on October 15, 2003
Over the Edge is as relevant today as it was when it appeared in 1979, maybe even more so. It's a teenage rebellion movie in the best tradition of films like Rebel Without a Cause and The Blackboard Jungle. I can't think of a movie that better depicts the boredom of the American teenager in a sub-divided suburban wasteland where nothing to do becomes a full time activity.
New Granada is a planned community in the middle of nowhere. It's a resounding success. At least the adults want to believe it is. They make money, make deals, and want to attract business and create something in the middle of nowhere, a shiny happy place to live, away from the big city. Meanwhile the kids are stuck in limbo with nothing to do and nowhere to go save a Rec center run by an older hippy woman who lets the kids drink, smoke, toke, and generally make a science out of boredom.
Carl is a good kid from a good home, but he's beginning to fall in with the wrong crowd of kids, one of whom is Richie (Matt Dillon in his first film), a rough and tumble teen who sparks the now all too believable climax. The photography is beautiful and lends the film an eerie quality as it depicts New Granada as an ambitious moral failure, a new but already rotting development. The money to build a promised shopping mall and bowling alley has run out, leaving the kids with a Rec center that is eventually shut down by a police force (led by Dough Boy from Taxi Driver) that puts the pressure on until something has to give.
It's supposedly based on a true story, but which true story is unimportant. There are countless New Granadas in America, and the film was shot in a planned community in Aurora, Colorado. The landscape is bleak, with a consistently gray and grainy sky. The 70s trappings, the promise of 'Tomorrow's City...Today' and the grim reality of its cultural bankruptcy all create a depressing and desperate atmosphere. The powder keg finale probably seemed unlikely and over the top in 1979. Not so today as we're reminded of another Colorado suburb named Littleton.
Like Kids, the cast of Over the Edge actually look to be the appropriate age they are depicting (not your typical Hollywood 25 year olds playing high school students). This film is a sharp contrast to the popular teen films of the 80s such as the John Hughes oeuvre and even Fast Times at Ridgemont High. While kids today are more plugged into the outside world (literally) with computers, the internet, video games, and a greater exposure to mass media, the themes of alienation, frustration, and parents who are trying to save their kids but more concerned with property values are still relevant. Today, however, the more kids have to do, the more scapegoats people can find for their actions in the wake of events like Littleton.
Highly recommended, if you can find it. This is screaming for a proper DVD release.
on September 22, 2005
I first saw Over the Edge (1979) on cable way back in the early 80s, and it really spoke to me as a mischevious young punk...years passed and I subsequently forgot the name of the film (for some reason, I kept thinking it was called The Kids are Alright), but managed to find it again on a fluke in a video store about ten years ago...now, after years of waiting, someone finally got it together and released it to DVD. Co-written by Charles S. Haas (Tex, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) and Tim Hunter (River's Edge), and directed by Jonathan Kaplan (Truck Turner, White Line Fever), the film features Michael Eric Kramer (Return to Horror High, Project X) and the silver screen debut of a young Matt Dillon (My Bodyguard, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish). Also appearing is Pamela Ludwig (Dead Man Walking), Vincent Spano (Creator, Alive), Tom Fergus, Harry Northup (Used Cars, The Silence of the Lambs), Ellen Geer (Harold and Maude), daughter of legendary actor Will Geer, and Andy Romano (Pump Up the Volume, Under Siege).
As the film begins we see a sign welcoming us to New Granada, "Tomorrow's City...Today"...it's one of those suburban communities made up of condos and town homes, created so that people could escape the city...and then some text comes on the screen informing us that in 1978, 110,000 kids under the age of 18 were arrested for crimes of vandalism in the United States...the more things change, the more they stay the same...I don't know what that means, but it sounded cool, didn't it? Anyway, we also learn the film is based on actual events, where those responsible for planning the community neglected the fact that nearly a quarter of the population was under the age of fifteen. After this we meet Carl (Kramer) and Richie (Dillon)...Carl's an intelligent kid, who shares a nice town home with his parents, Fred (Romano) and Sandra (Geer) Willat, his father owning the local Cadillac dealership. Richie, on the other hand, is somewhat of a punk, his parents split up, living with his mother and younger brother in low-income apartment housing, and it seems he's always in trouble with the local authorities. Anyway, the two boys are friends living in the city of New Granada, where there is practically nothing to do except hang out at the local teen recreational center and get annoy the adults. After the pair get picked up by the authorities, which mainly consists of a policeman named Sergeant Doberman (Northup), for a serious incident they weren't involved in, the school board initiates some stringent, new rules for the kids, including curfew. Also, we find out the local community planners (including Carl's father) are hoping to draw in outside investors to develop the land the recreational center is located on, into some kind of business park, which would essentially eliminate one of the last refuges for the kids, but the deal gets nixed after the investors realize the extent of the juvenile delinquency problem in New Granada. After a particularly serious incident between Doberman and a boy, the adults hold an emergency meeting within the school to point fingers at each other, and the disenfranchised youth come together, lock the grown-ups in the school, and mayhem ensues...
