John Spacely a.k.a. Gringo is the former publisher of notorious Punk Magazine and a creation of sixties culture and 70's Punk rock movement that engulfed New York City. His past is littered with plenty of nasty memories (many of which are revealed in the film), which has led him to tumble from the heights of Punk Rock fame to a destitute life on the street, where panhandling enough funds for his next hit or scrap of food is the sole motivator in life. The heroine he craves is the easiest escape from his past. As he says himself, “when you're on it you can be wherever you want to be, with whoever you want to be. Dead or alive”. His main escape being to a world where the very young girl he fell in love with many years ago (who tragically died in a motor accident not long after horribly miscarrying his baby) can still be with him for as long as the hit lasts.
This is a real world movie, shot using real drug users who truly are as out-of-it as they seem. Sets and actors are sometimes manipulated to set up a pre-prepared scene, but the bulk of this movie actually is real life events as shot in the streets, apartments and “shooting galleries” of the seediest areas of New York City.
There are no glorifications made in Story of a Junkie, nor do the makers at any point try to justify or otherwise affect any actions taken by the addicts on screen. Story of a Junkie is exactly that, a tale of a pitiless druggie that you feel very little sympathy for, cruising the streets of NY bumming cigarettes and begging or hustling for a few measly dollars. Gringo sometimes speaks of his past, his old friends and loves, and at times he rambles on about nothing of any importance, obsessing over the physical act of shooting up. We see his friends, his enemies and other random wasters, living a similar life. There's no real point to his story that meanders aimlessly from one point to the next, but overall the film is the best illustration of hardcore drug use ever to grace the big screen (and as Troma team will boast it does far predate the likes of Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream).
The quality is poor, the direction is a little basic and the actors are just junkies telling their tale. On the surface it is a pointless drug movie that goes on too long and doesn't have an obvious point to make. But underneath it is the art of real life. Human emotion is almost lost here in a world that knows it has given in to the power of weakness, where no one is able to lift themselves out of the spiral. The only way out is to be helped out. Spacely/Gringo did eventually get the assistance he required to beat his addiction and relaunch a career in acting in California. He managed to completey clear himself of his habit, even avoiding caffeine! However, he had not known he had contracted the AIDS virus and died a few years after.
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