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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember seeing this film when it was originally broadcast in 1977. It
based on article in Life Magazine about a true story. Thomas Thompson
turned it into a book. It is one of the most intense, emotional stories
told. You see the disaster coming, and, yet, you know there is no way to
stop it. You feel as helpless as Richie's Mom and Dad, and Richie himself.
would like to go on the record and disagree with others: there are no
villains in this story(unless it is drugs), only victims. I remember
identifying with Richie's brother Russ. I felt his sense of helplessness.
loved his brother, but he knew there was nothing he could do to help him.
There is a powerful scene in which Russ begs his brother to quit taking
drugs. If Richie's expression and pain could have been translated into
action, he would have quit right then and there.
I believe that Richie's Mom, Dad and brother, Russ, loved him with all
hearts. There was an incredibly moving scene in which Richie is talking to
his Dad about how unloved he feels, his father breaks down and cries with
his son. And every effort Richie makes to get his life straightened out
comes up short. Although Richie really does try to fight his drug
in the end it is all for naught. The drugs were stronger than he was.
It will haunt you forever that Dad, Ben Gazzara, has to shoot Richie in self-defense. This is as great a human tragedy as has ever been told. And one of two magnificent performances by Robbie Benson. His other "Death Be Not Proud".
Everyone connected to this film should be proud. I saw it once 25 years ago, and remember it almost word for word. There aren't many films which can make that claim. Its sad that such a powerful story has been forgotten and overlooked. It shouldn't be.
This is one movie all teenagers should see. I seen it as a teenager and it really opened my eyes about drugs. How drugs can destroy your life, your family. It was a sad but true movie. If people could just see the pain, maybe they would think twice before trying drugs. To me it was one of the altime great movies. Hopefully it will air soon again on T.V. or come out on video.
I have seen this movie many times. (I recorded it off TV). It really does show what dope can do to you and your family. If you ever get a chance to see it SEE IT!!. It'll be worth every minute. Benson and Gazzara give off true Oscar performances. They would have got my vote as best actor and supporting if it had been a theatrical released movie and up for nominations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think the book was more insightful than the film as it showed more of
the events that led up to this...and not to defend drugs but I really
have to say that there was more to it than that.
George Diener (the supposed real name of the father) was a sort of 'What I say goes' and 'You DARE to defy me?' type and that would naturally play havoc with the personality of anyone in the most difficult of their teen years. I mean, I'm not saying that he pushed his son into drugs and a life of crime, but I think his sort of sternness would at least make any 16 year-old want to say 'Why don't you F--- OFF?!!!'
Another thing I found was that the film version tended to follow a REEFER MADNESS formula (I remember when I was in college, we deliberately planned to smoke while we watched this after seeing the coming attractions...so we could laugh at the exaggerations...and there WERE plenty). I mean, in the book the writer was more explanatory in that he'd smoked several times since he was 14 (which WAS still unusual as it was for 1966, so it figures that Brick was a hood) and acid, speed, heroin, etc., followed. What appeared to be implied was that Richie became a deranged would-be killer from the first puff, with some help from a little speed...and unless you're a total maniac in the first place, that's almost never the case.
I really think that the way the film depicted the situation belonged more in the '50s. As this was 1977 (or '73 for the book), if they really wanted to warn kids away, they should have focused on what came in between. Really!!!
There were many anti-drug made for TV movies in the 1970s. This is probably the best one of the lot (outside of "Go Ask Alice"). Robbie Benson was excellent in the role of a troubled teen who is caught up in drug addiction. There was a scene where he was in his room, crying after a particularly bad day at high school. Benson did an exemplary job of showing the kid's isolation and loneliness. Ben Gazarra was also excellent in the role of the father who ultimately has to made a hard decision concerning his son. I remember being outraged at the ending, but looking back on it, I understand why it had to come to that conclusion. I have noticed that some made for TV films have been released on video and DVD. This one should be released as well.
I haven't seen this movie since it was on TV and I was a teenager, so that has to be considered in reading my opinion. In brief, the movie follows the trajectory of a bright, handsome teenager, played by teen hearthrob of the time Robbie Benson and his hopeless descent into drug use. He tries to reform but the drug addiction is a powerful enemy indeed. This movie was made in the seventies, and as such, is probably dated, but I do think it had an effect on me, and was a part in building up an impression that heroin, in particular, was a road I didn't want to go down. If I remember correctly, this is mostly a movie about why you don't want to become a junkie, and the frustration of parents in watching their children turn into addicts. Not a happy film, but an excellent cautionary tale. Should be remade in today's context, including meth as a topic.
I have so many good things to say about this movie, but a lot of people on
here have already said them. I will say that after viewing this movie for a
second time, I was full of angst and sadness. I cried. I couldn't believe
how terribly things worked out for this family. It is SUCH a tragic story
and it did not have to end that way at all! What a lesson in life! Every
character just kept making one wrong move after another. I couldn't believe
how many bad decisions were made by every character. These bad decisions
just set off more bad decisions and angered all the wrong people and it just
got worse and worse until BANG! Man - what a horrible way to end it. And it
didn't have to be that way at all. All it took was for one person - any
person in the family! - to let go of their pride for one second and
everything could have been saved.
I really got a lot out of this movie. The father and son relationship was so delicate and touchy, it was very painful to watch the two of them interact. When one person says the wrong thing, it gives the other person the instant opportunity to jump all over them and slam the door in their face. This happens over and over and it's a painful experience. You wanna just grab everyone and say TALK TO EACH OTHER! DON'T YOU SEE WHAT'S GOING ON?!??!? AAH!!
