“It’s the finest exploding hobo movie ever made.” This was how Street Trash was pitched to me. Granted, it’s not a crowded field, but I had to see the Citizen Kane of exploding hobo movies. The truly odd thing is that this amazing statement somehow managed to undersell the weirdness of Street Trash. It is actually a sprawling slice-of-life set in a grimy, Troma-esque ‘80s dystopia, kind of like something made by a lobotomized Martin Scorsese.
Tagline: Things in New York are about to go down the toilet…
More Accurate Tagline: Um… so… that happened…
Guilty Party: Writer/producer Roy Frumkes. “Known” for writing The Substitute trilogy, Frumke appears to have written Street Trash in a single evening. What’s worse is that Frumke wasn’t happy with having pushed this mewling horror from his haunted birth canal. He had to produce the film and show everyone what was going on in his head. As it turns out, it involves rape. Lots and lots of rape.
Synopsis: The film opens on pre-Giuliani New York which was basically composed of all the worst parts of Gotham City and Thunderdome. In a normal film, we might meet its protagonist first, but words like “protagonist,” “normal” and “film” don’t really apply to Street Trash. The first character we meet is Fred, a young wino who bears a striking resemblance to a skinny Torgo in a pimp hat. Through a series of misadventures that, if I recapped them in any detail would kill the piece of my soul that allows me to find joy in the laughter of children, Fred finds himself in the possession of a dollar bill. He takes the money to a liquor store run by Bob Zmuda.
Zmuda, looking for something to sell, wanders into his storeroom. Hidden behind some wood paneling in a crawlspace that still reeks of dead hooker, he finds a dusty crate of what looks like Jagermeister. Zmuda does what any responsible proprietor would do: sells the stuff, called Viper, for a buck. Fred buys a bottle and immediately loses it to another hobo who, after horking it down, instantly melts into bright blue goop.
Fearing that a coherent narrative might be developing, the film zips over to the junkyard, where the King of the Hobos presides over his people. His badge of office is a sharpened human femur. I am in no way exaggerating any of the King’s traits. The King might be the King, but he’s still a hobo, which means he has to clean windows. He’s also a seething cauldron of rage that kills a guy for no real reason. So he’s a pretty realistic king all told.
The junkyard where the King presides is owned by Frank Schnizer (Pat Ryan, instantly recognizable to Troma fans as the corrupt Mayor Belgoody from Toxic Avenger), an elephantine sleaze who spends most of his time trying to rape his assistant Wendy. Wendy only has eyes for Kevin, Fred’s younger brother, who lives in a shack made out of tires. Sure, Wendy has a mullet and bears a striking resemblance to E.T., but she’s still setting her sights low.
Street Trash is like watching a drunk man with severe vertigo trying to spin plates. The previous murder has attracted police attention. Bill the Cop (this is how the character is credited) is rightly convinced that the King of the Hobos was the one who put that hapless businessman through his windshield. Considering the King is a monster who walks around with a fucking sharpened human femur, it’s not an unreasonable suspicion. The film mostly forgets about Viper and the dissolving hobo plotline and instead focuses on Bill the Cop’s grudge against the King of the Hobos. Doesn’t Bill know that an arrest will only provoke a succession crisis amongst the city’s homeless?
At this point, the movie is just throwing characters and plotlines at us to see if they stick. It’s New York, so fuck it, we get a mafia plot. Fred picks up a drunken moll while she vomits in an alley. As it turns out, this is the girlfriend of local mobster Nick Duran. After Fred has his way with her, a group of hobos break into Fred’s tire home and drag her off to be raped and murdered. There’s not a joke here. Rape is never funny.
An annoyed Duran unleashes a hitman on New York. To accurately describe the hitman’s fashion sense, I’d have to say he wasn’t so much dressed as upholstered. This guy runs smack into Bill the Cop who, in a spectacularly unconvincing fight scene, kicks the hitman’s ass, drags him into the bathroom and, well, we all know what’s coming. Leaving the bloody hitman unconscious by the urinals, Bill the Cop gets set, sticks his finger down his throat and… pukes on the guy’s head? I’ll say this for Street Trash: it features the one and only bulimic bad ass on record. It’s important to note that Bill the Cop neither arrests the hitman nor calls it in. He just leaves the man there with puke slowly drying on his head. That’s some bang up police work. Flush with success (sorry), Bill the Cop heads over to the junkyard and starts some shit with the King of the Hobos. This does not go well, and Bill provides the femur for the King’s next knife.
The film suddenly remembers Viper, that booze that makes people melt. Fred witnesses a fat hobo drink some, and we get the movie’s money shot when the hobo explodes like a bomb stuffed with snack cakes. This is the only hobo that actually explodes at any point. As to why he explodes, who knows. At this point in the film, you will be beyond caring. Fred makes the connection between the Viper and the explosion and rushes off to warn Bob Zmuda. Sadly, three other people melt before Fred can do anything.
