For a long time, Dreams Don't Die was an elusive, nostalgic treasure to many of those who first saw this memorable TV movie back in May of 1982. The search for a duped copy — no matter how grainy — of the film about teenage love, vandalism, and drug dealing, haunted fans, especially graffiti writers. But such was the allure of Dreams Don't Die , which had an immediate impact on its audience when it first aired, spawning who knows how many copycat tags in neighborhoods across the country. The fact that authentic graf legend Dondi served as a technical advisor on the film only added to the mystique.
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Seen today, it's tempting at first glance to dismiss it as just another cheesy television movie of the week. But while it does contain an overt anti-crime message aimed directly at kids, the film also has a fair share of violence and adult situations that might surprise first-time viewers. It may be a TV movie, but it certainly is more realer than you'd think it would be, with various scenes almost playing out like an After School Special presentation of King of New York meets Wild Style .
The plot revolves around three NYC teens growing up in the ghetto: Danny, a writer known as KING 65 (played by
Ike Eisenmann Iake Eissinmann of Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain ), his ambitious half-Puerto Rican girlfriend Teresa ( Trini Alvarado , co-star of Times Square ), and "Captain Kirk," an uneducated but slick-talking drug dealer portrayed by the impressive Israel Juarbe , who was also Freddy Fernandez in the O.G. The Karate Kid . (In one of many great scenes he's in, Kirk watches a TV game show in the backseat of his car, and when the host asks who was the President during World War I, Kirk blurts out, "Abraham Lincoln.")
Held together by a strong visual style, an effective music score by Brad Fiedel , and engaging performances all around, the movie also delivers some on-point dialogue from writer Garry Michael White as well, like the part where good guy cop Paul Winfield first meets Danny at the Hoyt–Schermerhorn station:
"Well, lookee here, a white boy. A white boy writer. You must be a toy, huh? Where you from, Flatbush? Yonkers?"
"I ain't no toy," responds the kid. "You ever seen the tag KING 65?... I'm king of the line is what I am."
If you ache for the days gone by of bombing trains, getting chased by police, and breathing grimy Rotten Apple air, your Dreams have been fulfilled (just push play).
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Dreams Don't Die (1982).
Directed by Roger Young.
(Props to Laurie Shae for the upload. Thank you.)