In the annals of 70's New York cinema, no film is quite as iconic as Al Pacino's first starring vehicle, "Panic in Needle Park", directed by former fashion photographer Jerry Schatzberg. Shot on the upper west side in and around the actual neighborhood that at the time was a haven for heroin addicts (Broadway and 72nd--though apparently the real 72nd street location was shot a few blocks south in the mid-60's...due to it being full of heroin addicts I presume?) the film is a still powerful, verite look at the drug culture of the era. It's also filled with the streets of New York in that time--a great travelogue of a devastated city that didn't feel anything much like the one we now know. Pacino's performance doesn't really deserve the reductive term "performance" which implies an actor is behind it. It is so naturalistic, so totally without artifice that I've never noticed it's "him". Bobby is a real person. Pacino inhabits him as thoroughly as Brando inhabited Terry Malloy.

What are the "Rob The Mob"/"Panic In Needle Park" connections? Oh, numerous and various. First of all the two young lovers are drug users (as Tommy and Rosie are at the very beginning of RTM--however they clean up in jail...) Second, the PINP screenplay was written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne and produced by Dunne's brother Dominick Dunne--who is the father of Griffin Dunne, who has a great part in RTM. There's also a pawnshop scene in PINP (seen in the below trailer) that is practically a duplicate of one in RTM--though ours was shot a mere forty-two years later. Finally, they shot PINP in a lot of lousy New York locations, just like we did.

Here's a very odd, longish theatrical trailer for the film, followed by a two-part interview with Schatzberg about making the film. The interview is raw footage, shot by an admirer of the director and is a nice, intimate conversation with this fascinating and underrated figure of the 70's and 80's filmworld. I take it back. I wouldn't call Schatzberg underrated. Instead he seems to me a highly individual filmmaker who was choosy about what interested him. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a screening of my film "City Island" and was able to tell him of my admiration not just for his work but of his work ethic. His filmography is eccentric, unlike any other directors and entirely his own.  First the trailer:

And now the interviews:

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