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The Death of Richie (1977)
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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.