I should start off by sharing that The Outsiders has long been one of my favorite films ever. The reasons are sentimental ones to be sure, but even in its original form it was a beautiful, almost romantic version of the Hinton book. I also admit to being ever so slightly ticked upon hearing of this release, because I already own the original on DVD and I just *knew* they were going to release something like this one day.
Not that I hesitated to order this new version, mind you. And now I'm going to urge you to do the same. It's really that good - this minor masterpiece now seems somehow and finally "complete" and is so much more compelling than the film was when released.
Much has been said about the restored scenes, especially the entirely "new" first reel that really serves to communicate the depth of character and relationship that makes the book as popular and as enduring as it is. Particularly notable is an extended, crushingly intimate scene between Pony Boy and his brother Soda Pop as they prepare to fall asleep in each others arms. I'm sure this will cause homophobic titters in teenage viewers but it's entirely true to the novel and to these characters. Indeed, the restoration of the Soda/Pony relationship is one of the most valuable elements of this "complete" version - if you had/have a brother, you'll find yourself wishing he could show the compassion and tenderness Lowe displayes toward Howe.
The most notable restoration is a gem of a scene between C. Thomas Howe and Ralph Macchio that pops up in the middle of the film. The "church sequence" has always been my favorite portion of this film & seems almost to serve as the heart of the story, if you will. This is an extended, "actorly" scene that really allows the pair to sink their teeth into the material. Macchio has long been among my favorite actors and Johnny seems almost the role of his lifetime, and he really shines here - moving from fear to dispair to anger to apology ... it's quite an *amazing* scene, and I can't imagine why it was ever omitted from the original. The downside is that this addition does serve to break up the dream-like, utterly poetic feel to this portion of the film [the now-deleted portion of this sequence is included on the second disc].
Finally, I must admit I was nervous about the new-version score after reading some of the comments here. While there are times - particular moments & sequences - where I miss the epic, theatrical score of the original, I love what they've done here. It just "feels" right and I think it also serves to lift a little "heaviness" from what is already an extremely heavy movie. Two key examples might be found in the aforementioned "church sequence":
In a negative sense, we have the key scene of the entire film, one in which Pony and Johnny stand before a breath-taking sunset and the Robert Frost poem is introduced as the movie's central theme: The "old" score featured here a sensitive and spare string "comment" on the conversation between the two [if you're at all aware of the strings behind the Dorothy/Professor Marvel scene in Oz you'll instantly know what I'm talking about]; now we get an instrumental of the contemporary-sounding "Stay Gold" theme that seems almost a loud and drunken intruder on this most tender and personal moment. It very nearly destroyed the scene, at least for me.
In the altogether positive sense, the Church Sequence no longer suffers from the emotional weight the original score lent. Instead, we get Elvis! GLORIOUS early Elvis selections - tons of them - which are entirely appropriate for the time period and which at once seem to narrate and to participate in and amplify their scenes. Throughout film, these song selections lend an objective and running conversation between director and viewer. On the one hand I resent this, because it removes me slightly from the emotion and action on screen. On the other hand, it feels correct for the age of the characters and it truly does lift the "downer" feel to the overall film.
It would have been nice to have the option of either score included on this disc - or to selectively pull in the orchestral score when appropriate - but that's a relatively minor complaint. Personally, I prefer the new score, and I've the feeling it will grow on viewers after repeat viewings.
The only other quibble I have is that they've messed with the opening credits, which I always found quite incredible. That *enormous* title doing that slow, uninterrupted crawl across a sunset-drenched screen - God, how I miss that! Thankfully, though, they retained the warm and beautiful Stevie Wonder "Stay Gold" as the theme song.
Whether you buy it for yourself or for your kids, I'd highly recommend grabbing this disc [oh the extras are GREAT fun too!]. At forty, this film still has an effect on me I don't quite comprehend, and every kid I show it to ends up loving it, too. Thank you, Coppola & Co.