Over The Edge

Dir: Jonathan Kaplan, 1979. Starring: Michael Kramer, Matt Dillon, Pamela Ludwig. Cult.
Over The Edge

It's exciting knowing that once upon a time the music of Cheap Trick inspired chaos and teen violence. With the Vietnam War over and lost, Nixon out of the White House and Disco past its apex, what was left to rebel against? In the case of these pot smokin' rock'n & rollin juvenal delinquents it's the closing of the local rec center that gets their panties in a wad. Over The Edge is an amazing relic from 1979, like its East-Coast cousin from the same year, The Warriors, it perfectly captures its period and its only-in-America geography. Instead of the ethnically diverse landscape of the street gang classic this one is an all-white, pre-Spielberg suburban West Coast sprawl, when kids were either jocks or burnouts, but all could agree that school sucked, parents are hypocrites, and cops are fascists. I bet the designers of Dazed And Confused took a look at this film's style. Also it's been said that it inspired Kurt Cobain's teen rebellion opus "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

It also mark the debut for Matt Dillon who would reign over filmdom as the king of mumbling teen rebellion for the next decade. What a run he would have. He followed Over The Edge with the summer camp virginity-losing caper, Little Darlings (still not available on DVD and out of print on VHS). He then would play Moody, the ultimate high school bully, in My Bodyguard. And then he would win the James Dean wannabe sweepstakes in the SE Hinton misunderstood teen trifecta of Tex, The Outsiders, and Rumble Fish (the later two would mark the end of Francis Ford Coppola as an important filmmaker). Of course in recent years Dillon can be found mugging his way through such dribble as Herbie Fully Loaded (oh, how lucky James Dean was to die young).

The story follows a group of teens as suburban sprawl begins to take over their town, whose parents are more caught up in their economic positions. Surprisingly the parents are almost three-dimensional; the ugliest of adults are the local police who harass the kids and even on the orders of developers try to shut down the beloved rec center to shield visiting investors from the troubled teens. When some of the concerned parents and teachers meet with the cops in the school auditorium, all hell breaks lose on the outside as the kids lock the adults in the school and wreak havoc.

These 1979 movie teens would soon be followed by the mallrats of Fast Time At Ridgemont High, the Reagonized yuppie wannabes Michael J. Fox and the Brat Packers would represent. With the exception of a few films in the '80s like Class Of 1984 and The River’s Edge (directed by Over The Edge writer Tim Hunter) it wouldn’t be until 1995 with Larry Clark’s Kids that teen rebellion would be back in a vital film that truly smells like teen spirit on the screen.

Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Mar 26, 2010 11:14am
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