GORE IN THE STORE
OVER THE EDGE ****
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan.
Starring Harry Northup, Matt Dillon, Michael Eric Kramer, Pamela Ludwig,
Vincent Spano, Andy Romano.
Crime/Drama, USA, 95 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 31st May 2021.
Is a movie touted as a favourite of Kurt Cobain’s a good thing? Depends on your point of view but the one thing that is for sure is that you can see the influence on the scene that Cobain, if not necessarily created, was at least seen as a figurehead of. 1978s OVER THE EDGE is a dark, often violent, coming-of-age tale of youthful angst and aggression against parents, police and authority figures that should have been ‘the movie of a generation' back when it came out but, thanks to the itchy feet and sweaty palms of Warner Bros. not wanting young audiences to be inspired by the anti-authority nature of the movie, not that many people actually saw it at the time, making it the movie of a generation that had already grown up and moved on by the time they got to see it on home video and ensuring its cult status for the decades that followed.
The story is a simple one of disenchanted teenagers rebelling against the authority figures in a new housing development that has been built outside of the city. The area, known as New Granada, contains a youth centre but the promised cinema and other entertainment complexes are nowhere to be seen, meaning the kids have nothing to do outside of playing pool during the youth centre’s opening hours. This apparent lack of interest in New Granada’s teenage population isn’t helped by the eagerness of the local police force to arrest anyone for the smallest of misdemeanours – or sometimes for nothing at all – and that the teachers and parents don’t seem to have a clue what is going on.
In amongst all of this turmoil are best friends Richie (a very young Matt Dillon in his first role) and Carl (Michael Eric Kramer), and although Richie is a known delinquent and frequently gets into trouble, Carl still clearly has a conscience despite his friend’s increasingly bad influence, and once Carl sees that his businessman father is less interested in his son’s needs and more interested in selling off the land allocated to the cinema to some rich Texans, he turns the corner and things quickly escalate out of control.
With plenty to say about parental influences (the criminally inclined Richie is from a single-parent family while the more sensible Carl has both parents at home), nature vs. nurture and societal fear of change, OVER THE TOP presses all the right buttons to get a reaction from its audience and despite the obvious shock value of the final 20 minutes, which really takes a dark turn, it isn’t really surprising how it got there as escalation is the core element in this story. You could set this movie in any post-WWII decade and only need to make a few slight changes to the fashions and technology as the themes it carries are universal and, unfortunately, are still applicable today, perhaps even more so.
Arrow Video have packed a lot into the extras on this disc, including two audio commentaries – one by director Jonathan Kaplan, producer George Litto and writers Tim Hunter & Charlie Haas, and the other by Michael Eric Kramer and journalist Mike Sacks – that provide a lot of insight, plus Q&A footage from a 2010 screening, an edited episode of THE PROJECTION BOOTH podcast focusing on the movie, a WELCOME TO NEW GRENADA rock operetta performed by the band DRATTS!!! (which you really must hear just for a giggle), the full version of the educational video used in the movie and, best of all, a feature-length retrospective documentary featuring new interviews with most of the key players, including Matt Dillon who was apparently cast because director Jonathan Kaplan liked his angsty off-screen attitude.
If nostalgic period pieces like DAZED AND CONFUSED or ALMOST FAMOUS flick your switch then OVER THE EDGE is going to provide the same emotions thanks to a stellar soundtrack that features the likes of Van Halen, The Ramones and Cheap Trick to accompany the memories but don’t go into it thinking you are going to get warm and fuzzy reminders of an age gone by as this movie goes to places that no teenager should experience, let alone get reminded of, and when put into context you can actually see why and how Kurt Cobain – who would have been a similar age to some of the characters in the film at the time – loved it so much. OVER THE EDGE is at times a difficult watch but when viewed through the wider lens of a societal commentary it remains a powerful one.