Tuesday, July 30, 2013
One of the single greatest teenage drug movies ever made, The Death Of Richie (titled "Richie" on the original Prism video box) follows a young Robbie Benson on his hell ride through teenage drug addiction, as he cruises around with his wastoid friends popping pills, smoking grass, doing angel dust and LSD and all sorts of goodies that get you good and gone against the grind of the demands of being young and white in the suburbs. Ben Gazzara is masterful in his role as the tightly wound, overly concerned, angry father who desires to have the father son relationship he once had when Richie was younger, now replaced by high school concerns that don't include Mom and Dad. As Richie falls deeper and deeper into his drug fueled, anti social fast lane, the parental concerns become more threatening, intense, and ultimately, tragic. Eileen Brennen plays Richie's mother- bitten lip, furrowed brow, worried eyes- she is in a perpetual state of anguish over her son's behavior as well as the tension between father and son- a tension the typically results in shouting matches and loud threats, followed by Richie's retreat into his secret drug crawl space, where he turns on and stares at the flashing lights and zones out of his problems completely. It is a fantastic, groovy, way out little space. Originally a TV Movie Of The Week, the cast is flawless- 70s child superstar Lance Kerwin plays Richie's brother, with the ever solid Clint Howard and the one of a kind comedian Charles Fleischer as Richie's drug buddies. And the 1976 visuals are wonderful- the pinball arcade, the parks, the clothes, the hair, the cars, the restaurants- it's all there, in glorious, gritty color. Exploitative realism at it's finest.