Stakeout on Dope Street

Stakeout on Dope Street

name = Stakeout on Dope Street

caption =
imdb_id = 0052242
amg_id = 1:111582
director = Irvin Kershner
writer = Andrew J. Fenady
Irvin Kershner
Irwin Schwartz
starring = Yale Wexler
Abby Dalton
Morris Miller
Allen Kramer
Jonathon Haze
producer = Andrew J. Fenady
music = Richard Markowitz
cinematography= Mark Jeffrey
distributor = Warner Bros.
released = 3 May 1958
runtime = 89 min.
language = English

"Stakeout on Dope Street" is a 1958 film by Irvin Kershner. It is about three teenagers who inadvertently get themselves involved in a drug ring. It was the directorial debut of Kershner.


Late one night in Los Angeles, Sgt. Fred Matthews and Officer Lynn Donahue arrest pusher Jerome Lake, who is carrying two pounds of uncut heroin. They are ambushed by gangsters Mitch Swadurski and Lenny Potter, who kill Matthews and wound Donahue, then shoot and kill Lake after he tosses the briefcase containing the heroin into the underbrush. Unable to recover the drugs before other police cars arrive, the criminals retreat, and the next day, the case is found by eighteen-year-old Julian "Ves" Vespucci as he delivers groceries from his father's store. Ves takes the case to the back room of his father's store, where he and his pals, would-be artist Jim Bowers and bodybuilder Nick Raymond, hang out. Because the case contains samples of women's cosmetics, and the canister containing the heroin is labeled face powder, the young men assume that the powder is worthless and throw the can away, although Jim keeps some of the cosmetics for his girl friend Kathy. The boys pawn the briefcase at the shop owned by Samuel Alber, and the next day, Jim takes the samples to Kathy and proposes to her. Kathy demurs, telling him that she wants things to be "nice" when she gets married and is afraid that he will be unable to support them. Jim then sees a newspaper headline about the missing narcotics and rushes to tell Nick and Ves. Ves had already tossed the canister in a dumpster, which has since been picked up by a garbage truck, and so the young men race to the city dump.

After a frantic search, they find it and return to the store, where they debate the ethics of selling the heroin. Nick convinces Jim and Ves that the potential profits are worth it, and takes them to meet Danny, a heroin addict. Meanwhile, the police and the mob are searching for the drugs, using every contact they have in the underworld and on the streets. Danny is thrilled by the small "test" packet of heroin brought to him by the boys and agrees to sell it for them, especially when they tell him that they can supply him with as much as he can sell. The police grow frustrated by the lack of information, and Stan speculates with Capt. Allen that a new mob is attempting to move in and might have the drugs.

The three friends are awed by the money that Danny gets for the heroin, and while Nick and Ves spend a day shopping, Jim buys a bracelet for Kathy. When he explains where he got the money, Jim is surprised by Kathy's vehement rejection of the bracelet. She upbraids him for profiting from other's weakness, although he protests. Kathy storms away.

Jim then goes to Danny's to make a delivery and asks him what taking heroin is like. Danny relates that he first sampled the drug "for fun" with his friends but then quickly got addicted. In harrowing detail, Danny describes having kicked the drug "cold turkey" after being arrested, then relates that he has gone through withdrawal three times because he keeps succumbing to his addiction. Deeply moved by Danny's story, Jim grows even more reluctant to continue selling.

The police obtain their first break when Alber contacts them about the briefcase he bought from the boys. Although Alber did not record the young men's names, he recalls that one was named Nick and worked in a garage. Lenny and Mitch learn from a local pusher that Danny has been selling small but steady amounts of heroin. Jim confronts Ves and Nick, telling them that he wants out of their scheme completely, even though they offer to keep giving him his share of the proceeds. Jim wants to give the drugs to the police, but acquiesces when his friends protest.

After the boys leave for the local bowling alley, Danny is brutally questioned by Lenny and Mitch at his shack. Later that night, Nick leaves the bowling alley to collect the day's earnings from Danny, and he, too, is beaten by the gangsters. When Nick's date becomes impatient, Ves goes to Danny's and is also captured by Mitch and Lenny, who force him to call Jim. Although Ves begs Jim to bring the rest of the drugs to Danny's, Jim insists that he is going to turn them over to the police.

Mitch and Lenny then take Ves to the store, arriving just after Jim has retrieved the canister. Ves shouts a warning to Jim to run, and the gangsters pursue him. As Ves then telephones the police, Jim climbs a tower in a power plant. When Lenny cannot reach Jim from one angle, Mitch begins to climb after Jim, but the young man pours the heroin onto Mitch's upturned face. The police soon arrive and capture Lenny, then shoot Mitch, who falls to his death. After Jim climbs down, he is told by Ves that Nick is in the hospital. The two young men are then arrested and led off to face the consequences of their greed.

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