Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Over the Edge (1979)

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. You know what you're getting right from the beginning of this movie when the opening titles explain that the story is of what happens when city planners ignore that the majority of a community consists of minors.

A fictional, very isolated planned community called New Granada sets up nothing for its kids but a rec hall that closes in the late afternoon. So the kids all get into drinking, drugs, vandalism, theft and other petty crimes. There's a riot, arson, a death, everybody points fingers at everybody else and Matt Dillon debuts his big screen persona, Genuine Fonzie.

Breitling reminded me that it exists. I first saw this a lot of years ago mainly because the soundtrack record was very good, which was unusual at the time. For example, the "Grease" movie soundtrack (1978) was huge but this was a score to a show. And 1977's "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack had tons of hit singles, but these were racked up as the popularity of the record and film spiraled. Then there were later soundtrack records like the ones for "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) and "Heavy Metal" (1981), which were full of top acts but also full of crappy songs you've never heard of because they're throwaways the artists didn't want on their albums.

But the "Over the Edge" soundtrack has hits like Cheap Trick's "Surrender," "Just What I Needed" and "Best Friend's Girl" by the Cars, and Van Halen's version of "You Really Got Me." I don't think it's in print anymore, which is no wonder because music licensing is a nightmare. It's a wonder that the DVD edition of the movie has the original music in it.

Watching it again my main take was that while the film has a point in that the community was poorly planned and overly isolated, it's kind of an irresponsible movie. Here's the thing; I'm a big fan of exploitation films, but I recognize them as adult movies with a significant element of fantasy built into their premise. For the story in "Over the Edge" to really work there needs to be an absurd "perfect storm" of absolutely OBLIVIOUS, insensitive parents and a unanimous population of completely ROTTEN kids. The only thing that's 100% believable is the stupidity of the planning behind this condominium community. To market this film to teenagers as anything other than a ridiculous, guilty pleasure, a cathartic fantasy -- as opposed to a cautionary tale of what the Establishment Is Doing To You -- is creepy.

But then maybe I'm just a scared member of the Establishment.

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