Over the Edge (film)

Over the Edge (film)
Over the Edge

Over the Edge DVD cover
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Produced by George Litto
Written by Charles S. Haas
Tim Hunter
Starring Matt Dillon
Michael Eric Kramer
Pamela Ludwig
Harry Northup
Music by Sol Kaplan
Cinematography Andrew Davis
Editing by Robert Barrere
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) November 2, 1979
Running time 95 min.
Country United States
Language English

Over the Edge is a drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan released in 1979.[1] Due to the negative publicity surrounding a wave of recent youth gang films, Over the Edge had a limited theatrical release in late 1979. It stars Matt Dillon in his feature film debut.

Because of its depiction of teenage rebellion, drug and alcohol use by junior high school students, its depiction of suburban life in the late 1970s, and a rock music soundtrack featuring such bands as Cheap Trick and The Cars, Over the Edge has achieved cult film status, and was an inspiration for the music video for the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.[2]

According to the director's and writer's commentary on the DVD, Over the Edge was inspired by actual events that took place in Foster City, California in the early 1970s. Those events were chronicled in a November 11, 1973 article titled "Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree" from the San Francisco Examiner. It is a pervasive internet myth that the writer of the article was Charles S. Haas, who co-wrote the screenplay, but at a 2010 screening Haas confirmed that the original article was not by him, but by James A. Finefrock and Bruce Koon, two staff reporters for the Examiner.



Based on the November 11, 1973 story in the San Francisco Examiner, the film follows a group of teenagers living in a fictional planned community called New Granada, which is isolated beyond other existing suburbs, in the nearly treeless plains east of Denver, Colorado. The film begins with Carl Willat(Michael Kramer) and his friends, Ritchie White(Matt Dillon), Claude Zachary(Tom Fergus), and Johnny (Tiger Thompson) hanging out at The Rec, a recreation center for the kids. The Rec is the only thing in town for the children, as the Homeowners Association forgot about the fact that nearly 25% of the population of New Grenada is under the age of 15. Therefore, naturally, the kids find themselves some other ways to have fun: sex, drugs, alcohol, vandalism, and rock n roll. Mark Perry (Vincent Spano) and his friend shoot his B.B. gun at oncoming cars on the overpass. However, when they hit a police cruiser, they laugh and cheer, and decide to leave before the cop sees them. They hop on their bikes, and ride down the road, passing Carl and Ritchie, who, when warned by the boys about cops, dive into the weeds behind an electric control box. The police car pulls up, and out steps Sgt. Ed Doberman (Harry Northup), the most hated cop in town. He sees the boys, and, upon searching them, finds a three-inch pocketknife on Ritchie. He takes the boys to the station, and calls Carl's father, Fred Willat (Andy Romano), warning him about Carl's behavior.

Fred is the local Cadillac salesman, an upper middle class job. Before getting Doberman's call, he is talking to Jerry Cole (Richard Jamison), president of the Homeowners Association, about getting Mr. Sloan (Lane Smith), a wealthy Texas Landowner, to come to see the land across the street from The Rec, with hopes of building an industrial park there. Back at the police station, Doberman is questioning Ritchie and Carl about who had the gun, and Ritchie tells them, "I only got one law: a kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid." Ritchie is then taken out of the room, and Doberman continues lecturing Carl about where he will end up if he continues this behavior: The Hill, a correction center for the kids in the area. Then, Carl and his father drive home, where Carl's mother Sandra Willat (Ellen Geer) waits, but instead of talking to his mother, Carl runs upstairs, and locks himself in his room, blaring Cheap Trick.

The next day at school, Carl and Ritchie tell Claude about their escapades with the police, and Claude announces that he took ecstasy to prepare for the upcoming test. He then looks at a slide of a painting, and instead of seeing the actual painting he sees a mangled, horrid interpretation of the painting. Then, they go to an assembly about the recent vandalism on the highway, where Carl gets a look at the love of his life, Cory (Pamela Ludwig), whom he is absolutely crazy about. Later, after school, Carl is getting dressed to go out, once again listening to his music, only this time, it's The Ramones. When Carl is dressed, he goes downstairs and asks his father about the land across from The Rec, which he thought would be the site for a drive-in theatre and a bowling alley. However, upon getting an answer different from what he wanted, Carl leaves for The Rec.