One of those to die at the hands of Viper is the Queen of the Hobos. This makes the King freak out and he chooses to take his anger out on Kevin. Unfortunately, Kevin was in the process of getting to third base with Wendy and getting the signal from the coach to slide into home. The King chases Kevin around for a little while, but fortunately, Kevin has seen Jaws. He launches a tank of compressed air at the King, beheading him.
According to the ancient laws of the hobo people, this makes Kevin the new king.
Life-Changing Subtext: Rape is an ever-present and hilarious hazard to living in the city.
Defining Quote: Fred: “You want some of that upside-down pussy.” He’s referring to Wendy, and that truly bizarre stereotype of Asian women. He still manages to get even that wrong. I would chalk this up to character error, but I’m pretty confident that Roy Frumkes has never seen a woman’s genitals outside of one of his uncle’s snuff films.
Standout Performance: Vic Noto as Bronson, the King of the Hobos. The film’s sprawling cast makes most of the characters mere ciphers, and any traits that get revealed tend to be unappealing. The King of the Hobos, on the other hand, has a rich backstory that involves a tour in Vietnam where he worked as a smuggler. Haunted by flashbacks, the King believes passing 747s to be air support and even has dreams about fighting vampires on the Mekong delta. He’s the only character with an inner life. And he’s the fucking King of the Hobos.
What’s Wrong: It should be pretty clear that a lot went wrong here, but I want to discuss character names. Most characters are not introduced when they appear and then only much later through mumbled lines of dialogue, which is what led to character nicknames like “Pimp-Hatted Torgo,” “Bulimic Cop” and “King of the Hobos.”
Also, this is a very difficult film to summarize. I tried to keep things pertinent to the plot, but that’s tough when there isn’t much of a plot to be had. The film feels like a short made about Viper with about an hour of completely superfluous footage shoved in the middle. I’d call it a shit sandwich, but that implies the existence of bread. Street Trash makes one doubt the existence of bread.
There’s also a running theme of violation. After killing him, the King of the Hobos pisses on Bill the Cop. Bill vomits on his vanquished prey. And then there are the numerous cases of rape and near rape. I’ll explore the worst case in the Transcendent Moment.
Flash of Competence: The King of the Hobos implies that there’s a better movie lurking somewhere beneath everything else. What this movie could be I have no idea.
Best Scenes: Bill the Cop bursts into the film like a balding, roided up gorilla. He comes out of nowhere to harass the local homeless. During his introduction, which includes some fabulously stilted ‘80s cop jargon, another hobo downs some Viper on a fire escape nearby. Since consistency is for other people, the guy turns into yellow goop rather than blue. Maybe he had liver trouble – but then why didn’t the other homeless man? I might be overthinking this.
Anyway, a businessman (played by Frumkes in a cameo that thrilled absolutely no one), walks by below and notices this yellow stuff landing on his shoe. Then, like no one ever does, he looks up. You know, instead of jumping back and then looking up. So he gets a face full of melted hobo which, in accordance to Newton’s Third Law of Dissolving Transient, proceeds to melt the businessman’s face. Shrieking in agony, the businessman staggers over to Bill the Cop, who decides now is a good time for a conversation. Then, he gets in an inexplicable screaming argument with one of the passersby and suddenly wanders off to find more hobos to assault.
Transcendent Moment: There is a delirious scene that encapsulates everything that’s wrong with Street Trash in an incoherent five minutes that plays as the final argument against the existence of love and beauty in the world.
It begins in the junkyard’s office, where corpulent Frank is on top of Wendy doing his damnedest to rape her. Now here’s the weird part: it’s played for laughs. You can tell because of the wacky fat guy music burbling in the background. Wendy barely manages to club Frank over the head and escape. Problem is, Frank’s still got a load in the old cannon and he’s not happy until he fires it into an unwilling target. He wanders into the hobo village frantically looking for something to rape. He’s in luck: the nude corpse of the woman that was raped to death in the previous scene is lying on the riverbank. Frank barely has to hesitate before he’s waddling down the bank. The first time I saw this movie, I thought, “Oh, the body’s in good condition, so he’s going to see if she’s breathing.” Of course, that was back when I still believed in puppies and hugs.
We cut to Fred, wandering through the junkyard when the King comes out of nowhere and threatens him with the knife. It’s good to be the King. He gets Fred on the ground and is ready to ram that bone into something soft and screaming (just like Frank!). At that moment, a hobo sticks his penis through the fence at the King’s eyelevel and starts pissing. On the King. This predictably leads to castration. I hate that in the reality of Street Trash that sentence makes sense.
The scene’s not over yet! No, the assembled hobos decide to play a spirited game of dick keepaway which goes on for what felt like a solid three hours. And in the midst of it, Frank looks up from his corpse rape in surprise, you know, just to be clear that he was in fact, fucking a corpse.
I can’t recommend Street Trash. Sure, it’s the finest exploding hobo film ever made and I will always love the King, but there’s still a tiny part of me that can experience positive emotions, and I’m committed to killing that with alcohol.