Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Over the Edge

Last September, Vice published an excellent oral history of Over the Edge, the awesome 1979 suburban teen rebellion film that launched Matt Dillon’s career.

Like many recovering teens my age, I stumbled onto Over the Edge via repeated airings on cable. It was quite a heady rush to see junior high school-aged kids portraying junior high school-aged kids setting police cars on fire while I myself was a junior high school-aged kid.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole for Harry Northrup, the actor who portrayed the much-reviled Sgt. Doberman, to hold Over the Edge in the same esteem as Rebel Without a Cause. Anyone who grew up on reruns will have a hard time watching the latter without likening Jim Backus’ portrayal of James Dean’s dad to Thurston Howell III, or worse, Mr. Magoo.

Although I wasn't much of an adolescent troublemaker, kids who looked and sounded like the kids in Over the Edge were ubiquitous when I was growing up. Maybe you'd go over to their houses when their parents weren't home to blast album-oriented rock music, take a few furtive belts from the liquor cabinet or pass a handgun around the room.

Looking back, I think most of these failed afterschool special auditions arose from boredom rather than delinquency. While Over the Edge took that notion to an exploitative extreme, no other movie does a better job of capturing the overall aesthetic of the late 70s/early 80s suburban latchkey kid generation.

Incidentally, I did a phone interview with Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson about 10 years ago and brought up the opening sequence of Over the Edge in which Cheap Trick's version of Terry Reid's "Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace" sets the film's desolate, sneering tone. I was surprised when Petersson said he'd never seen it.


Lance said...

Jasper and Tom brought this one up at practice last week. I've never seen it, but I might have to rectify that situation--at least until "Little Darlings: The Musical" is produced.

Shean said...

This was that movie that gave me my first taste of Cheap Trick, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Halen. This was the movie that changed my view of being a teenager and yes I was the house that robbing the liquor cabinet was a plus. Just never try to make a cake with real sugar frosting laced with tequlia (Greg we where try to make you a great Birthday Cake.)
I rank this movie up there with Harold and Maude, A Clockwork Orange as the most profound movies of my youth.