I’ve really enjoyed Vinegar Syndrome’s double feature Drive-In Collection ever since it was started with Anthony Spinelli double bill of Expectations and Confessions. Unlike the stridently XXX Peekarama Collection, Drive-In allows for various genres and modes of production to intersect and tends to perpetuate and almost constant element of surprise. I never know what I’m going to get going into these, and that’s perhaps most evident in Sweet Trash and The Hang Up, two films by John Hayes (responsible for The Cut-Throats, Grave of the Vampire and Baby Rosemary) that I had never had the chance to properly see until now. And having them available is some sort of fucked up cause for celebration.
Starting with one of my new favorite movie titles, Sweet Trash, is a nice slice of very early 70s sleaze. It runs a scant 78 minutes but much of that time is spent watching the lead character (Duncan McLeod) stumble around drunkenly yelling and apparently channeling some sort of acting class prompt to emulate an Irish accented Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. The plot is mostly inconsequential and involves gambling debts, strippers, and some sort of unexplained computer shenanigans that make it strangely sci-fi for the final act. It’s unpredictable, brash, and offers some choice footage of early 70s NYC, but it’s easily the least interesting of the two features here. Except for that title. That title is special.
Following that up, we have The Hang Up. This shit is bananas. It’s basically about a vice cop that goes undercover in drag to solve some corruption issues, or something along those lines. I was too distracted by everything vitriolic about this to really figure out what was actually happening. It’s like some inspired mash-up of Murder on the Emerald Seas and Cruising, only less socially redeeming and way more fun. This is gleefully politically incorrect trash cinema that awkwardly feels prescient today, despite how truly heinous it gets at times. This is by far the better of the two films, albeit the one with the far less interesting title and second billing, go figure, and has become one of my favorites from the truly unpredictable Hayes.
VS have released this on DVD only as per usual with their Drive-In Collection titles. And there isn’t really much to compare them to. I know of zero other releases for Sweet Trash and the only thing I’m aware of for The Hang Up is a DVD-R from Something Weird, which I can’t imagine improving on what’s here. The results here are very solid however, with noticeable damage being minimal and colors staying strong throughout. The release states that these were restored in 2K from the 35mm negatives and I’d say that is all apparent here. Great work yet again.
The only supplements offered are trailers for both films, with the one for Sweet Trash actually being better than the feature. This is still an awesome release though, especially for Hayes completists and/or hardcore fans of NYC exploitation. I’m not sure that either will appear to most sensibilities, especially the truly rugged The Hang Up, but for adventurous viewers that need a bit more grime in their lives, this is an indispensable release and is exemplary of why we need companies like Vinegar Syndrome now more than ever. Where the fuck else are we going to find this stuff?