Per IMDb: “Follows the lives of heroin addicts who frequent ‘Needle Park’ in New York City.”
Helen (Winn) has a very unsanitary and dangerous abortion. Her boyfriend Marco (Raul Julia) sends her on her own. She gets the attention of Bobby (Pacino) and she ends up moving in with him. Bobby proclaims to be a small-time weed pusher but in reality, he’s an H-addict. He tells her that he’s not hooked just chipping. It’s not long before he has her scoring for him. She gets busted by Detective Hotch who knows who she’s associated with. Hotch (Vint) tries to help her over a period of time by attempting to set her right, but she’s not listening.
One night as Bobby is sleeping off a high, Helen tries a hit. She’s hooked from then on. The rest of the film is an up and down, high (literally) and low swing of drugs, prostitution and debauchery. Do they survive as a couple or in life? You’ll have to watch to find out.
This was a very difficult film to watch. Drug use in films is sometimes overly explicit. Roger Ebert said about this film: “Movies about drug addiction are also, sometimes, hung up on the fetishes and compulsions surrounding drugs. If we get a closeup of one needle penetrating the flesh in ‘The Panic in Needle Park,’ we get half a dozen. This is too many; the physical reality interrupts our identification with fictional characters.” Even at this, I think the movies don’t do the horrific act and subsequent effects of drug use, shooting up, taking a hit, tripping, and so on, any kind of justice. And, by justice I mean it is far worse in real life than on film.
It could be my weak stomach, it could be my sensitivity to self-destruction, it could be a number of things, but the first time we see someone actually shooting up in the film it’s very graphic and I felt like I was going to throw up. I don’t normally do that watching TV or films because I know it’s not real. But, the anxiety I felt from that first scene was intense. Don’t do that $#!+!!! I proclaimed, over and over again. Watching people messed up on drugs is something that I luckily haven’t had to see much if any in my life, but I don’t think I could handle it. I have much respect for the folks who deal with users and addicts, as it’s something that I don’t know that I could be part of. To the Kerri Siglers of the world and the rehab workers and anyone that’s had to watch someone, let alone family members, deal with addiction. You have my total respect.
“Needle Park” is actually called Sherman Square, a public space/park bounded by Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and West 70th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in New York City. In the late-1960s/mid- to late-1970s, it was known as Needle Park because of the amount of drugs and users that could be found in the park. I believe it has since been cleaned up. The “Panic” is a drug reference when supply is low or endangered and that makes the users resort to violence, mostly against each other, in order to get a fix.
This was Pacino’s first real film lead, a year before The Godfather came out. Kitty Winn was in The Exorcist and Alan Vint was more of a supporting actor in many films and some television roles. The film is gritty and rough; at times hard to watch. I found that it became redundant and slightly boring the longer it went on. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 80% Fresh with an Audience Score of 75%. IMDb has it at 7.1 stars out of 10. I saw this film on Netflix and I rate it 3.75 stars out of 5. Provocative at times but it started to lose steam the longer it went. Have you seen it? What did you think? What would you like to hear/read me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I ain’t no robber. I’m a prostitute.” – Irene