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  Stakeout On Dope Street Buy this film here.
Year: 1957
Director: Irvin Kershner
Stars: Yale Wexler, Jonathan Haze, Morris Miller, Abby Dalton, Allen Kramer
Genre: Drama
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Considering that the 1950's were the birth of teen rebellion and juvenile delinquence, most people these days tend to view them through rose-tinted spectacles. People, blinded by nostalgia, don't like to admit that the fifties' drugged-out death-wish was no better than the sixties' drugged-out optimism, the seventies' drugged-out nihilism, the eighties' drugged-out decadence and the nineties' drugged-out pointlessness. Even those who were there pretend that their generation was exactly the same as the one portrayed in Happy Days. They won't tell you about the time Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham came home to find Fonzie in his shitty little bedsit above their garage, writhing and sweating around on the floor, trying to find a piece of track-free vein to jack-up in. Or the hook-nosed Arnold, greasier than his own french-fries, running a numbers racket in the back room of his burger-bar-cum-opium-den. They won't tell you about Richie, Potsy and the repulsively ugly Ralph Malph cruising the streets in a banged-up old jalopy looking for vulnerable citizens with a couple of legs to break. And they never, ever, tell you about pretty little Joanie lying back and spreadin' 'em for a couple of cigarettes and a bottle of hooch.

Stakeout On Dope Street tells the truth. Sort of. It relates the story of a gang consisting of a mere three members, Ves, Nick and Jim, who have a clubhouse in the back of Ves' dad's shop (and not in a bus-shelter, as one might expect nowadays). In between "goofing around" (as I believe they used to call it) and metaphorically discussing their hopes and dreams, the artistic Jim draws homo-erotic pictures of muscle-head Nick lifting weights. That's pretty damn rebellious if you ask me. Anyway, Ves (who's the shitty, nondescript one of the three) finds a locked briefcase in the street and brings it to the guys who force it open thinking that it might contain "jewels or uranium." Uranium?! In a briefcase?! Well I guess that explains America's high cancer rate then! Disappointed, they throw away the cosmetics they find within, and sell the briefcase only to discover later that the cosmetics were actually 2lbs of pure heroin. Desperately, they run along to the tip and scour the dump looking for one tiny tub of horse. And they find it too. After all, if you're looking for a bit o' brown, the best thing you can do is go stand in a dump....

After going hell for leather trying to find that crazy shit, this clean-cut trio doesn't have a friggin' clue what to do with the stuff so they ask for the help of ageing, neurotic smackhead Danny (fifties smackheads are always called Danny or Donnie or Dennie... ). When he agrees to help them sell it to school-kids and single-mothers, the gangsters who own the stuff close in....

OK, so first up, the dialogue in Stakeout... is absolutely fantastic. I could probably write an entire (shitty) book detailing every single line in this movie. For a start, there's a droning, monotonous narrative going on throughout the film which makes it seem a bit like an Ed McBain novel, which is cool in my book. Obviously no expert on teenage culture, the self-righteous narrator tells us about how these quiff-headed gangsters spent their ill-gotten gains on "bongo drums and other racy items", and not on booze and fags and mobile phone ringtones like any normal teenager would. The teens' philosophical procrastinations are a riot too: my personal favourite being when Jimmy describes the world as "one big con-a-roo". Ain't that just the motherfuckin' truth! Plus, Stakeout has a typical fifties' conservative outlook on life: in a town full of smackheads, prozzies, thieves and gangsters, the first person the pigs go and hassle about the missing gear is a young, middle-class Chinese woman - about as near to a junkie as (insert name of clean celebrity here - yeah, it's hard, isn't it!). So now you know: Don't be caught out by the Yellow Peril, kids!

But best of all is Danny. Danny tells the curious Jimmy his sad story, about how he got into junk and what cold-turkey is really like. Judging from the rest of the film, it's no surprise that the ill-educated Danny speaks entirely in metaphors, talking about a giant octopus, being swallowed up by a giant snowball and being "smashed by a million horrible, shrieking animals stampeding into your sanity." To add to the effect we are also treated to Danny's very own flashbacks, featuring the man himself going into convulsions, screaming, hallucinating and watching the room spin round, all set to a jazz soundtrack (provided by The Hollywood Chamber Jazz Group). See? Drugs really are more fun when you're watching them fuck somebody else up...

Considering the heavy subject matter, Stakeout.. is actually a pretty lightweight movie and, although it isn't meant to be funny, it's fucking hilarious. At least it is to me... It would have been nice though to find out what happened to the lads: did they get a regular "Don't do it again!" slap on the wrist or did they end up breaking rocks for the rest of their lives. It's left to the viewer to decide. Because this is fifties America, it would have also been nice to have some loser, goin'-nowhere rock 'n' roll band playing in some greasy burger-bar, actually believing that this will be their big break. Stakeout.. usually appears on satellite TV after darts has finished on the terrestrial channels, so it's worth watching if you can't sleep after all that excitement. And in case you're interested, Bowling Technical Assistance on this movie was provided by Redondo Recreation Center.
Reviewer: Wayne Southworth


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