Still from the film Dusty and Sweets McGee (1971) showing a woman seated on the sidewalk, leaning against a building

Dusty and Sweets McGee / The Panic in Needle Park

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The UCLA Film & Television Archive presents classic film and contemporary cinema in the Hammer's Billy Wilder Theater.

Part of the series American Neorealism, Part One: 1948–1984

Dusty and Sweets McGee

Wishing to cash in on the youth market, Warner Bros. financed director Floyd Mutrux’s film, about two young drug addicts adrift in late 1960s Los Angeles, without approving a script. Virtually plotless and starring mostly amateur actors, Dusty and Sweets McGee drifts dreamily through sun-drenched, shiny urban landscapes while its denizens wander, spiritually dead, from one fix to the next. (1971, dir. Floyd Mutrux, 35mm, color, 95 min.)

The Panic in Needle Park

Another early 1970s studio gambit for the youth market, The Panic in Needle Park includes Al Pacino in the cast and Joan Didion as a screenwriter. Jerry Schatzberg’s street-level portrait of a pair of heroin-addicted lovers on the down-and-out in Manhattan split critics over the nature of its imagery. Variety lauded it for “drama so real” it seemed to be a documentary while the New York Times found its “self-effacing” style lacking an “articulate intelligence.” Regardless, it’s an essential test case for how to define what J. Hoberman described on the occasion of its re-release in 2009 as Schatzberg’s “relative neorealism.” (1971, dir. Jerry Schatzberg, 35mm, color, 116 min.)