Debuting on Blu-ray in Synapse Films’ “Special Meltdown Edition,” the 1987 skid-row epic centers on an auto junkyard populated by homeless winos. One of them, who looks like famed Torgo from Manos: The Hands of Fate, finds that a decades-old bottle of Tenafly Viper purchased at the local liquor store causes those who drink it to melt into puddles of steaming goo. Ever resourceful, he tricks his enemies into drinking it; ergo, they disintegrate into a graphic, liquid, toxic mess. (Exception: the grossly obese man who naturally inflates Willy Wonka-style, just prior to exploding.)
That’s about as much plot as you get. In between the various (literal) meltdowns of society’s undesirables, the grimy players do their best to piss each other off, from gang rape and necrophilia to perhaps the film’s most notorious scene (which is really saying something): A guy who accidentally urinates on a fellow bum finds his manhood sliced right off in retaliation, which then is used in a twisted game of keepaway. Clutching his crotch, the unlucky degenerate makes a stunning leap for his airborne member — a shot that visually apes that part in Risky Business when Tom Cruise made a play for his mother’s prized Fabergé egg.
My favorite scene, however, has the lone African-American character scouring for dinner in the grocery store, stuffing his pants full of foodstuffs. As he helps himself to the poultry aisle, he is discovered by an elderly woman, a “wrinkly, honky bitch” he tells to mind her own business. Her response is to contact the manager, who asks our unruly shoplifter, “Sir, why do you have chicken in your pants?”
The cast is full of unknowns (many friends of the director, Jim Muro), with Frankenhooker madman James Lorinz as the flick’s biggest “name.” He plays a doorman at a Mafia-backed bistro, and his motor-mouthed delivery proves hysterical. In his precious few scenes, he steals the show.
Working with a limited budget, Muro resorts to many cheap camera tricks that suggest repeated viewing of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. (Conversely, while watching Trash’s opening credits, I couldn’t help but think that Danny Boyle did a bit of borrowing himself for Trainspotting.) Muro’s original 10-minute short from which this feature-length film was born appears on Synapse’s overflowing disc, as does an incredible documentary on Street Trash’s making that clocks in more than two hours — far longer than the film itself! My heart belongs to the package’s included Tenafly Viper stickers you could slap on any bottle of hooch; few would get the joke, but those who would obviously possess exquisite taste in cult movies. —Rod Lott