren’t all fun and games at the junkyard as “retired” Vietnam vet Bronson (Vic Noto) runs a tight heap of scrap metal and has taken it upon himself to officially claim it as his own personal knocking shop. His disheveled henchmen are expected to keep an ear to the dust at all times, while Bronson sits atop his hill with eyes in his twisted alloy throne, with whatever flesh and bone skank of the day he’s selected as his personal plaything sprawled across his filthy knee obediently awaiting defilement.

It may not be his name on the deeds, but it would take a brave and stupid task force to request he move along. You see, Bronson’s cut throat weapon of choice has been crafted from a human femur and he keeps that shit razor-sharp in case anyone dares undermine his authority.

I know what you’re thinking. Where is the long arm of the law in this ungovernable hell hole? Fret not as hard-nosed and titanium-chinned cop Bill (Bill Chepil) is onto Bronson’s foul game and has every intention of letting him know who’s the swinging dick in this here zip code. Bill’s the kind of enforcement agent who prefers the crunch of bare knuckles to the hiss of blue steel and represents the only hope of calling time on this bone-headed bruiser’s iron-fisted reign of tyranny.

It’s all happening down at the junkyard and, on such a scorcher of a day as today, it’s only natural that folk will want to kick back with a nice refreshing thirst-clencher. In all the hubbub, I’d clean forgotten about the whole Tenafly Viper ☠ debacle, but we’ve just about arrived at the bottoms-up part of our tale.

Street Trash is best described as Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing by way of the wrong thing as it pitches its parasol beneath the blazing solar rays and is content to observe its sorry subjects as they go about their usual fixed routines. In the same manner as Lee’s film gradually introduces the viewer to its spiteful undercurrent, before popping the peace weasel for its final third, Muro’s bedraggled beauty plays the patient approach and banks on the color of its characters to deliver us safely to the dreaded sundown.

This ragtag assembly may be down-and-outs, but after 101 minutes festering in their pitt stink, they become our down-and-outs and we cherish every last rancid one of them dearly.

Honorable mention must go to the gloriously optimistic Burt (Clarenze Jarmon), who sets a new record for how much Kool-Aid and frozen poultry you can cram down your hazmat pants and James Lorinz (Frankenhooker) is simply off-the-leash as a wise cracking, jive talking doorman.

Be warned, your mileage may depend on your tolerance for gang-rape and necrophilia, but who can stay angry at a movie whose patrons playfully engage in a sadistic round of monkey-in-the-middle with a severed penis?

Besides, if you’re looking for the ultimate “melt movie”, then Street Trash has all the Technicolor gloop your heart could possibly desire and all for the measly cost of one buck no less. Its grime may require two long soaks in the tub to dislodge, but I often piss in my bath water anyway (just to be clear, any yellow water is entirely accidental) so I’ll take its stinking majesty and raise it with some fart bubbles (happy accidents every last one). But you can stick your Tenafly Viper ☠ where the garbage rots as I could do without the stinking hangover.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The tagline “It Melts!” says it all without slurring as, while the effects of Viper may vary dependent on wino, I predict a meltdown every time and Jennifer Aspinall delivers the grungy goods with color-coded relish. Known side effects may include excessive bloating, extreme convulsions, explosive diarrhea, foaming from the maw and any other available orifices, and the common thread is positively caked in bodily surplus. The eye candy doesn’t stop there either and that Kevin is one lucky bum.

Read Do The Right Thing Appraisal
Read The Incredible Melting Man Appraisal
Read The Stuff Appraisal
Read The Blob (1987) Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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