Street Trash is a true post-modern macabre masterpiece. It is a ferocious freak show of a film, a mercilessly madcap revolting romp that incorporates almost every viable element from the entire 80s ideal of horror. There are nods to Vietnam, hilarious necrophilia, homages to the homeless issue, alcoholism, old-fashioned slapstick and oh-so sophisticated incredibly dark comedy. For gorehounds, it a grand slam, a movie with effects so amazing that they haven’t been topped in almost 20 years. For intellectuals there are obvious underpinnings of social disorder, the treatment of the mentally ill and inner city decay. From its outrageous opening setpiece (a man literally melts into a toilet) to the final act fireworks which features the most unbelievable decapitation ever, this is a triumph of independent low budget moviemaking, the kind of inventive insanity you rarely see in today’s super serious DIY camcorder scene.
It makes sense, really. Street Trash is a geek show made by horror nerds, a testament to the power that the scary movie has over the imagination of the artistically minded. It was written by Roy Frumkes, famous as the director of Document of the Dead (the making-of on George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead) and directed by James Muro, cameraman extraordinaire, who went on to become one of Hollywood’s leading Steadicam operates (his list of credits is astounding). Both men had a love of balls to the wall creature features and wanted to make something that would resonate with a ‘rented it all/seen it all” home video mentality. They pooled their talents, tapped an otherwise unknown cast and crew and delivered one of the most audacious horror films of the last 20 years. In the history of splatter there hasn’t been a movie quite this Kodachromatic and crazy. It’s a true Technicolor yawn, a sprawling spree of cinematic surrealism set against the dirt and grime of an ugly urban cesspool. Even if you think you’ve seen everything, you need to give this movie a spin. There is nothing but great garbage in this glorious gross-out extravaganza.
In his second certifiable masterpiece, John Waters decides to take on the growing cult of public personality by marrying his fixation with classic Hollywood trash (ala Douglas Sirk) with the increasing public fascination with true crime. The result is a movie that masquerades as a melodrama, but actually becomes a truly twisted gem. In this oddball homage to the kitchen sink saga, Dawn Davenport is a juvenile delinquent, who runs away from home on Christmas. She is picked up and raped by a mechanic named Earl, and ends up giving birth to a daughter, Taffy. Living life as a petty thief, Dawn meets a hairdresser named Gator and they marry over the objection of his fag hag Aunt Ida. Gator works at The Lipstick Beauty Salon, run by Donna and Donald Dasher. They instantly see Dawn as their next big “discovery,” They have a twisted concept that crime is “beautiful” and want this eager gal to be their outlaw model. Thus begins a felonious spree that leads Dawn to a decisive day in court.
Female Trouble is Waters first real “film” in every one of the traditional senses. Told in episodic fashion (complete with tacky title cards), it proved that this otherwise underground king of bad taste could work within the confines of the traditional narrative form. Before, his films always had the kind of clothes-hanger plots made famous by porno and exploitation. But Female Trouble relies on its story for its momentum as well as its merriment. Without the rise up and flame out of our heroine, we’d never experience many of the movie’s most hilarious ideals.
This is also the first time when Waters’ main muse, Divine, came into her own as an actress. Before, she was simply sheer shock value, a big blousy man in Elizabeth Taylor tatters hoping to overwhelm the audience with her audacity. Here, Divine is Dawn Davenport. Her exchanges with daughter Taffy (the always amazing Mink Stole) are priceless, and when Divine does a derivation of her infamous stage act for the film—involving a trampoline, contemptible claims, and lots and lots of fish tossing—we feel it is part of Dawn’s demented nature. The entire subplot involving Gator and his overbearing Aunt seals the deal. Edith Massey’s pro-gay rants are out of this world, and she delivers them with such good-natured cheer that you want her nephew to ‘switch’ just to make her happy. Combined with Waters’ own private peculiarities, Female Trouble becomes an outsider opus that deserves mainstream popularity.
I usually don’t link to my other blog from here but I just wanted to note the death of one of my favorite cult rockers, Arthur Lee: you can see all that I gushed about the great Love man there. The one thing I’d add is this great MP3 link from the Music for Robots blog—the now-poignant Everybody’s Got to Love.