Friday, August 9, 2013

A Nearly Clear Picture of the Past: Over the Edge (1979)

Over the Edge (1979) Original Theatrical Poster

I've long been a fan of director Jonathan Kaplan’s 1979 youth in rebellion film Over the Edge. One of many angry kids movies from the late 70's, Over the Edge was notable in having a first rate script by Charles Haas and Tim Hunter, who would go on to direct another chilling film about teenagers The Rivers Edge

The cast of Over the Edge (1978)

Over the Edge tells a story of disaffected, bored teenagers living in an empty and hostile suburban environment finding themselves drawn to sex, drugs drinking, crime and in this movie, full scale revolution. The film is also blessed with good acting from its mostly amateur cast of teenagers, with a standout performance by Matt Dillon in his film debut. 

Over the Edge is a good enough film that deserves viewing for its content alone, but I have a second reason for enjoying this film as much as I do. See Over the Edge was shot in the suburbs of Greeley Colorado in 1978, and while I lived about 60 miles down the road in Colorado Springs, the world the movie shows is very definitely the world I was living in. Because of a low budget where the kids just wore what they owned, and the background of suburban Colorado 1978, Over the Edge is accidentally a nearly perfect snapshot of what the world looked like to my teenage eyes.

Me 1978

Despite being fiction, Over the Edge gets the pieces of what life looked like for almost any 15 year old in Colorado circa 1978, with amazing detail. The clothing in Over the Edge is right, the haircuts are right, the music, the drug use, the sex, the utter boredom of suburban Colorado life is perfectly captured. 

Richie (Matt Dillon) and friends target practice at the edge of suburbia. Over the Edge (1978)

Films like Dazed and Confused, that would come along later looking back at the era have done a good job of capturing the feel, but with Over the Edge and this is mostly because of its low budget, what happened was that Kaplan managed to take a portrait of the era.

I know I keep going on about this, but if you were there in the late 70’s, trust me, you'll be a little stunned at how big a flashback this movie actually is. I was certainly amazed at how close to reality this film feels, despite the whole kids having a revolt shtick. For those of you not alive in 1978, but who might be curious about how real kids looked and talked, not how Hollywood recreates it, and who is curious what the world really looked like back then, this film is well worth a viewing. 

Youth out of control in Over the Edge (1978)

Don’t get me wrong, the actual story Over the Edge is great fun with a slight similarity to the Outsiders. which would also feature Dillon. The story has wit and is written with intelligence and even if you aren't stuck on looking at it as a reminder of its era, it's still a great little B film that fans of good drive-in second features will certainly enjoy.

Matt Dillon and Michael Kramer, Over the Edge (1978)