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BELIEVE IN ME (1971).

There are few things more painfully artificial than a mainstream studio's attempt to make a cautionary, drug-themed melodrama, and this MGM amphetamine addict romance is a prime example. Directed by THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT's Stuart Hagmann (with uncredited reshoots by John Avildsen), I'm sure this leaden tale of two 'doomed lovers' sounded good in pre-production. The script was by acclaimed playwright Israel Horovitz (THE INDIAN WANTS THE BRONX) and it's based on "Speed is of the Essence" by author Gail Sheehy (PASSAGES), but somewhere along the way the filmmakers flushed away every iota of subtlety. Michael Sarrazin (back when he was touted as the next Ryan O'Neal; unfortunately for him, everyone was right) stars as Remy, an intern at a NYC hospital. He's obviously a caring guy (when first introduced, he's playing piano for sick children), but Remy also like to sneak into the pharmaceutical cabinet for a quick pick-me-up. When Remy gets one look at a colleague's gorgeous sis -- Jacqueline Bisset as children's book editor Pamela -- he's smitten (cut to: montages of them falling in love, including an obligatory 'stroll along the beach' as the sappy Lou Rawls title song plays). They move in together just as Remy's life becomes one big downward spiral. Soon he's popping speed like they were Altoids and assuring Pamela that it's no different from her "diet pills," so this ditz tries 'em for herself! As in most naive drug flicks, after only one high, the destructive effects are readily apparent. The increasingly tweeked Remy and Pamela soon screw up their careers, go deep in debt to their dealers, and when he begins shooting up and she protests, he lovingly chastises her, "Don't be a drag." Their story is filled with unrestrained anti-drug moments, from freak-outs and deaths, to Remy forcing Pamela to drink a bottle of chocolate syrup(?). Meanwhile, the lead performers are laughably obvious and lack discernible chemistry. Sarrazin is one step away from a REEFER MADNESS remake, while speed-ravaged Bisset looks like a supermodel with a hangover, and is saddled with (supposedly-shocking) dialogue like "I steal. I shoot dope. I fuck." In supporting roles, Jon Cypher (HILL STREET BLUES) is Pam's responsible brother, and it's fun to see Allen Garfield as Remy's greasy drug-connection Uncle Stutter, Kevin Conway as his sidekick and Antonio Fargas as a dealer named Boy. Sure, the film's intentions are good -- yeah, speed sucks, particularly when it's ingested by braindead people with no will of their own -- but the NYC backdrop adds the only hint of reality to this bummer of a love story.

© 2004 by Steven Puchalski.