Scoring With Al!
Ever just want to hang out with Al Pacino? You know, with him and some of his junkie friends? Well, there is a movie where you can do just that….a time when he was just an upcoming young Actor…
We all know Al Pacino – thanks in part to such memorable roles as the ruthless drug dealer Tony Montana from “Scarface”!
Say Hello To My Little Friend!
Of course, “Scarface” is one of the greatest drug-fueled action films ever made, full of great lines like “say hello to my little friend!”
Time To Check Out Early Al!
Al Pacino’s career has had many ups and downs, but in the early 70’s, Pacino gave two memorable performances in two neglected classics. Pacino’s first few films were some of his most powerful, and these two movies I’m about to discuss bookended his incredible performance as Michael Corleone in the 1972 masterpiece “The Godfather”…
Right before he became Michael Corleone, Pacino garnered critical acclaim for his performance as a junkie in New York City…
The Panic In Needle Park
“The Panic in Needle Park” is a 1971 film directed by Jerry Schatzberg, starring Al Pacino in only his second film appearance. Check out the trailer for this gritty classic:
New York’s “Needle Park!”
The film portrays life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in “Needle Park” – the nicknames of Verdi Square and Sherman Square on New York City’s Upper West Side near 72nd Street and Broadway.
As you can see from the poster, they don’t beat around the bush as to how rough this movie is…this is gritty film making from the early 70’s, depicting a harsh environment in the big apple…
The film is a love story between Pacino, a young addict and small-time hustler, and Kitty Winn, a restless woman who finds Al charismatic. She becomes an addict, and life goes downhill for them both as their addictions worsen, eventually leading to a series of betrayals.
To set the atmosphere, no music was used in the film, much of which features cinéma vérité-style footage. It is believed to be the first mainstream film to feature actual drug injection.
Francis Ford Coppola showed a screening of this film to Paramount executives in order to convince them that Al Pacino was suitable for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather.
After “Needle Park”, Pacino did of course get the role of Michael Corleone, and then he followed it up with this masterpiece:
“A crow isn’t afraid of a scarecrow. It laughs.”
Pacino re-teamed with “Needle Park” Director Jerry Schatzberg for the brilliant “Scarecrow”, also starring Gene Hackman.
Talk about an acting master class! Gene Hackman was just a year past his Oscar-Winning Best Actor role in “The French Connection” Here he plays Max, an ex-con who’s been saving money to open a car wash in Pittsburgh.
Max: For every car, there is dirt.
Max is hitch-hiking across country, and on the way he meets Al Pacino…
Pacino is Lionel, a sailor who’s returning home to the midwest to see the child born while he was at sea. Of course, they meet while hitch-hiking and decide to travel together.
They form an unlikely pair as the brawling Max learns a little how Lionel copes with the world: Lionel believes that the scarecrow doesn’t scare birds, but instead amuses them – birds find scarecrows funny. So Lionel believes that everything will be OK if you can just make people laugh…Hackman knows better…
Gene Hackman is brilliant as a tough, tough TOUGH ex-con who has a plan, and NOTHING is going to get in his way…he also has a few hilarious quirks, such as what he likes to eat:
Max: [at the lunch counter] “Gimme a chocolate doughnut and a bottle of beer.”
This is a real “road” movie. Before shooting, Gene Hackman and Al Pacino both dressed as hobos and hitchhiked through California to get into their characters.
Gene Hackman has stated that his performance in Scarecrow is his personal favorite. For Pacino, this film followed “Needle Park” and “The Godfather”, and led right into “The Godfather Part 2″…what a run of masterful acting performances!
Both of these films are dark, bleak, and present a gritty look at life in America in the early 70’s – but they are brilliant – “Scarecrow” won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival…and both films are worth checking out!
And the best part: I found this picture online…what a triple bill! I can’t imagine what sci-fi fans of “Death Race 200” – or romance fans of “Aloha Bobby and Rose” thought when “Scarecrow” came on!