Digi-Schlock: STREET TRASH (Synapse Blu-Ray)

Back when blu-ray was just a twinkle in the eye of home video distributors, Synapse did a top-notch special edition DVD set for Street Trash.  It boasted an excellent transfer of the film, a full-length documentary about it and a number of other cool extras.  The result became one of the best-loved Synapse releases.  Once blu-ray became a market leader, it was inevitable that Synapse would have to revisit this classic in high-definition.  Thankfully, that time has arrived – and the results maintain the standard of quality this company has established for their ever-growing list of blu-rays.

Synapse doesn’t disappoint with the new HD transfer used here: the details are sharp as a tack, the colors are as vibrant as they are rich and the bump in resolution makes it oh-so-easy to appreciate the tremendous technical finesse behind the camera on this gritty little gem.  Both mono 2.0 and stereo 5.1 sound mixes are included, in a lossless format.  The latter was listened to for this review and it does justice to the film’s complex sound mix: there is plenty of surround speaker activity, particularly during those meltdown scenes, and the end result is truly immersive for the viewer.

The extras begin with a pair of solo commentary tracks, one by writer/producer Roy Frumkes and the second by directors James Muro. The Frumkes track offers an excellent overview of the film.  As a screenwriter, he’s able to explain his different storytelling choices (including the controversial rape scene) as well as what examples of dialogue were enhanced by the cast.

As a producer, Frumkes provides a nice technical appreciation of the film – the description of how different Steadicam shots were achieved will be really illuminating to filmmakers – and is also able to discuss the business side of putting together such an unconventional film.  A nice bonus is the fact that he’s kept tabs on most of the film’s participants and is able to offer updates on their whereabouts.

Muro’s track is more technically inclined but no less rewarding.  His comments are very scene-specific, discussing the motivations and techniques for all the camera moves as well as his director’s justification for how different scenes were covered.  Muro also offers fond appreciations of the cast’s work – and you’ll be able to learn which two cast members were his “uncles” as a kid.  Between his track and the Frumkes track, you get a nice 360-degree portrait of the why’s and how’s behind the film’s creative choices.

The centerpiece of the extras is The Meltdown Memoirs, a documentary original included on Synapse’s “Ultimate Meltdown Edition” double-DVD set.  Frumkes himself produced this film over a four-year period, shooting interviews with every available cast and crew member as well as incorporating all sorts of behind the scenes footage (film and video) from the production itself.  The end result runs a whopping 124 minutes but it won’t bore Street Trash devotees for one second.  Frumkes acts as the narrative anchor, guiding the viewer through the project’s inception, pre-production, shoot, editing, release and cult-infamy afterlife.

However, like Street Trash itself, The Meltdown Memoirs travels through many subplots and digressions within this structure that yield all manner of offbeat rewards.  The actors who were so important to the feature are just as important to this documentary and their retrospective comments yield moments both hilarious (Vic Noto’s “Ducky Drake” story) and haunting (Miriam Zucker tells how a real-life tragedy informed her performance as a victim in this film).

And that’s not all The Meltdown Memoirs has to offer.  Frumkes and the cast talk about the many scenes cut from the film, including a fantasy dance interlude.  There is also extensive discussion of problems at the film’s distributor, Lightning Pictures, fumbled the release of the film.  However, the element fans will find most interesting is learning what became of the film’s colorful participants.  Bill Chepil is particularly memorable: a visit to his Arizona home reveals he has become a born-again Republican who leads a popular doo-wop revival group when he isn’t pumping iron or riding motorcycles (!).  In short, this documentary is as much an oddball gem as the film that inspired it and is thus a must-see for anyone who loves Street Trash.

Elsewhere, you’ll find the original short film version of Street Trash that Muro and Mike Lackey made as film school students.  You’ll be amazed just how many scenes from the original short were reworked for the feature version – and Lackey also did the makeup effects, which include a clever grossout bit involving an eyeball that didn’t make it to the feature version.  There’s also a brief promo teaser for the film, just under three minutes, that was taken from an old VHS source.  It looks rough but it is nice that it was included here for the completists.  The clever theatrical trailer for the film is also included and it does a nice job of selling the film as a black comedy rather than just as a horror film.

The image gallery included on the previous double-DVD set isn’t carried over here so hardcore fans will want to hang onto it for that reason.  However, there are a couple of new extras to spice up this blu-ray version.  For example, there is a quintet of outtake scenes from the film taken from a VHS source: the main highlight here is some more profane improvisation from Tony Darrow.  That said, the killer of the new additions is an interview with actress Jane Arakawa, one of the few people not included in The Meltdown Memoirs.  A nine-minute chat with her reveals her memories of the production, what she’s done since the film and a fun anecdote about how she learned that Street Trash has a serious cult following.

In short, this is the high-def upgrade that Street Trash deserves and another fine addition to the Synapse blu-ray repertoire.  If you’re a fan of truly wild cult cinema and have a home theater, this is a worthy addition for your collection.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Street Trash, click here.

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