The acting was remarkable. Robbie Benson was a genius actor. Ben Gazarra perfected the sensitive, temper prone/irrational, yet hurting and loving father figure. The mother's character was best summed up by her father who said something like, "I've taught her well; when a good man tells her what to do, she listens!" And that's exactly what she did the whole time - listen. She did nothing else. Didn't talk, didn't make any effort to stand up for herself. It was quite a shame.
One last comment about the "he is free man" part. I do not think this man should have gone to jail. If you look at the circumstances, he had no choice. The jury was right in letting him go.
I don't know how anyone can't be moved by this movie. Beware though, this movie is HEAVY. You might cry and you might get sick to your stomach if you're as empathetic as I am. I know I couldn't stop analyzing it for hours after it was over. 9/10.
Ben Gazzara and Robby Benson are solid as battling father and son in this true story about a teenage boy, rebellious and prone to joy-riding all night, who gets involved with drugs. His hard-working, long-suffering parents try to stop the downward spiral, but nothing can break through to their angry, apathetic kid, who seems intent on destroying himself. Despite dated trappings and an overemphasis on parents of addicts who cop out or turn a blind eye (designed to show all sides), the film still packs a small punch. John McGreevey's teleplay, adapted from the book "Richie" by Thomas Thompson, is a bit thick with writer's ink, and the pretensions show through (particularly in an early scene with the father giving a speech in his son's bedroom at two in the morning). However, director Paul Wendkos does a good job at steering us through the tragic circumstances, and the family's plight is certainly a heart-rending one.
"The Death Of Richie", more than thirty-five years later, remains a pretty effective made-for-television movie. It is fairly tough going at times, for several reasons. The main reason is that it portrays drug addiction in a pretty realistic fashion, showing that there is no easy way out of the situation for both the addict and his loved ones. Another reason is with the character of Richie. He is a pretty unlikable fellow, though after some time I realized that may have been the point, to show that drugs can make anyone into a repulsive sort of person. Benson gives an excellent performance as Richie, though Ben Gazarra also deserves kudos portraying the struggling father who is not completely sympathetic. If there is a flaw in the movie, it may be that it does not illustrate how Richie got into drugs in the first place - the movie starts in the middle of his addiction. Though I do realize that movies don't always have the time to show every detail of a situation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always thought that this movie was a little gem, detailing a very
painful story and trying diligently to handle a sensitive and difficult
issue, especially so close in time to the actual tragedy. I just
finished reading the book "Richie". I would caution those people making
comments about the real life situation to read the book and not make
judgments about the case solely from the movie. The movie stays fairly
true to the book, with a few changes and lots of other info omitted
that, when reading up on it, helps to fill in some of the whys and
wherefores, although nothing could totally explain it all (certainly, a
movie can't include all info, so I am not meaning to slam the movie
here). A very important fact omitted, IMHO, is how the youth culture
was totally awash in 'downers' during that time (those involved in the
'drug war' then concentrated on pot, LSD and heroin as the triumvirate
of demon drugs, and seemed somewhat in denial regarding abuse of
pharmaceutical substances, tackling it with seeming half-hearted
gestures). Couple the greater societal contingencies with this type of
drug being a drug of choice for Richie -- not the only drug he
used/abused, by the way -- but certainly a 'demon' drug for him, and
you have some of the mixings for what later followed.
Also briefly detailed in the book are the horrible withdrawal symptoms from Seconal and other downers, while at the same time the kids thought that they weren't addicting. Horrible stuff! Also included is some info about why pills were particularly appealing to the 'heads' of the time (which I won't detail here). Suffice it to say that, along with the 'other' drugs of the time, kids would willy-nilly experiment with a very addicting, very altering and very powerful substance, that was overly prescribed, with the glut of oversupply sold to other countries at cut-rate prices by the pharmaceutical industries, only to be smuggled back into the USA and then sold on the streets to kids who had the lunch money and inclination to buy them, then becoming dependent and addicted to substances that they thought were just 'kicks'. Parents and society at large were left in the dust regarding the rapidly spiraling influx of available, multiple substances to abuse coupled with the seemingly overnight cultural changes that aided and abetted the current drug scene, and left with kids they did not even recognize.
I think many of us have known people who couldn't handle one type of drug or another more than most, such as the person who can't just drink one drink, and when drinking becomes a raging, wired up maniac. This is not to say that only people who can seemingly 'handle' a certain drug should take that drug, but that some drugs have exaggerated effects on people that aren't seen in others who take the same drug. So it seems was the case with Richie and the 'reds' and 'yellows'.
In the book, the reader also gets a neat little backstory on Richie's parents, that helps to frame who they are other than just 'those parents'. Richie and his father, at least in the book, seem to be two cut from the same cloth, just growing up in different times with different temptations. Also included is something that I had always wondered about -- why didn't the dad just shoot to wound? -- he gives a very brief explanation in the book.
Overall, a sad, sad tale. Richie would be around 52 years old today, had he survived the 1970's. No telling what would have happened to him had he lived. He may have straightened up, as he seemed wanting to do at the end of his brief life, gotten married and had his own family. There is a little bit of info about what happened to a few of his friends later, but because the book was written in that decade, there is no way of telling what happened to them eventually, without knowing them, and where they are now, even if they survived. I personally have lost friends early in their young lives to similar types of drug abuse and related violence, or later to the harm they did to their psyches/bodies (today's partier can be tomorrow's drunk/drug addict). In the book, you also get some info about how violent Richie was at the time with other folks, including other kids; he was not just aggressive toward his father. He was very altered, and probably did not even know what hit him down in the basement. Very sad. A perfect storm of tragic events.
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