Q+A: FX Artist Jennifer Aspinall talks STREET TRASH, exploding on Blu-ray today
I can never get enough of STREET TRASH. One of the original gorehound video sensations of the 80s and a showcase for emerging FX talent Jennifer Aspinall, STREET TRASH was gooey, gross, politically incorrect, and featured James Lorinz and Tony Darrow as the best comedy duo since Alan Arkin and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN.
Both made their big screen debuts with STREET TRASH, as did director Jimmy Muro (now one of the preeminent steadicam operators in Hollywood), guided by his film teacher and screenwriter/producer Roy Frumkes, who was already known in genre circles as the director of DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD, the ultimate behind-the-scenes portrait of George A. Romero’s working process, filmed largely on the set of DAWN OF THE DEAD (where Frumkes acted as an zombie extra).
STREET TRASH gets resurrected on Blu-ray today courtesy of Synapse Films (SRP $24.95, buy from Synapse HERE ), and for those of you that picked up Synapse’s “Special Meltdown Edition” on DVD a few years back, there are a few added bonus features for the Blu-ray, including a new interview with Jane Arakawa, deleted scenes, and a label to make your own mickey of killer hooch Tenafly Viper! Fun!
On the eve of STREET TRASH’s re-release we connected with Jennifer Aspinall to talk about the glory days of gore FX, the opportunities awarded by early gigs on THE TOXIC AVENGER and STREET TRASH and the secret ingredients of celluloid vomit.
*All photos from the personal collection of Jennifer Aspinall.
FANGORIA: As a reader of FANGORIA in the 80s, you were one of the first FX artists whose name I knew. And FX artists were superstars then. Can you tell me a bit about what the field was like at that time, and especially for a woman?
JENNIFER ASPINALL: I never felt like a “super star”. I’ve just been grateful for the work. I feel blessed to be doing something I love to do and make a living at it. It was a very interesting time though. There were a lot of new techniques and materials being developed. The FX field became its own little sub culture.
As a woman, I did run into sexism, but it took me years before I realized what that was and put a label on it. Even though the FX world was, and is, male dominated, most of that kind of treatment came from other departments – DPs and directors and producers.
FANG: How did you first get into FX and learn your trade?
ASPINALL: I discovered make up after finding Richard Corson’s book Stage Make up at the age of 9. I became fascinated by illusion and transformation. I spent many hours making up myself and various family members. My father actually looked like Lon Chaney without make up so it was fun to practice Lon Chaney’s iconic make ups, such as the Phantom of the Opera, on him . When I was 11, my neighbor, who produced dinner theater, took me to the theatre with her. I fell in love with the theatre. I spent almost every night from the age of 11 to 17 working in a theatre doing everything from make up to performing. I was lucky my parents were artists and understood my passion.
I moved to New York City at age 18 to pursue doing make up. I first discovered “FX” make up after meeting a guy by the name of Arnold Gargulio at a midnight showing of ROCKY HORROR. He was dressed as an ape from PLANET OF THE APES. After seeing how he made his ape prosthetics and masks, I thought “I could do that..that looks fun”. Prosthetics took illusion to the next level for me.
I feel my make up “effects” career actually started with the now cult film THE TOXIC AVENGER. It was on that film that I actually learned a lot of the make up effects basics. It had everything from a creature, with a transformation, to large blood gags, prosthetics and dummy body parts, not to mention toxic waste. I was also given the opportunity to direct the transformation scene and some of the stunt scenes. THE TOXIC AVENGER was a hard film but a great learning experience. I was lucky enough to have assistants like Tom Lauten, who knew more about effects than I did at the time. Together we did some fun illusions.
FANG: Was STREET TRASH a trial by fire? There are a crazy amount of FX in that film, and as one of your first films, that’s a lot of responsibility.
ASPINALL: There were a lot of FX in STREET TRASH! STREET TRASH definitely had many gags in it that I had never done before, But if I remember correctly we actually had time for some make up tests. That is always a good thing and makes the process a little less stressful. I personally enjoy a lot of responsibility. I always have a few projects going at the same time.
FANG: What was the most complicated and unpredictable gag to figure out?
ASPINALL: The most complicated gag int that film was the mechanical Vic [Noto] head at the end of the movie. It had to look up a girl’s skirt as she stepped over him, smile and die. I had never made a mechanical animatronic head before, and I really wanted it to look good. It included cables and remote control servo motors. The whole fabrication of that head was a fabulous learning experience. From the sculpture to the molds to the remote controls……it was a very complicated, but gratifying process. I was very lucky to have been able to call on people like Dave Kindlon and Scott Coulter for their assistance and input. I think it turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, what you see in the movie was not the best take. It worked really well the first time we shot it, however there was a camera problem and we had to come back and reshoot it. I hadn’t realized that some blood had gotten into the motors and cables. The dried blood prevented us from getting all the movement and expression we had the first time around.
FANG: Did the film operate as a great calling-card, or did a connection to the horror genre hurt you in terms of getting more mainstream work?
ASPINALL: Working in the Horror genre didn’t hurt me at all. I believe the articles such as the ones in FANGORIA were instrumental in building my career and I am grateful.
FANG: Practical question: how did you make the puke in Street Trash?
ASPINALL: Don’t actually remember, but it was probably soup with coffee cakes in it……we had a lot of coffee cakes on that film……
FANG: Have you seen the number of women doing gore FX increase since you first worked on STREET TRASH, and do you think the industry has changed during that time, in terms of its treatment of female artists?
ASPINALL: I think the number of women in the FX field has increased greatly since we did STREET TRASH. Hopefully, the respect has grown as well. Having said that, I personally still to this day run into distrust because I am a woman. I’m sure it’s not a unique experience to the makeup world. It is a reflection of our society. Things have changed a lot in the years I’ve been working and hopefully they will continue. I think the only thing I can do is continue to try and be the best person and the best artist I can be.
FANG: You seem to have moved out of horror a lot since the 90s, do you miss doing crazy makeup gore FX? Did you ever want to make Jay Leno just melt into a purple colored mush mountain in his chair?
ASPINALL: Melting Jay Leno would be fun, but it would have to be done with a double or CGI as Jay does not enjoy sitting in the makeup chair.
I’ve been lucky enough to find my niche in sketch comedy with shows like SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and MAD TV. These shows have allowed me the opportunity to do all kinds of makeup including creatures and blood gags. While, I’m not sure I would say “I miss” gore makeup, I would never turn down an opportunity to be covered in fake blood.
SPECIAL FEATURES include:
High-Definition Transfer from the Original Camera Negative
5.1 Surround Remix Created Specifically for Home Theatre Environments
Two Audio Commentaries Featuring Producer Roy Frumkes and Director James Muro
THE MELTDOWN MEMOIRS – Feature Length Documentary on the History and Making of STREET TRASH
The Original STREET TRASH 16mm Short Film That Inspired the Movie
The Original STREET TRASH Promotional Teaser
Original Theatrical Trailer
ALL-NEW BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES:
Jane Arakawa Video Interview and Deleted Scenes!
Create Your Own Bottle of “Tenafly Viper” Wine with the Enclosed Label Sticker!