The Rec closes at six o'clock p.m., but that doesn't stop the kids from having fun. The kids bring pot, music, and alcohol to The Rec after hours, and have their own little party, where Claude ends up buying a gram of hash from Tip (Eric Lalich), a friend, but the party moves when an announcement about a party at a boy's house is made. The party is basically full of everything that caters to teens: sex, drugs, beer, and Van Halen. Carl sees Cory on the couch making out with Mark, the boy who shot the cop car and got Carl and Ritchie busted. Mark then warns Carl about mentioning his name to the cops, and when Carl gives a sarcastic remark, he leaves. Carl gets upset with Cory, telling her that she could do a lot better than Mark. Carl then leaves, followed (unknowingly) by Mark and his friend. While Carl is walking home alone, they jump him, beat him up, and take his money. When Carl gets home, he tries to avoid his parents seeing the cuts and bruises, but fails. Carl gets questioned, but, when refusing to tell them who jumped him, runs upstairs and locks himself in his room. Fred and Jerry Cole then talk about making sure The Rec is closed the next day, when Sloan comes to visit.

The next day at The Rec, everyone is talking about Carl's event, but he only releases the names to Claude, Ritchie, Johnny, and Alan (Brian Parker), another friend of theirs. While they're talking, Julia (Julia Pomeroy), The Rec counselor, goes outside to talk to Doberman about The Rec staying open. Doberman goes inside and searches Claude, finding the gram of hash in his pocket, and taking him in. However, when they walk outside, Ritchie is standing on the cop car, and makes the cops chase him around the grounds. When the cops finally leave, Carl, and Ritchie go to get sodas, where Ritchie gives Carl firecrackers. They then get on their bikes and ride around the neighborhood, where they find Cory and her best friend Abby (Kim Kliner) running out of a house, carrying a plastic bag. They stop them, and grab the bag, finding a gun in it, which the girls stole from the house. They then all go to a half-finished town home, which Carl and Ritchie call their condo. After planning a picnic with a gun Cory gets up and starts dancing, with the gun in her hand, pointing it at Carl playfully, but the gun goes off, and Carl scares everyone into thinking he is shot. The group then goes their separate ways. When Carl gets home, he sees Sloan's car in the driveway, and, upset at his father, places the firecrackers given to him by Ritchie in the car's engine, so that when the car is turned on, they will light. Sloan and his boys, scared, then leave, but not before warning Fred that if he doesn't stop to listen to his son, it will come back to bite him.

The next day, Carl calls Claude and Johnny, telling them to come to the picnic. They all show up, and after shooting the gun, and realizing that Carl is the only one with any sense of aim at all, they start walking. During the walk, Claude tells them that it was Tip who sold him the hash, and Cory announces that Tip had recently gotten busted for possession. They then decide to pay Tip a visit, and while the boys hold Tip down and interrogate him, the girls ransack his kitchen. Tip tells them that he told Doberman who he sold the hash to, because he was arrested last month. Ritchie then points the gun at him, preparing to shoot Tip, but Johnny lights a firecracker that makes a gun sound, which Tip's mother (Irene Lalich)interprets as her son being fatally shot. Before leaving, the boys throw Tip in the water under his porch. Before Cory and Abby leave Carl and Ritchie, Cory runs over to Carl and gives him a kiss, showing him that she likes him as much as he likes her.