I think one of the things I liked about this film is the fact the characters, dialog, and the performances by the actors all seem very genuine, like people you might know in real life. There's accessibility here, no matter which point of view you're coming from, whether it's the adults or the children, as the problems aren't really shown to be stemming from one side or another, but a combination of factors that continuously build up, eventually exploding, spewing forth a torrent of anger and resentment in the form of wanton destruction and unfettered violence. Films about juvenile delinquency (JD) are nothing new (High School Confidential! Was released in 1958), but where many are exploitive by nature, this one has a bit of a documentary feel, even though the trailer tries to push the exploitive aspects, including using the line "Old enough to know better, too young to care". It's funny, but after watching the film again last night after so many years, a part of me actually felt sympathetic towards the character of Officer Doberman...oh, I'll grant you he was a real tool, one prone to consistently abusing his authority, especially towards the kids, but if you take a deep, hard look you'll see he's a character completely out of his depth, lacking the necessary faculties to deal with the growing issues involving the kids. His `solutions' always consisted of tighter controls, more rules, and stricter enforcement, things that would only aggravate the problems he's trying to contend with...and Doberman may have been a tool, but he was an obvious one...unlike that of Jerry Cole, who seemed to be the main guy in charge for planning and development for New Granada. Check out the scene near the end when the adults are having the emergency meeting and Jerry proceeds to dole out the blame, with absolutely none reserved for himself despite the fact he's probably one of primary causes specifically due to his and his colleague's short-sightedness in developing the community with little, or no, consideration towards the youth population. Someone eventually calls him out on this, specifically when he's talking about poor growth within the community, and how the issues will affect property resale values, despite the fact the meeting was supposed to be about the problems in the community with the children, who they tend to view as a liability rather than a part of the community. The story is pretty serious, but it does feature some humor, one of the funniest parts for me being when Carl's classmate and friend Claude (Fergus) lets Carl know he took some speed prior to coming to school to prepare for a test. While in class, the kids find out the test involves looking at a projected slide of painting, and this is when Claude realizes that, instead of speed, he dropped acid and it's beginning to kick in...and get this, the painting on the slide is by Salvador Dali...the story moves along well, features a lot of interesting characters, is relatable and relevant (even after some 25 years), and includes exceptionally appropriate music from such bands as Cheap Trick, Van Halen, The Ramones, The Cars, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. It's really amazing how much a well thought out and chosen soundtrack can help drive a story as it does here (I loved the Jimi Hendrix tune blasting in the Bronco during the chase sequence)...and really, the original scoring, which was done by the director's father, Sol Kaplan, is pretty good, too...all in all this is a great little film, full of heart, and worth catching if you can...
The picture quality on this DVD, presented in widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16X9 TVs, looks very clean and sharp, and the Dolby Digital mono comes though most excellent. Special features are limited to a commentary track with the director Jonathan Kaplan, screenwriters Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunter, and producer George Litto, and a trailer for the film. Could they have done more? I suppose, but after waiting for as long as I have (this film has been out of print on VHS for awhile) for a DVD release, I'm just glad it finally got released, and more people will have an opportunity to see it...
By the way, who knew Vincent Spano was such a punk in his youth?
on September 24, 2005
This is the "Rebel Without A Cause" for the seventies, only with 13-15 year-old kids who are played by ... 13-15 year-old-kids. As far as I know, this might be the first time when young teens were actually not played by actors several years their senior, and the effect of that is weirdly chilling. On one hand, it almost seems camp. These kids are still riding around on bikes (Stingrays!), but not too young - in their opinion - to play around with guns, sex of course, drugs of all kinds, and even having a bit of 'fun' with the cops. They act like they're worldly, experienced dopers, thieves, and drug dealers, but that's really how these kids were (I grew up with kids exactly like these in the mid-seventies). It's that "reality" that's chilling. Twenty-six years ago, we all kind of laughed at the somewhat cataclysmic boiling point that these kids reached by the film's final chapter (it's every schoolkid's wish come true), but today ... I don't know. With every generation, the stakes seem to get higher and higher. In the fifties, it was "Rebel Without a Cause", in the seventies, it was "Over the Edge" in the nineties it was ... Columbine. The questions still remain. What is it beneath the quiet suburban hum that unnerves every growing generation that is trying to carve out an identity? This film supplies some of the answers. It's also has a terrific slew of 70's songs, and is extremely entertaining!
on January 9, 2007
What happens when a planned community fails to plan for its own youth? All hell breaks loose. That's what happens. This is the story of New Granada, a suburban Denver subdivision full of drab townhomes that just hasn't met the planner's expectations. In order to attract new business, they scrap the plan for the movie theatre and bowling alley so they can build an office park. That leaves a dilapidated rec center as the only place for the local juveline deliquents to hang out. The kids then find other things to do, such as smoke hash, drop acid, guzzle vodka, torment the hapless local cop and play with loaded guns. The good news is that their shenanigans are set to a kickass soundtrack, featuring the Cars, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix and Cheap Trick.
Matt Dillon shines in his first role ("A kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid"), as do Vincent Spano and Michael Kramer as the film's center, Carl. The rest of the cast hasn't done much professionally, although a couple of them can be seen in another Matt Dillon film Tex. Pamela Ludwig, the girl who plays Corey, ended up marrying the director Jonathan Kaplan (Unlawful Entry, Project X, The Accused and Bad Girls)
Over the Edge is based on the true story of a development in Foster City, CA (near San Francisco) where a bunch of bored kids went nuts and destroyed part of a school. It is co-written by Tim Hunter, who later went on to direct another great teen angst film called The River's Edge.
OTE is very moody and shocking in its realistic depiction of suburban kids in the 1970's. If you are 35-45 yrs old, WATCH THIS MOVIE. You will recognize these kids. You will KNOW these kids. These kids are you.