alt=”” width=”283″ height=”400″ />One thing that I have found about Hollywood that I have always found to be interesting is that they have tended over the decades to show both the negative side as well as the positive side of almost everything… Rather it be the negative side in War, as shown in the brutality of such films as Saving Private Ryan (1998), or even in Ambush Bay (1966), or in the heroism shown in such movies or TV shows as Band Of Brothers or Bridge On The River Kwai (1957), etc…
Another side that Hollywood has done that I kind of like is to demonstrate how if you live a life of crime, drugs, etc… Even if at one point you are rich and popular, you will ultimately end up getting caught, or worse, killed! A great example of this is movies such as, The Usual Suspects (1995) in which just about all the criminals in that movie end up getting killed, etc…
Now with all that in mind, that is why is part of the reason why I found, The Panic In Needle Park (1971) to be such a fascinating movie!
Written by: Joan Didion (Such Good Friends), John Gregory Dunne (Play It As It Lays) and Directed by: Jerry Schatzberg (Scarecrow). Starring: Al Pacino (Serpico), Kitty Winn (The Exorcist), Alan Vint (Two-Lane Blacktop), Richard Bright (A Death Of Innocence) and Kiel Martin (The Catcher)
The movie takes place at the intersection of Broadway and 72nd Streets in New York’s West Side… Now officially this area of the city is called Sherman Square, but back in the 1970s this area is known to the residents of the city as, ‘Needle Park’. For it’s rampant drug abuse, prostitution, crime, etc…
With that said, the tells the tale of Bobby (Pacino) and Helen (Winn)… Bobby starts off as a drug dealer from Needle Park… Generally he is a nice guys (he even goes so far as to, at least in the beginning, not even use his own product!)
Now Helen, is one of those nice girls from the midwest who has moved out to New York, and starts off staying with a kind of a sleaze ball artist by the name of Marco (Played by: Raul Julia). This sleaze ball artist is such a jerk that he has even pimped out Helen to a friend of his as a favor!
Anyway, the way that Bobby and Helen end up meeting is that after the trick that Marco has asked Helen to do, Helen has come back to Marco’s loft sick, and ends up lying on a bed covered up tight, while Bobby has come to the loft to get the money that Marco owes him. After this is done, Bobby notices Helen lying there sick, and decides after mentioning her situation to the unfeeling Marco, to bundle her up nice and tight and to give her his scarf. He then takes off…
Now of course she found this to be rather quite endearing, so after Helen breaks up with Marco and heads over to the local free clinic to have her illness looked at by a doctor, Bobby finds her in the Hospital and comes to visit her in the Hospital that first day (which cements her interest in him…)
After this, their romance moves real quickly, with Helen moving in to Bobby’s place in Needle Park, and getting to know all of his drug dealing and drug taking friends.
Now things begin to take a downward spiral when Bobby decides to shoot up Heroin one day when Helen had woken up from a long period of sleep. This act will take Helen and Bobby on a path that will lead through a path of drug abuse and prostitution, ultimately toward an unfair, and unfortunate result that neither of them would ever expect!
Now what I felt made this an awesome b movie is a couple of things:
1. Admittedly this movie can be quite depressing, but I found it fascinating because I wasn’t around during the 70s (having been a child of the 80s) and I have also never been a part of the drug scene, so just watching this from a historical perspective was most fascinating!
2. I also liked in this movie how despite how awful Bobby and Helen’s life style was you still grew to really like both of them and to root for them as well!
3. The next thing that I thought that I would mention here that you guys might find interesting is that this movie was not only the movie that Al Pacino did before he did The Godfather (1972). But The Panic In Needle Park was not only what sold Francis Ford Coppola (THX 1138) on using Al Pacino for The Godfather but was actually the movie that he used to convince the production company to use him as well!
4. I also thought that I would mention here that for her role as Helen, Kitty Winn won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971!
5. The last thing that I thought that I would mention here is that besides Al Pacino, Richard Bright is another actor that was brought from this movie in to all 3 of the Godfather movies!
With that said, this movie really is an interesting one, and if you get a chance to see it folks, you might also find this one to be an interesting one as well!