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Story of a Junkie - Troma - DVD Print E-mail
User Rating: / 4
Written by Jay Creepy   
Thursday, 15 October 2015
Directed by
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AKA: Gringo, Narkkarin tarina, Historia de un junkie

Directed by:
Lech Kowalski
Written by:
Lech Kowalski
Produced by:
Lech Kowalski, Ann Barish
Cinematography by:
Raffi Ferrucci
Editing by:
Val Kuklowsky
Music by:
Chuck Kentis
John Spaceley, Steven Shingles, Claude du Sorbier, Osualdo Vasquez.
1 h 15 min

Distributor: Troma Entertainment

Once in a while you come across something which you've never heard of, you take a chance (actually, my youngest son bought me this DVD for my birthday so he took the chance), put it on and discover such a fantastic and captivating movie waiting. My Horror Soulmate and I simply adore dirty NYC movies; you know the ones which show the gritty alleys, the trash, the graf, that sort of thing. Story of a Junkie (a.k.a. Gringo) seems to be a badly filmed ruff and raw documentary-style piece of filth from the very streets themselves.

We first meet Gringo (John Spaceley) sat on a pavement, reading a comic as his narration explains the process of addiction, which really sets the theme. “You could stop, I don't know, it's just the best part.” He's shown in a basement shooting up.

Sirens and dark streets, snarling dogs, dripping water, and dealers float by as the credits run. Quiet background but creepy music infiltrate, then blasting 80s tunes as Gringo skateboards the wet night sidewalks with bikers passing by. The music is all, “Hey Gringo!” and we're shown articles in papers and mags of the era showing drugs and celebrity deaths.

Gringo is mugged for his board, then speaks to some crew on the corner. “He had a 7” knife held to me. Look, man, I've had my jaw broken, I lost this eye (he wears a patch) had to fight fifteen dudes. If I'm fighting I don't mind fighting, but going back for thirty dollars, man,” he slurs when one of them asks why he doesn't go kick the stick up kid's ass. “I usually fight back.

Minutes pass by filled with body poppers and Gringo bumming cigs off passers-by. Meanwhile, he narrates how he can usually scrape together ten bucks, aside from breaking off to sing a Kinks song off-key. “Shit, we all do something we wouldn't wanna do to keep our habit.” He chats about pure dope and bad cuts as we watch folks bagging up and talking shit whilst cutting. One dude is guinea pig testing the stuff. “Yo, he sez it's good stuff!

A young lad is explaining the benefit of dope: “What would it be like if we didn't have dope? I don't think we'd have a Lower East Side. Y' know, how would we survive? ‘Cause everyone be on welfare, the city would go down the drain. The dope money has a lot to do with the economy of the city ‘cause it does bring a lot of money from the different states.” He goes on to explain how the business helps kids earn a lot of money and keeps them in work.

We see street dealers, a shooting, Gringo trying to crash and score a hit. We witness death, we witness girls hitting the crimson highway sat around a table discussing things like they're talking about a soap on TV they've seen. “Shit I'm having a hard time hittin' myself. We worry 'bout how we're gonna eat today.

It's like an adventure, going through the jungle like a warzone. Lookin' for the good drugs.

Forty minutes in and not one scene has been in daylight. Everything has been dark and murky grey, sometimes as good as pitch black with glistening wet concrete and bright car lights. The old filthy New York!

Photographs of Gringo emerge as a kid, as a teen, he tells us stories of his youth, as a Hippy in the Vietnam era. Afterwards, Gringo buys himself a new board for 20 dollars, ringing his Mom to beg a hundred bills. Then he tells us how his eye got messed up, showing us the scar over his eyeball.

Fifty-six minutes into the film and it's finally daytime! Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's The Message plays as Gringo walks the streets, eats in an empty diner, shaves, cleans up a bit. Day to day life and the city is alive with people, record shops, market folks, kids, it's like the tone of the film lifts, but very briefly because four minutes later we're back into the night.

Totally revealing, Gringo explains what drove him to heroin, how the highs bring “her” back to him. He takes us through the whole process, the works, the injection, and the sweaty vomit and blood caked journey needed to go cold turkey.

The distortion of color filters in the daytime scenes makes the sky an incredible hue of sickly yellow, and mixing real addicts and dealers in with a few amateur actors takes Story of a Junkie to a level only ruled by Combat Shock and Andy Warhol's Trash (review here). In fact maybe deeper because the viewer feels this overdose of human misery more -- it's a void, a gaping wound. Respect to Troma for putting this one out.

The film doesn't really end, it's left that way on purpose as Gringo is on a tightrope in his life. Meanwhile, Tromo have put up some interesting extras for this one -- not the usual gaggle of tits, Lloyd and cheap Toxie masks... erm, well there are some, but at least they've put some commentaries and an interview with the film's producer.

Director, Lech is known and respected for incredibly underground documentaries and works, whilst main star John Spaceley unfortunately died in 1992.

All said and done, regardless of Troma's stupidity in the extras, this release is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject matter for entertainment or education -- as Boogie Down Productions said, “Edutainment.”




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 Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
 Region: NTSC R1
 Audio: Dolby Digital
2.0 Mono

 – Audio Commentary by Lech Kowalksi
 – Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman
 – Interview with Ann Barish
 – Sneak previews
 – Entombed Music Video “Seeing Red” Featuring Lesbians
 – Story of a Jahnke
 – Troma-tic goodies

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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