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STREET TRASH (director: Jim Muro; screenwriter: Roy Frumkes; cinematographer: David Sperling; editor: Dennis Werner; music: Rick Ulfik; cast: Mike Lackey (Fred), Vic Noto (Bronson), Bill Chepil (Bill James), Mark Sferrazza (Kevin), Jane Arakawa (Wendy), R.L. Ryan (Frank Schnizer), Tony Darrow (Nick Duran), James Lorinz (Doorman), Clarenze Jarmon (Burt), M. D’Jango Krunch (Ed), Bernard Perlman (Wizzy), Nicole Potter (Sarah, Bronson’s girl), Sam Blasco (Jimmy the cop); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy Frumkes; Synapse Films; 1987)
It’s 22-year-old director Jim Muro’s only film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Love it or hate it, the low-budget horror-comedy shocker still stinks from its raunchy subject matter and ugly depiction of the homeless. The unpleasant subjects are gratuitously covered as exploitation. The plotless film has sequences that include murder, gang rape, gang bullying, shoplifting, corpse screwing, melting flesh death from tainted wine, racism, a dismembered penis being tossed around, scary bums as windshield wipers, Mafia hit men and police brutality. It’s 22-year-old director Jim Muro’s only film, as he soon afterwards went to Hollywood to become a successful cameraman on mainstream films. Writer Roy Frumkes lets it roll in the garbage to keep it in bad taste and smelling too putrid for a mainstream audience. The subversive black comedy/horror cult film gained favor in the late 1980s when it was shown to Manhattan theater goers as a Midnight only film, one that drew the usual stoners and film buffs.

In the slums of lower Manhattan, two runaway brothers–the fallen 18-year-old Fred (Mike Lackey) and the much nicer younger brother Kevin (Mark Sferrazza)–are derelicts, who live in a shanty in the back of of an auto wrecking yard. Life changes drastically in the slum when the nasty owner of the local liquor store, Ed (M. D’Jango Krunch), discovers hidden in the basement a case of wine from 40 years ago called Tenafly Viper and sells it for only a buck a bottle. Ed sells his first bottle to Fred. When Fred is robbed, we quickly see that the cheap wine is gulped down by the bum thief and has the immediate side effect of causing a melt down and different colored goo being released from the body.

There are a series of misadventures revolving around the bad-ass bully derelict, Bronson (Vic Noto ), a mentally touched Vietnam vet, having the bums pay him protection money. A psychopathic tough guy cop, Bill James (Bill Chepil), who likes to bash heads and brutalize the neighborhood without following police procedures. Officer James prowls the neighborhood looking for a serial killer not realizing it’s the tainted wine. The secretary in the salvage place Wendy (Jane Arakawa), who must fend off the sexual advances of her sleazy fat slob boss (R.L. Ryan), while she seeks romance from the unworldly much younger Kevin. And the Mafia connected restaurant owner Nick (Tony Darrow), who blames the doorman (James Lorinz) for his girlfriend’s gang rape by a group of bums and moves to get the kid taken out by a hitman, especially after being called Nick the Dick. To the doorman’s surprise, after ratting out the boss is told by Officer James there’s no “witness protection program” in his precinct.

It’s a likable bad film, with sophomoric humor. But it’s a missed opportunity to say something deeper about street life than offer only stupid goofs. There are too many moronic set pieces and only superficial nihilist commentary on insidious social situations without any attempt to find a more heady wit or offer a more sound voice to express the very real homeless problem the city was experiencing at the time.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”