Taglines: God help Bobby and Helen. They’re in love in Needle Park.
This movie is a stark portrayal of life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in “Needle Park” in New York City. Played against this setting is a low-key love story between Bobby, a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen, a homeless girl who finds in her relationship with Bobby the stability she craves. She becomes addicted too, and life goes downhill for them both as their addiction deepens, eventually leading to a series of betrayals. But, in spite of it all, the relationship between Bobby and Helen endures.
The Panic in Needle Park is a 1971 American romantic drama film directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring Al Pacino in his second film appearance. The screenplay was written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, adapted from the 1966 novel by James Mills.
The film portrays life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in “Needle Park” (then-nickname of Sherman Square on Manhattan’s Upper West Side near 72nd Street and Broadway). The film is a love story between Bobby (Pacino), a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen (Kitty Winn), a restless woman who finds Bobby charismatic. She becomes an addict, and life goes downhill for them both as their addictions worsen, eventually leading to a series of betrayals.
About the Story
In New York City, Helen returns to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend, Marco, after enduring an unhygienic and inept abortion. Helen becomes ill and Bobby, an amiable small-time drug dealer to whom Marco owes money, shows unexpected gentleness and concern for Helen. Helen considers returning to her dysfunctional family, but moves in with Bobby, and when she finds him taking drugs, he explains that he is not an addict, but only uses a little.
At Sherman Square, nicknamed Needle Park for the drug addicts who use it as a hangout to get drugs and get high. At the park, Bobby introduces Helen to various acquaintances, including his brother Hank, who burgles for a living. Helen witnesses the intricate ritual of addicts shooting up heroin.
Bobby and Helen are eventually evicted from their apartment and move into a sleazier one. After Bobby asks her to deliver money to one of his dealers, Helen is arrested and one of the officers, Detective Hotch, explains to Helen about what it’s like when there is a panic in Needle Park. A panic is when the drug supply on the street is low and addicts begin to turn each other into the police in return for favors. Unexpectedly, the officer releases Helen, who returns to Bobby, who begins to use drugs more heavily, and Helen begins to shoot up, too.
Bobby soon realizes Helen is using, and he proposes to her, something that prompts Hank to ask. The proposal prompts Hank to ask what they will live on and offers Bobby work as a burglar, to which Helen objects and insists that she will get a job. However, Helen quickly quits her new waitress job, and just before Bobby is to assist Hank in a burglary, he overdoses. Hank is angry with Bobby for jeopardizing his plans, but he allows Bobby to assist him on another night, during which Bobby is arrested. While he is in jail, Helen finds it harder to get drugs and has sex with Hank for heroin. When Bobby is released, he and Helen have a big fight.
The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
Directed by: Jerry Schatzberg
Starring: Al Pacino, Kitty Winn, Alan Vint, Richard Bright, Kiel Martin, Michael McClanathan, Warren Finnerty, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Rutanya Alda
Screenplay by: Joan Didion
Cinematography by: Adam Holender
Film Editing by: Evan A. Lottman
Costume Design by: Jo Ynocencio
Set Decoration by: Philip Smith
Art Direction by: Murray P. Stern
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: July 13, 1971