Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Street Trash (1987)

I first rented Street Trash (1987) with a couple of friends in the very late ’80s. I’m not sure if we had any idea of what we were getting into. I was a big fan of horror films, but one of my friends was not. We enjoyed watching B-movies, and what we might refer to as “bad movies”. This generally meant movies that had been intended to be serious, but were instead campy and inadvertently funny to our young, modern minds.

We had discovered The Troma Team, and enjoyed movies like The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986). These films were in a slightly different category. They were sometimes referred to as B-movies, but they seemed very different than the black and white B-movies of yore. They weren’t quite “bad movies” in the same way as some of the incompetent films we had watched. They were, it seemed to us, deliberately made to be “bad” or campy. Almost in the vein of, say, Mel Brooks doing a parody of monster movies. The Troma Team knew that they were making “bad” films and they were having a really good time with it. They wanted us to laugh – and we did. Sometimes uncontrollably. 

Street Trash is firmly in the same category. In fact, it has been compared to Troma movies over the years. Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder and president of Troma – and perhaps their greatest auteur – has let on that he is not a fan of Street Trash. He never explains why, and in some ways it puzzles me. It could be that it is simply too much like a Troma movie, and Lloyd feels that the filmmakers were trying to ride his coattails. I don’t know.

I’m not sure if my friends and I knew that we were about to watch a masterpiece of deliberate camp humour, but that’s what we found ourselves doing – and enjoying immensely. The special gore effects were completely over the top, and yet somehow totally convincing. The single most incredible moment, which had us rolling around on the floor laughing, was the very unusual game of “keep away” (which in the interest of not spoiling anything for the uninitiated, I will not describe in any more detail). Suffice it to say that if you are a fan of Troma style insanity, and you have not seen this movie, you really should seek it out. And it’s not hyperbole to say you must see it to believe it.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to buy a copy on VHS. For some reason, it was not a very common tape on video store shelves. And I never saw it for sale brand new, in stores like Eaton’s or The Bay (go figure). it was such an awesome movie, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t better known. Maybe it was just too edgy and offensive for most viewers. Maybe people couldn’t tell what it was from the title and the box art. Maybe it WAS a successful movie on home video, but I just never saw it in the stores I frequented. I don’t know. But the fact is, that for many years I was the only person I knew who had a copy of Street Trash. And as such, I felt it was my duty to show it to people.

I showed it to my friend Ian, who happens to be a respected award-winning playwright, and I guess he liked it a lot. The next day I accompanied him to a special talk that he was giving to theatre students at a nearby university. One of them asked Ian “Where do you get your ideas?”

He stood in front of the crowd of eager young learners, with all the seriousness that only an award winning playwright can muster, and said “I get my ideas in all kinds of different places. Just last night my buddy Angus showed me a movie called Street Trash, in which people drink old, contaminated alcohol and then proceed to melt…”

I think I started to choke on my water. What the hell was he doing?! He’s describing the plot of Street Trash in a serious theatre class as if it was a source of inspiration for future plays he might write?!

Incidentally, he has never written a play remotely like Street Trash. That is more like something I might do. And in fact, I did write a play called The Inner City Dead which was about gangsters and a corrupt politician dumping toxic waste in the inner city and causing poor, homeless people to turn into zombies. It was, as much as any play could be, a Troma Team styled comedy. I actually named one of the characters Mr Troma, as an homage to Lloyd et al. This was before I showed Street Trash to Ian – and before he told a roomful of budding theatre artists that it could be a source of ideas.

In my humble opinion, a more correct answer that Ian could have given on that day might be something like “I get ideas from real life. The behaviours that I see people engaging in, and the injustices that I perceive in this world.”

That, I believe, is closer to the truth. And that is also why he is an award winning playwright, and I am writing this blog.

That beat up VHS tape served me well for a long, long time. But I am now thrilled to have the super-deluxe, Special Meltdown Edition Blu-ray from Synapse Films. It comes with a ton of great extras (including a two hour documentary on the making of Street Trash) which somehow makes the experience even more mind-blowing.

Street Trash (1987) has been a personal favourite of mine for many years. It is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that is clearly not for everyone. Some of the over-the-top offensive humour would probably be considered politically incorrect today, to say the least. But for those with a taste for edgy and disgusting material that still manages to push the boundaries more than thirty years after it was created, Street Trash just might be the perfect choice for your next  #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Living Dead Girl aka La Morte Vivante (1982)

I first read about the films of Jean Rollin in books about unusual horror films from around the world. I don’t think I had ever seen a review of any of his films in a regular review book. And I certainly had never seen copies of his movies on VHS or Beta at my local Video Zone back in the 1980s. My impression from these books was that Jean Rollin made artistic, perhaps erotic, movies about vampires. He also made hard core adult films, presumably to pay the bills. On occasion he made other types of films, but vampires seemed to be his main obsession.

While at university, I became a regular customer of Movie Village, a video store with an amazing selection of unusual films for rent (and purchase). This is where I first put my hands on a movie directed by Jean Rollin. Oddly enough, it was not a vampire film. And according to at least one book I had read, this particular movie was one of his lesser ones. It was called Night Of The Hunted (1980), and its description was something like this:

“Stylish, futuristically surreal and a departure from director Jean Rollin’s familiar vampire territory, The Night of the Hunted features a mass of people suffering with insanity and collective amnesia. Bizarre, even by Rollin’s standards, it still displays fairy tale qualities mixed with extremes of sadism, sex and violence.”

I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t one of his vampire films, but I wanted to see a Jean Rollin film, and my annual holiday movie marathon was in a few days, so I rented it.

The annual holiday movie marathon is a tradition that I established with my friend Brian many years ago. His job requires him to get up ridiculously early in the morning, so by 8:00 PM he’s having trouble staying awake. But every year he takes a couple of weeks off in December and that’s when we make a point of getting together to watch movies. And we are always on the lookout for unusual and interesting horror films.

I brought Night Of The Hunted to his place, along with about a dozen other movies, and explained to Brian that it was probably not going to be Jean Rollin’s best work, but it was all I could put my hands on, so we should give it a try. He agreed.

Well. We both really liked the movie. A lot. “I would buy a copy of that,” Brian said as the credits were rolling, which is amazing because I was thinking the exact same thing. “This is one his lesser films?”

Since that time, I have picked up Jean Rollin’s movies on DVD or Blu-ray whenever I could put my hands on them (for a reasonable price). I’ve only seen a couple of the vampire films, but the strange thing is that (so far) my favourites have been non-vampire films: Night Of The Hunted (of course), The Grapes Of Death (1978), and now, perhaps, The Living Dead Girl (1982).

The Living Dead Girl is almost like a vampire movie in some ways. It’s about an undead woman who seems to need to drink blood. Before I watched it, I was expecting more of a zombie story of sorts. I suppose she is a zombie, technically. But she has a lot more in common with vampires than the average reanimated rotting corpse. For one thing, she looks good. For another, she is an intelligent, thinking being who eventually talks and expresses regret over the things she has done. I’m not really comfortable calling her a zombie or a vampire. I think she is her own, unique creation of Jean Rollin.

The most basic description of the plot of The Living Dead Girl goes something like this:

Two bumbling fools dump toxic waste in a crypt and accidentally revive a beautiful, dead heiress who kills them and goes on a rampage. 

This sounds like the plot of a Troma Team camp-fest (and more than a little like a play I once wrote called The Inner CIty Dead – minus the dead heiress), but it’s a much more serious affair than that. The heart of the film is the relationship between Catherine Valmont, the heiress, and her childhood friend Hélène. We see flashbacks of them as children, pledging eternal friendship. When Hélène discovers that Catherine is somehow still alive, she comes to the château to be with her. Hélène tries to keep Catherine alive, no matter what the cost. But Catherine begins to see herself as evil, and wants Hélène to help her die.

The surprising thing about The Living Dead Girl is how truly moving it is. You might come for the gore and the nudity, but you’ll stay for the emotional punch in the solar-plexus. And that’s a rare thing in exploitation filmmaking. I’m starting to suspect that’s it’s not such a rare thing for Jean Rollin, who seems to imbue his monsters with a sense of tragedy, and sadness. His movies aren’t for everyone, as they can be slow paced and challenging in many ways. But for those who are attuned to his particular style of storytelling, they can be very rewarding and cathartic experiences.

The Living Dead Girl (1982) makes for a more thoughtful, melancholy #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn than Angels’ Brigade or American Ninja 2, but that’s the nature of the beast. There are many different kinds of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and I like to experience them all. I’m looking forward to my next Friday night with Jean Rolllin, but it won’t be right away. I need time to let The Living Dead Girl properly sink in. And at this moment, it’s hard to imagine how he will ever top it. 

The Inner City Dead

Out of the crumbling and deserted streets of ‘the forbidden zone’ they come… The freaks, the weirdos, the flesh-eating maniacs with no detectable pulse… They’re homeless… They’re hungry… They’re dead…

No wonder they’re so pissed off!

The Inner City Dead features ruthless gangsters, crooked politicians, nosy high school reporters, escaped mental patients, lowlife burglars, homeless panhandlers, and radioactive zombies…

It’s the most fun you’ll ever have with corpses… we hope!

The Inner City Dead was first produced as a special fundraiser for The Manitoba Association of Playwrights in April of 1998. If you missed this unforgettable spectacle – and hence your chance to laugh, to puke and to cough up a lot of money – fear not! There may still be a way for you to get involved…

Produce your own version of this play at a fringe festival, a theatre, a school, or a local church or community group. The production rights to this zombie play are indeed available. Here’s everything you need to know:

The Inner City Dead
a zombie play by Angus Kohm
One Act Comedy/Horror;

Cast Size: 6 Main Characters, 3 Female, 3 Male;
+ Various Roles & Zombies: Students, Homeless People, Police Officers, etc. — This is flexible, anywhere from 5 to 50 (the original production had a total of 16 actors.)

Running Time: 45 – 50 Minutes

Set Design: Originally produced with a simple set which included a desk and chairs, which doubled as The Mayor’s Office and The School. The stage mainly remained bare.

Props: a camera, some snapshots, a hat, a large canister or garbage can, a telephone or two, a gun, a wooden stick, a baseball bat, mostly easy to find stuff

Costumes: Rags for homeless people and zombies; regular clothes; mostly simple, except two police uniforms.

There Are Two Versions Of The Inner City Dead Available

1) The Original, Uncut Version, which includes some language and content that might not be appropriate for all ages.

2) The High School Version, which Angus Kohm created in conjunction with Lorette Collegiate in Lorette, Manitoba in 2001. It contains some alternate dialogue and scenes that the school found acceptable for all audiences.

Professional and Amateur Performance Rights are available for BOTH of these versions of the play. Just specify which one you are interested in. If you would like to examine both versions before deciding, that can also be arranged.

Royalty Fees will be applicable, but the exact amount will depend on the details of each individual production.

For information on obtaining the professional or amateur rights to The Inner City Dead, send an e-mail to Angus Kohm.

Please include the following information:

1) Where your production would take place
2) When it would take place
3) How many performances there would be
4) How many seats there are in the theatre
5) Ticket prices

Perusal copies of the play can also be obtained by sending an e-mail to the author.

Be sure to check out Angus Kohm’s other zombie play, I Was A Teenage Zombie, a musical which he created specifically for schools.