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Over the Edge

Over the Edge(1979)

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teaser Over the Edge (1979)

Jonathan Kaplan began directing with exploitation films for Roger Corman (Night Call Nurses, 1972) but earned mainstream praise with the ambitious Over the Edge (1979), a revelatory look at a new generation of lawless middle class latchkey kids. The planned community 'New Granada' is not a shining city on a hill but a sterile rural suburb that provides few, if any, recreation activities for children and teenagers. The local cop is pressured to close the teen center so as not to scare away potential investors. With nothing to do and no place to go, the neglected teens roam empty lots, steal liquor from their parents and break into cars. Screenwriters Charlie Haas and Tim Hunter were praised for their insights into the baby-faced kids with bad attitudes and advanced drug habits. The pouting face of little Carl (Michael Eric Kramer) tells us that he's already soured on life: his parents don't give a damn about him, nothing's worthwhile, and the world stinks. Inspired by the antisocial Mark (Vincent Spano), Carl meets a girl named Cory (Pamela Ludwig) who shoplifts and burglarizes houses. The gun she steals goes right into the hands of the bitter, irresponsible Richie (Matt Dillon, in his first movie). Their adolescent rage escalates into an orgy of vandalism. Director Kaplan's no-nonsense approach makes the liberal-issue classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955) seem naïve by comparison. The film was meant to be the second release from the newly founded Orion Pictures, but it was shelved after exhibitors became nervous about troubled screenings of other teen gang movies. Edge found its audience much later on cable television, when its teen star discovery Matt Dillon had already made his name in other films. Co-screenwriter Tim Hunter moved on to an even bleaker film about teen alienation, The River's Edge (1986). Tellingly, the tragic town of Columbine is a planned Colorado community, just like this film's mythical New Granada.

By Glenn Erickson

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