Coppola's original version was quite faithful to Hinton's book and this new edit is even more so. He has put back in 22 more minutes, most noticeably at the beginning and end of the movie. This new footage opens up the film more. We are introduced to the greasers much earlier on now that Coppola isn't reigned in by the dictates of test screenings. He is able to take the time to immerse the audience in this richly textured world shot in glorious widescreen by Stephen Burum who adopts a look that evokes another epic about troubled youth, Rebel Without A Cause (1955). The film is drenched in the golden hues of warm sunrises and sunsets like something right out of Gone with the Wind (1939).
Another significant change has Coppola replacing all of his father's beautiful, classical score in favour of period rock `n' roll music. In some cases, like the opening scene where Ponyboy is jumped by some Socs, it works and in others, like the whimsical surf music that plays over the scene where the Socs jump Johnny and Ponyboy, it feels awkward and out of place. Part of the film's original charm was its moments of `50s style melodrama, as epitomized by the film's orchestral soundtrack, and this diminished by the newly inserted period music that could be right out of an episode of Crime Story. Hinton's books are timeless with their universal themes and the original music reflected that. This new music, while accurate for its time period, contributes to a loss of some of the timeless feel.
On the first DVD is an audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola. He addresses the changes in the soundtrack by saying that after all these years he wanted to move away from a score that commented on what was happening to music that the characters would actually be listening to. The filmmaker delivers another top notch commentary full of smart observations and talks at length about why he prefers this cut.
There is an additional commentary featuring Diane Lane, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe and Matt Dillon. Coppola invited all of them back to see this new cut of the film with Lowe and Dillon recorded separately. This is an entertaining track that fans will love. It's great to hear these actors talk about this movie after all these years.
The second disc kicks things off with a retrospective look at the movie, entitled, "Stay Gold: A Look Back at The Outsiders." In a nice touch, we see Lane, Macchio, Swayze and Howell being reunited with Coppola at his ranch where they recorded their commentary. This is an excellent look at the movie with all kinds of good, on set footage.
"S.E. Hinton on Location in Tulsa" features the publicity-shy author revisiting the locations that Coppola used in the movie, including the drive-in which still exists. She talks about how Coppola worked closely with her on the set to make sure that the script was true to her book.
"The Casting of The Outsiders" has casting director now producer Fred Roos take us through the casting process with audition footage from back in the day. People like Kate Capshaw and Adam Baldwin tried out for the film. Anthony Michael Hall even read for the role of Ponyboy!
A nice addition is "Readings," with some of the cast who came back for these featurettes reading their character descriptions from Hinton's novel.
"NBC News Today Segment: The Outsiders Started by School Petition." This is a new story done during the film's original release about how a class of California school kids wrote a letter to Coppola asking him to make Hinton's book into a movie.
There are six "Additional Scenes" with more footage from the opening that is even more faithful to the book but the rest of the scenes amount to extensions of existing ones.