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30th Anniversary of Over the Edge


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Richie (Matt Dillon) and Carl (Michael Kramer) being arrested by Sergeant Doberman (Harry Northup).

In the spring of 1979, a small-budget movie with a somewhat corny-sounding name was released in just a handful of theaters in New York and Los Angeles, only to be pulled a few days later due to concerns that audiences would riot. Based (loosely) on a true story about suburban youth gone wild in the suburbs of San Francisco in the early 70s, Over the Edge would never receive wide distribution. In fact, over the next 25 years, the film would be shown in only a few art houses and on cable TV, until its eventual DVD release in September 2005.

The film, as certain critics like to label it, is a "lost classic," and yet?unlike the majority of lost or "cult" classics?Over the Edge is actually worth seeking out. Filled with scenes that are difficult to shake, with teen characters played by real-life teenagers (how often does that happen anymore?), and with an authenticity so intense that it appears at times as if the film could very well be a documentary, Over the Edge remains as thrilling today as it must have appeared three decades ago. While somewhat raw and certainly not without imperfections, it's easy to understand why Kurt Cobain claimed that the movie "pretty much defined my whole personality," and why it so heavily influenced Richard Linklater in making his own ode to restless youth, Dazed and Confused.

Starring a 14-year-old Matt Dillon in his first screen role, as well as a cast of mostly young unknowns (discovered, for the most part, while they were ditching school), Over the Edge manages to highlight a problem that has only grown and become more problematic since the 70s: kids, stuck in the suburbs, far from any city center, with nothing much to do beyond the usual Teen Axis of Evil: drugging, drinking, and petty-criminal acts. (That the film was shot in Greeley, Colorado, less than an hour from where the Columbine High School massacre would take place 20 years later, is, at the very least, a sad, if bizarre, coincidence.)

The plot is simple: Carl (played by Michael Kramer), a decent teen who feels estranged from his distracted parents, befriends a miscreant from the poorer section of the community (Richie, played by Matt Dillon). The two, along with friends, including a druggie and a mute, attend parties, fire stolen guns, drink in abandoned, half-built houses, and get arrested (in a scene that birthed the classic line, sneered by Matt Dillon, "A kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid."). Continually harassed by the local policeman Sergeant Doberman (Harry Northup) and looking for adventure, Carl and Richie attempt to run away in a stolen Jeep. They are caught, and Richie is killed when he aims an unloaded gun at Doberman. Carl escapes back to the development, where, later that night, a group of angry teens attack the junior high school while a parents' meeting on youth violence is taking place. The teens lock the adults inside as they burn cars, shoot guns, and cause mayhem in the parking lot. They are subsequently arrested and sent off to "the Hill."

On this, the movie's 30th anniversary, Vice spoke with nearly 20 of the film's cast and crew to try to piece together the often arduous making of Over the Edge, the frustrations felt upon its initial release, and how the film, all these years later, still manages to influence generation after generation of filmmakers.

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Watch this movie.

It's about the soul of the seventies and how lost we all were.

I was there, saw the blood and in a lot of ways, I'm still there.

It was a time when home wasn't a place, it was a time and it was over. No one was a stranger. Reagan hadn't happened yet. Sex wasn't a death sentence and an ounce of good Columbian weed cost twenty bucks.


Over the Edge at U-tube!

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