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‘The Death of Richie’: MY FAVORITE ANTI-DRUG FILM (That Kinda Made Me Want to Do Drugs)

There was a moment of time in the mid-to-late 70s when the hippie kid shackles wore off and free love, experimentation and the general pursuit of teenage happiness was being ruined by a parental population trying to figure out what the hell happened to their offspring. In otherwords, life for a kid between the ages of 13-18 was in a weird kind of flux where all the things that they liked to do was now deemed “inappropriate”.

Enter a slew of books and TV movies created for the specific purpose of scaring the shit of young people so they wouldn’t do drugs, have sex, drink at parties or do anything that could remotely be considered a right of passage (because as we all know MASS MEDIA MAKES THE BEST PARENT).

Within this dumping ground of over-wrought propaganda was the 1977 TV movie The Death of Richie (based upon a book about the 1972 death of George Richard “Richie” Diener, Jr. who was killed by his dad) starring the dreamy Robbie Benson as Richie and the scariest man alive, Ben Gazzara (the bad guy from Roadhouse) as Richie’s homicidal dad.

Basically the plot revolves around Richie who loves to do drugs and his unemotional asshole dad (who is sort of supposed to be the hero in this piece) trying desperately to get his son off the psychedelic sauce. There’s a lot of crying and screaming and weird visuals that make it quite clear that none of the movie special effects people had ever done drugs, a Hang-out room where bad music plays and where Richie and his friends get totally, spankin’ high, and some seriously weird set decorations that look as if someone had bought out every Head Shop in the country. As the story’s climax begins its ascension Richie’s parents bust up his trippin’ buzz which leads to a confrontation of epic proportions that leaves a hot teenage tweaker dead and his dad sporting a Dirty Harry-like stance that results in Daddy getting a pass for laying out his flesh-and-blood.

Lesson learned from this film?

IN THE EYES OF THE LAW, YOUR PARENTS CAN FUCKING KILL YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE A DRUGGY AND BY-GOD THEY AREN’T WORKING HARD TO PAY FOR YOUR GODDAMN REHAB

Yep, it certainly was a great time to come of age, let me tell you.

If you are interested in seeing the actual film (which you should if for no other reason than to be glad you only had to contend with “Very Special Episodes” of Blossom rather than the 70s/early 80s media blitz of behavior modification like us old people did) then feel free to waste and hour-and-a-half of your life after the break.

You’ll be glad (or slightly pissed) that you did.


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