Archive of films The Panic in Needle Park / The Panic in Needle Park

1971, 110 min

Section: Tribute to Jerry Schatzberg
Year: 2013

A student named Helen finds herself homeless after an illegal abortion but she soon accepts understanding and support from nice guy Bobby. But by the time she discovers he’s a junkie who makes a living as a dealer and smalltime hustler it’s already too late: she’s become lost in a world where feelings don’t matter nearly as much as the next fix. Jerry Schatzberg’s second feature is a subtle, laconic love drama grounded in stirring performances by Al Pacino and Kitty Winn (Best Actress at the 1971 Cannes IFF).


After his stylized directorial debut Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Jerry Schatzberg unexpectedly plunged into the raw reality of his hometown, New York. The inspiration to shoot a love story between two junkies came from a series of articles written for Life magazine by James Mills. The heroine of this laconic and subtle drama, a student named Helen, finds herself homeless after an illegal abortion. Soon enough, however, she meets a charmer named Bobby, who offers her understanding and support – and that’s not all. Bobby drags Helen into the addict’s paradise called "Needle Park” (Sherman Square on New York’s Upper West Side), but by the time she discovers he’s one of them – a two-bit dealer and smalltime hustler – it’s too late. Helen starts doing drugs, selling her body, and helping her lover carry out his cons, effectively destroying any possibility of returning to her former life. The story concentrates on the gradual breakdown of the main characters’ personalities and the devastating effect it has on their relationship.… This somber motion picture dispenses with musical accompaniment – opting for a cinéma vérité style, it presents a tragic romance as a tale of maximum authenticity. Grounding itself in the environment of New York City’s streets, the film is conceived in documentary style while it benefits from the leads’ fine acting work. Al Pacino gives a stirring performance in only his second role, earning the right to work with Jerry Schatzberg again, in Scarecrow. Virtually forgotten today, the excellent Kitty Winn collected Best Actress at the 1971 Cannes IFF for her role as Helen.


Hollywood Classics
Suite 31, Beaufort Court, Admirals Way, E14 9XL, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 517 7525

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Jerry Schatzberg
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Screenplay: Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne podle románu / based on the novel by Friedrich Gorenstein
Dir. of Photography: Adam Holender
Editor: Evan Lottman
Producer: Dominick Dunne
Production: Gadd Productions, Dunne-Didion-Dunne
Cast: Al Pacino, Kitty Winn, Alan Vint, Richard Bright, Kiel Martin
Contact: Hollywood Classics


Jerry Schatzberg

Film Director


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