Color, 1987, 101m.
Directed by Jim Muro
Starring Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Jane Arakawa, Vic Noto, M. DeJango Krunch, Sam Blasco, Bernard Perlman, Tony Darrow, Bruce Torbet, James Lorinz
Synapse (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DTS-HD 5.1, Dragon (Germany)

Street TrashHey, kids, it's the greatest movie ever made about exploding bums! The underground gorehound favorite Street Trash rose to prominence in the late 1980s thanks to the horror home video boom that also spawned such word-of-mouth hits as Re-Animator and the first two Evil Dead films, with enthusiastic fanzine coverage making it a hot ticket for those in the know on VHS. Shot dirt-cheap over a lengthy period with a scrappy, often-changing production crew, the film really has no right being any good at all; the concept sounds like your average Troma film, and the all-over-the-map storyline threatens to blow apart into incoherence at any second. Still, this little sickie beat the odds and managed to even knock out the diehards who thrilled to its Day-Glo body melting, unexpected sense of humor and eye-popping cinematography.

The picaresque, fluid-drenched story (sort of derived from Kurosawa's Dodes-ka-den, at least according to the filmmakers) kicks in when a liquor store owner uncovers a long lost crate of booze called Tenefly Viper. He sells the stuff off to homeless people for a dollar per bottle; unfortunately, Viper also causes the consumer to bubble, burst, and melt in a bright mess of pastel colors. Our hero, Freddie (Lackey), goes on a desperate crusade to save his fellow bums and outmaneuver his nemesis, a crazed junkyard Vietnam vet named Bronson (Noto), but this summary only scratches the surface. Also swirling around in this city-sized toilet are hookers (both dead and alive), corrupt cops, swaggering Mafiosi, flying genitalia, a deadly acetylene tank, and much, much more.

Director Muro (a great Steadicam operator whose affection for that device plays an integral part here) and writer/producer Frumkes (The Johnsons, Document of the Dead) spin around so many subplots and weird characters that first time viewers could easily get a migraine trying to take it all in at once. The funniest subplot involves a two-bit gangster Nick Duran (Goodfellas' Darrow) and his Street Trashcontinuing antagonism with a disgruntled doorman (Frankenhooker's scene-swiping Lorinz). The gags come fast and furious, some more funny than others (the punchline of the necrophilia vignette will make more than a few viewers gag); what's more remarkable is that, apart from a few overlong and sluggish bits involving Bronson's background, the film manages to race along at such a reckless pace for 101 minutes. Certainly not for all tastes, this is still a one-of-a-kind achievement and one hell of a party movie.

Street Trash first hit DVD courtesy of Germany's Dragon in a bland transfer that at least outdid the beloved Vestron videotapes which offered most fans' first introduction. Street TrashThe film finally got a much-needed facelift courtesy of Synapse, first in a single-disc, minimally-appointed edition, then as an essential double-disc edition in 2006 hat really did it proud with bold and brilliant colors (even when the bums aren't oozing across the screen), and the clarity is much sharper than before. No quibbles whatsoever here. Only the two-disc edition features a new 5.1 audio mix (in addition to the original mono mix) that sports some outrageous directional effects, really making use of the rear speakers to enhance the already aggressive, bizarre soundtrack. Your speakers won't know what him 'em.

The main feature on the special edition also features two audio commentary tracks. The first comes from Frumkes, a great guy whose enthusiasm and energy for the project come right through from the beginning. He covers countless details on the track through a number of lively anecdotes, pointing out the various locales and talking about the backgrounds (and futures) of practically ever actor who graces the screen. Muro then turns up on the second track (his only new appearance on the disc); since he found religion after making the film, he largely sidesteps the gutter nature of the project and instead focuses on the technical aspects that went on to make his career. He's also enjoyably feisty throughout and makes for good company, with the two tracks flattering each other nicely. Also included on the first disc is the appropriately frenetic theatrical trailer.

Street TrashHowever, for the full background about all things Street Trash, do not under any circumstances miss the second disc, containing Frumkes' essential 124-minute documentary, The Meltdown Memoirs. Several years in the making, it's a hilarious, fascinating, and often startling chunk of low-budget cinema history, covering the film from its original origins (complete with glimpses of Frumkes' legendary unfinished project, Tales that Will Tear Your Heart Out) through its conception and completion, then far beyond. While Muro is present only in archival interviews from the shoot, most of the other participants (the ones who could still be located, anyway) - even Bryan Singer! - are on hand to talk about the making of the film and their lives afterwards, all of which ran off in wildly different directions. The sheer volume of interviewees on-hand is staggering, and everyone has something great and informative to say. Don't let the mammoth running time fool you; there isn't a tiny bit of fat on this, one of the finest making-ofs ever assembled.

Not enough for ya? Disc two also features the 15-minute short film version of Street Trash, shot on 16mm and offering an interesting look at what amounts to a rough draft for the finished product, as well as the original promotional teaser, a hefty gallery of behind-the-scenes and promotional photos, and liner notes by Frumkes that serve as a sort of postscript to Meltdown Memoirs (which already has a few postscripts built into it as well). (The single disc version features some collector's decals and different liners by Mike Felsher devoted to the film itself, so completists may still want to hang on to that one.)

The inevitable 2013 Blu-Ray revisit manages to do an even better job with this crackpot classic, boasting an HD transfer that improves on the already excellent predecessor with an impressive presentation featuring a surprising amount of image depth and a very clean, fresh appearance throughout. It's almost disorienting that this film could actually look so good; apart from some slightly wobbly frames at edit points (a flaw in the original source), it really looks like it could have been shot yesterday. An HD master had actually been created back in 2005 (hilariously with the involvement of restoration specialist Robert A. Harris), but the advances in technology meant it had to be revisited again -- and the results were definitely worth it. Optional English subtitles are also included, in a nice welcome touch, and the audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and mono mixes. Apart from the gallery, all of the extras have been ported over here -- the full-length doc, 16mm short, trailer and promotional teaser -- along with some nice new extras as well. The elusive actress Jane Arakawa, who turns in a memorable and very lively performance, was probably the biggest MIA name from The Meltdown Memoirs, but she was finally tracked down in Los Angeles for a nine-minute video interview in which she expresses her surprise at the film's cult following and shares memories of the impressive junkyard set and the various participants. Also included are five selections of deleted scenes sourced from VHS, including Frumkes' brief cameo, more shenanigans with the ghetto hookers, a couple of profane extra takes with Tony Darrow, and two extended dialogue scenes. Only quibble: don't let the menu screen play too long or you'll get really, really sick of that song in a hurry. For modern horror and cult movie fans, this should be just your cup of Viper.

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Updated review on July 6, 2012.