When Carl gets home, his mother tells him that he is forbidden to see Claude or Ritchie any longer, and that The Rec will be closed until a new counselor can be found. Carl gets in a fight with his father, and when Carl takes a swing at him, he smacks him across the face, causing him to, once again, lock himself in his room. The next day at school, in science class, Carl overhears Tip's mother and the school's principal (Molly McCarthy) talking in a connected classroom. Tip's mother tells the principal the names of the boys that assaulted her son, and this causes Carl to snap. He then grabs Ritchie in the hallway and they run home. Ritchie grabs his gun, and they steal his mother's car, leaving town. However, Doberman sees them leave, and chases them. During the chase, Carl begs Ritchie to throw the gun out of the car, but he refuses. The car then gets flipped over, the two boys running in opposite directions. Ritchie points the gun at Doberman, who mistakes it for loaded, so Doberman shoots and kills Ritchie. Carl then runs away to his condo, but not before calling Johnny to confirm that Ritchie is really dead, and calling Cory to tell her to meet him. She brings a sleeping bag, and they spend the night together. After Cory leaves in the morning, Carl runs home to grab money, and along the way he sees Mark riding his dirt bike. He takes Marks B.B. gun, and shoots him in the shoulder (not harming him), causing him to flip over his bike. Mark then sits down with Carl, talking about what they're going to do about the parent situation. They then decide that their fight was stupid, and they make up. Then Carl goes home, and upon climbing into the house through an upstairs window, he sees his mother on the phone with his father about a big meeting at the school that night, to talk about the new trend of violence with the children. He then locks himself in his mother's room, and gets on the phone, asking his parents if they wish he got shot, too.

After leaving his home that night, Carl goes to The Rec, where, all of his friends are. They then make a plan to show the parents that they need to listen to them: lock them in the school's auditorium, and wreck the school. Carl climbs onto the roof, entering the school through a sun window above a science classroom. The kids then take their bike chains and lock the gates surrounding the auditorium. The children decide that the only thing that will make them feel better is to trash the school, and all of the cars in the parking lot. However, when they find guns, all hell breaks loose. The kids run around shooting cars and lighting firecrackers in school-owned property, causing massive explosions and fiery mayhem. When Cory almost gets blown up by an explosion caused by Mark, and can't find Carl, Claude and Johnny agree to take her home, but not before Johnny gives a phone to Julia, who is sitting by a gate in the school. Julia calls the police, and as soon as they hear sirens, all of the kids split, some getting arrested. The police unlock the auditorium doors, and Doberman runs out to find Carl. He gets in a cop car, and drives down the road until he finds Carl. He handcuffs him to the backseat, and tells him that he will have to go to The Hill for a couple of weeks. However, Mark, who is waiting down the road with his B.B. gun, shoots the car, causing Doberman to run it off the road into The Rec. Doberman gets knocked out, and The Rec catches on fire. Carl grabs Doberman's keys, and unlocks himself from the car. He runs away, and stops and turns around just in time to see The Rec blow up, killing Doberman.

The final scene shows Carl in the morning, coming handcuffed out of the police station. Carl stops and hugs his parents, and is then escorted onto a bus (full of other kids involved with the school incident, including Mark and Abby) by Lincoln (Mike Osborne), another police officer. He is sat at the back of the bus, and driven down the highway to The Hill. However, when they go under the overpass, (the same one that Mark was shooting off of earlier) they see Claude, Johnny, and Cory waving from above. Carl then turns around to face the front of the bus, quite content with the fact that his friends are safe, and that Cory still loves him.


Actor Role
Michael Eric Kramer Carl Willat
Matt Dillon Richie White
Pamela Ludwig Cory
Harry Northup Sgt. Doberman
Vincent Spano Mark Perry
Tom Fergus Claude Zachary
Andy Romano Fred Willat
Ellen Geer Sandra Willat

Soundtrack album

Side one

  1. "Surrender" – Cheap Trick
  2. "My Best Friend's Girl" – The Cars
  3. "You Really Got Me" – Van Halen
  4. "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace" – Cheap Trick
  5. "Come On (Part 1)" – Jimi Hendrix

Side two

  1. "Just What I Needed" – The Cars
  2. "Hello There" – Cheap Trick
  3. "Teenage Lobotomy" – Ramones
  4. "Downed" – Cheap Trick
  5. "All That You Dream" – Little Feat
  6. "Ooh Child" – Valerie Carter


External links

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