Story of a Junkie (IRL Drug Culture Docudrama)


The crown jewel in the paste crown of the Troma Team, Lech Kowalski’s Story of a Junkie (originally filmed as Gringo) is a wild trip through despair and addiction on the sordid streets of the Lower East Side circa 1983. Depressing, exhilarating, refreshing and a marked contrast from the usual Troma swill, Story of a Junkie is very much worth seeking out and deserves better treatment than what it’s gotten on home video. The late, actual heroin addict, John Spacely acts as our tour guide through the dope houses and inner workings of the LES heroin trade. Before the influx of overpriced apartments and Starbucks, coke and dope were the lifeblood of the neighborhood. We follow Spacely as he shambles his way through life looking for his next cigarette or comic book or skateboard or bag of dope. Despite his addiction, John makes a compelling subject as he has managed to retain at least some shred of humanity in the wreckage that is his life. In an environment of cold blooded hustlers and killers, he remains likable and oddly charming.


What makes Story of a Junkie really work is the seamless blending of fiction and documentary formats to create a harrowing vision of a world where the freaks come out at night. Try as NYC’s current administration may to deny its existence, this world is still very much a reality and no amount of gentrification is going to make it go away. Credit must be given to cinematographer Raffi Ferruchi and composer Chuck Kentis for creating the perfect audiovisual accompaniment to the horror. Some may argue that the use of rap music may be incongruous, but it fits the movie perfectly. All in all, Story of a Junkie is essential viewing and a long time personal favorite. Watch it next time you feel like going out to cop, for John Spacely may very well be what you see next time you look in the mirror.


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Written by David, Comptroller of Your Last Scrap of Existence

Story of a Junkie (1987)
Director: Lech Kowalski
Distributor: Troma Entertainment
4.5 / 5