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Review: Way Out (1967)

Directed by: Irvin S. Yeaworth | 102 minutes | drama | Actors: Frank Rodriguez, James Dunleavy,

An unexpected piece of quality cinema, that’s how “Way Out” comes across compared to the usual “sleaze” released by the American Grindhouse label. This time no black and white exploitation about nymphomanes, lesbians or fetishists, but a socially critical about drug addicts and the daily struggle they have with their addiction. It is the collection at its best, because the goal of bringing surprising, yet obscure to a larger audience is absolutely achieved with this film.

In “Way Out,” we follow the story of heroin addict Frankie and his friends. From the smart Jimmy who wants to do some criminal chores to the innocent Stella who is unlucky enough to associate with the wrong people and end up in prostitution. They are all striking characters with their own story to tell. A story that is a lot more personal than you would expect at first sight. All actors in “Way Out” are ex-users themselves and have experienced the situations played out first hand.
Director does not mince words and tells the story of the junkies who roam the streets and live only for the next shot, sincerely and honestly. Yeaworth is not afraid to show what kind of egoists his protagonists really are: Jerry sells his girlfriend to his dealer because he has no money for a while. Frankie steals from his father to pay for his addiction, and Che Che turns no help when Jimmy overdoses. Sometimes the scenes in it are very explicit and we see heroin being prepared and then injected and we are left with our noses on top of the misery.

Yet Yeaworth is careful not to just list all the criminal and unethical acts the junkies in the story take. We also see a more human side of the users. We see blossom between Jimmy and Stella, get to see Frankie’s tyrannical father crying in his son’s arms, and how Jerry eventually finds God in his life and then struggles to let go of his past. It is these little moments that make “Way Out” more than mere disaster tourism and that, over the course of the film, you start to care about the characters that seem distant at first.

All this has also been portrayed in a very atmospheric way. The filming on location in New York provides a composition of deserted alleys, peeling wallpaper and subways wandering around dilapidated blocks of houses. It turns the already depressing environment into a jungle in which the helplessness of the characters becomes even more tangible. Beautifully portrayed and supported by brooding jazz music, “Way Out” is a that not only has a solid story to tell, but also convinces cinematically. An absolute highlight of the collection.

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