The Pusher (1960)

New York City, circa 1958; a heroin kingpin sets up shop, and sets himself up in a posh penthouse apartment on Riverside Drive. His customers are mostly kids, many of them Puerto Rican immigrants looking to find their place in a new city, and they get hooked on the smack that Mario supplies them. Things start to get out of control when a Police Lieutenant’s daughter gets hooked, while working at a shady nightclub in Midtown. The pusher himself, played by Felice Orlandi, is suitably sleazy and heartless, as he feeds off of the young people in the area, making himself rich while destroying their lives in the process. This film is remarkably realistic in it’s depiction of both the business aspect and the addiction aspect of the drug culture. Beautifully filmed in shadowy, stark black and white, with New York City on display in all it’s old time glory. Of course it’s “dreary,” and seedy, and downbeat. This title is very rare and i imagine a copy must be a real collectors item. It reminded me of the New York beat/jazz scene described in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” so much so, that I half expected William Burroughs to appear in one of those seedy Times Square bars shown in this film. This is a wonderful, lost movie that should be easier to find. Similar to “Hatful of Rain,” another early 60’s NYC heroin movie, although this one is better. “The Pusher” would make a great double feature with “Who Killed Teddy Bear,” which is another 1960’s study of the seedy underbelly of New York’s times Square scene. A lost gem…