Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

June 26, 2016

Movie Review: The Panic in Needle Park (Twilight Time, 1971)

When people talk about the early part of Al Pacino's career, they mention only a handful of movies. Of course The Godfather, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon are all considered classic parts of his career, but right before The Godfather arrived, Pacino played a heroin addict in a lesser remembered movie that centered around a group of addicts in an area of New York known as Needle Park.

Bobby (Pacino) is a charming scamp, full of energy and life. Honestly, scamp is the perfect word for him. He visits his artist friend Marco (Raul Julia), where he meets a lovely young woman named Helen (Kitty Winn). He is immediately enamored with Helen and decides to start a conversation that turns into a day long date of sorts. Throughout the day, Bobby shows his petty criminal side. He steals a television from the back of a van in order to pawn it. He interacts with his brother, who proudly declares how well he does robbing houses. He introduces Helen to several addict friends and other sketchy characters. Being the artistic type, she is fascinated with all of it.

As time goes on, Helen watches Bobby as he sinks deeper into addiction and they grow stronger in their relationship. Her response is to sink in with him. The duo goes down a dark path led by friends of theirs. It involves theft, dealing, prostitution and constant pursuit by a young police detective. The couple sails through a series of highs and lows punctuated by betrayal and deceit. Let's just say that this isn't a feel good type of movie.

Needle Park is an interesting look at heroin addiction. My knowledge on the subject is limited, but I watched with a professional addictions counselor, and she thought the portrayals were well done. Pacino and Winn chew scenery through the whole movie, but they're both entertaining as hell. Raul Julia only had two scenes, but during both, I could only wonder if that young man would ever fathom that his final movie role would be that of a video game villain. Look out for a young Paul Sorvino in a small role. I almost didn't recognize him.

Twilight Time does a great job delivering a beautiful version of the film. It feels like 1970s cinema at its best. The picture and sound are perfectly in tact. Special features are plentiful for a movie this old, which is rare. I also appreciated the classic mini-poster included in the blu-ray.

1 comment: