Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

The Panic In Needle Park (1971)

by  |  September 29th, 2011  |  Romance  |  6 Comments

<img class="alignright size-full wp-image-18351" title="Panic 1" src="https://awesomebmovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Panic-1.jpg"

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!)

Helen (Winn) and Bobby (Pacino) in a scene from the movie, 'The Panic In Needle Park.'

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!

The tragic couple...

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!

Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.


  1. Dave

    March 9th, 2012at 11:04 AM(#)

    I was under the impression that, at the start of the movie, Helen was coming back from just getting an illegal abortion.

  2. Nathan Strack Nathan Strack

    March 9th, 2012at 1:11 PM(#)


    Doesn’t start there, no, but it is part of it.

    – Nathan

  3. Alexandra

    July 20th, 2012at 3:19 PM(#)

    No, the “favor” Marco is referring to in the beginning is regarding the botched abortion that a friend managed to get for Helen. He did not pimp her out to a friend at all. I have studied this film for a film studies course, and she suffers from a botched abortion, not being pimped out.

  4. Alexandra

    July 20th, 2012at 3:47 PM(#)

    Also, he has always been a heroin user, even before he met Helen. In the beginning when Marco is buying product from him and he asks if it’s any good, Bobby is selling marijuana (which he doesn’t use) and not heroin (which is why he answers Marco’s question with “I don’t know. I don’t use it.) bobby is “chipping” throughout the film, which is when a heroin user uses the drug occasionally and not constantly. The point is, he has bee user long before Helen came along.

  5. Lula Fortune

    April 24th, 2013at 6:32 PM(#)

    Yeah its an illegal abortion. When she says the place was dirty he says “its a free scrape, a favor, you can’t expect colombian Presbyterian” that is the favor he’s referring to. It was botched hence her sickness and hospital stay.

  6. Lula Fortune

    April 24th, 2013at 6:34 PM(#)

    Yeah so agreed he doesn’t not use the product out of decency its because Marco is distinctly a pot user Bobby doesn’t care about pot he’s a junkie he only cares about heroine. Him saying he doesn’t use pot is more a glimpse of how extreme he is not how moderate he is.

Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook

About AwesomeBMovies.com

AwesomeBMovies.com brings you the very best in B Movies, Cult Films and other Indie classics that may have flown under your radar or may not have gotten the attention they truly deserve.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.