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"Believe In Me" has been aired quite regularly of late on Australian
cable TV. I stumbled across it and (embarrassingly enough) thought I
would check it out because I liked the Lou Rawls theme song. I'm really
glad I did because this film turned out to be a small gem.
During the first 10 or 15 minutes of the film, I thought I was in for a corny romance about a dedicated doctor, Remy, and his editor girlfriend, Pamela. I was genuinely surprised when Dr. Do Good stole hospital supplies to get high and was really taken aback when Pamela decided to follow Remy's example and started to shoot up. Pamela and Remy's descent into drug addiction is affecting and very gritty for a mainstream movie made in 1971. I'm sure the subject matter of white collar drug use was even more confronting back then than it is now.
I was interested to read that a significant amount of the film was edited out and re-shot because it was thought to be too bleak. This explains the jarring way in which lighter moments are interspersed into the action and the very annoying use of the (quite lovely) romantic score, which I think was intended to give the impression that the film really just a tragic love story. I'm sure the studio thought this would make the film more palatable to audiences but it just makes the story seem ridiculous. Nevertheless, the studio butchery does not entirely ruin the film. The performances by Michael Sarrazin and Jacqueline Bisset are great and the film does provide a fresh perspective on drug addiction.
I would really love to see the film as the director originally intended. I think "Believe In Me" is ripe for a director's cut on DVD, this is one of those rare films that seems more relevant today than when it was made. Recommended!
Originally filmed in 1970 as "Speed is of the Essence" (the title of Gail Sheehy's story about her sister that appeared in New York Magazine), this virtually-unknown film so alarmed MGM in its unflinching depiction of drug abuse that the studio ordered extensive re-shoots directed by John G. Avildsen (who receives no screen credit). The mangled result briefly appeared in theaters in 1971 and then vanished into obscurity. MGM's attempt to make the movie more "palatable" and "upbeat" proved disastrous (What did the studio want--"Love Story" with needle marks?) Among the approximately 50 minutes of the original version that hit the cutting room floor were several poignant scenes featuring George Rose and Geraldine Fitzgerald as Jacqueline Bisset's parents, frightened and helpless when confronted in their placid Connecticut home by their daughter's decline into amphetamine addiction. Even so, the drastically re-edited release print still glows with the warmth, sincerity and lacerating honesty of the performances by Michael Sarrazin and Jacqueline Bisset. In fact, Francois Truffaut was so impressed by Ms. Bisset's multi-faceted portrayal of a doomed young woman that he subsequently cast her in "Day for Night." "Believe in Me" has never aired on commercial or cable TV, nor has it been released on videotape. It is apparently a "lost" film, and a shame, because Ms. Bisset's and Mr. Sarrazin's work is exemplary.
This movie has haunted me for more than 35 years! I remember how beautiful Jacquelline Bissett was in the beginning and how she, the character, changed over the years with the use of drugs. I can still see the final scene - this from a fan who can barely remember the movies I saw last week! In the drug culture of the 1970's, this would have been a potent film to use as a drug deterrent for teens and adults alike. Her changing appearance was amazing! The family didn't looks at things very realistically either. My kids were pretty young then, so I didn't realize just how much this lifestyle could and would affect my own family's lifestyle. I have looked for this movie on all the TV movie channels and on movie sources for years, in the hopes to see it again. This space is the first I have found that tells that it hasn't been made into a CD. No wonder I haven't found it. However, I still would welcome an opportunity to see it again. The performances were outstanding and so important, even today.
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