River's Edge


1h 40m 1986
River's Edge

Brief Synopsis

Based on a true story, a group of apathetic high school students learn that a friend has killed his girlfriend, and after they are shown the body, decline to inform the police.

Film Details

Also Known As
fleuve de la mort
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1986
Distribution Company
Hemdale Releasing Corporation/Island Pictures/New Yorker Films
Location
Tujunga, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Sacramento, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m

Synopsis

Based on a true story, a group of apathetic high school students learn that a friend has killed his girlfriend, and after they are shown the body, decline to inform the police.

Crew

Mark Adler

Music Editor

Stacy Anderson

Song

John Arch

Song

Hank Ballard

Song Performer

Hank Ballard

Song

Jo Barnett

Post-Production Accountant

William R Bates

Transportation Coordinator

Colleen Berg

Video

David Bergad

Sound Editor

Mark Berger

Sound

Jay Boekelheide

Sound

Jay Boekelheide

Sound Editor

Todd Boekelheide

Sound

Charlotte Brsndstr÷m

Assistant Editor

Claudia Brown

Costume Designer

David Brownlow

Sound

Kathy Budas

Production Associate

R D Carpenter

Camera Operator

Budd Carr

Music Supervisor

David Colden

Assistant

Kevin Collins

Other

Tom Corboy

Production Assistant

Kirk Corwin

Property Master

Janet Cunningham

Casting

John Daly

Executive Producer

Donne Daniels

Key Grip

Mark Shane Davis

Dolly Grip

Robert Dawson

Main Title Design

Lisa Dean

On-Set Dresser

Bonita Dehaven

Makeup Assistant

Lex Du Pont

Assistant Camera Operator

Al Eisenmann Ii

Driver

Fred Elmes

Director Of Photography

Ann Erickson

Assistant

Michael Evans

Grip

Lucy Fisher

Assistant

Elizabeth Galloway

Production Coordinator

Mark Gambino

Grip

Ron Gerber

Apprentice

Derek Gibson

Executive Producer

Shani Ginsberg

Casting Associate

Shani Ginsberg

Casting

Bradley Gross

Assistant

Rick Hall

Camera Operator

Jeff Hanneman

Song

Richard Hawley

Assistant Director

William Hein

Music

Greg Hoffman

Grip

Jeff Hubacek

Driver

Anne Huntley

Set Decorator

Neil Jimenez

Screenplay

James E Johnson

Electrician

Michael William Katz

Gaffer

Gabor Kernyaiszky

Makeup

Kerry King

Song

Nancy Jane King

Assistant Director

Jurgen Knieper

Music

Ray Kybartas

Consultant

Laurel Ladevich

Sound Editor

Ellen Lewis

Assistant

Linda Lichter

Assistant

Gabrielle Liuzzi

Assistant Producer

Peter Mabie

Other

Michael Magill

Sound Editor

Jim Matheos

Song

Barbara Mcbane

Sound Editor

Brian Mcmillan

Animal Trainer

Glen Mcraven

Driver

Lisa Monti

Art Assistant

Jim Moores

Production Assistant

Michael Muhlfriedel

Art Department Coordinator

Doug Murray

Sound Effects Editor

John Muto

Production Designer

Kenny Myers

Makeup

Jack M Nietzsche

Boom Operator

Jane O'neal

Photography

Michael Palm

Song

Diana Pellegrini

Foley Editor

Gregory Peters

Electrician

Sarah Pillsbury

Producer

Craig Pointes

Location Manager

Vivienne Radkoff

Production Assistant

Tatiana S Riegel

Apprentice

Larry Romanoff

Transportation Coordinator

Dave Rudd

Assistant Camera Operator

Greg Sage

Song

David Salamone

Electrician

Midge Sanford

Producer

Patricia Sansone

Production Accountant

Chuck Shapiro

Assistant

Dennis Shelton

Best Boy

Michael Silvers

Sound Editor

Brian Slagel

Music

Howard E. Smith

Editor

Steve Smith

Grip

Dee Somers

Assistant

Sonya Sones

Editor

Rina Sternfeld-allon

Script Supervisor

Lynn Stevenson

Sound Editor

David Streit

Coproducer

David Streit

Unit Production Manager

Anne Tamrazi

Props

Dennie Thorpe

Foley Artist

Joe Warren

Electrician

Jeff Watts

Sound Editor

Joanne Weiss

Music Coordinator

Lew Welles

Production Assistant

Tom W West

Grip

Leslie Wilshire

Costume Supervisor

Randy Wimberg

Driver

Film Details

Also Known As
fleuve de la mort
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1986
Distribution Company
Hemdale Releasing Corporation/Island Pictures/New Yorker Films
Location
Tujunga, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Sacramento, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m

Articles

River's Edge -


As might be expected, realistic dramas about nihilistic, antisocial teenagers have never been very numerous. The 1969 exploitation/art film Last Summer by Frank and Eleanor Perry follows some bored upscale teens that murder a man and rape one of their own peers just out of the need for "something to do." Also reflecting real woes in society is 1979's Over the Edge, written by Charlie Haas and Tim Hunter and directed by Jonathan Kaplan. In a sterile and oppressive rural planned community, a large group of unhappy younger teenagers respond to parental neglect and police harassment by engaging in increasingly larger crimes that culminate in a violent rebellion. The "shocking" aspect of these stories is that the kids involved are from upper middle-class backgrounds -- the old juvenile delinquency arguments about poverty and environmental disadvantage do not apply here.

Tapping more directly into the problem of nihilistic youth crime is the independent production River's Edge (1986) written by Neal Jimenez and directed by Tim Hunter. It's partially based on a real incident that occurred in Milpitas, CA in 1981. A 16-year-old boy raped and strangled a 14-year-old girl and then dumped her body in a ravine. Investigators and reporters were further outraged by what happened later. After committing his crime, the killer returned to his high school and bragged about what he had done. He showed the body to at least 10 fellow students. Two days passed before two of the students finally informed law enforcement. Their reason for the delay? They didn't want to get into trouble. The teenage murder in Milpitas ignited a new conversation about disaffected youth. Were America's children no longer connected to the most basic notions of moral responsibility? The kids in the Milpitas case were passive and apathetic. They behaved as if events outside of their personal bubble of comfort and convenience were not real or relevant.

Although its central facts parallel the real-life case, River's Edge presents a fictionalized story about a bleak, disturbed group of Generation X teens, latch-key kids already into alcohol and substance abuse. None of them have lofty ambitions for the future. Few relate well to other people, not even close friends. The killer, John (Daniel Roebuck), is seriously disturbed. After killing his girlfriend at the side of a river, he simply sits and stares without emotion. The main characters Matt and Clarissa (Keanu Reeves and Ione Skye) talk about the crime but feel no immediate compulsion to do anything about it; they instead discuss the nature of simply not caring about such things. The manic Layne (Crispin Glover) responds by initiating a one-man crime coverup; he pops pills and often passes out in his car. Some of the kids eventually tell the alcoholic loner, Feck (Dennis Hopper), what has happened. An ex-biker, Feck is moved to act from residual guilt of his own -- he admits to having killed his own girlfriend years before. His intervention results in another murder.

The project began with UCLA film student Neal Jimenez, who in 1986 succeeded in having two of his scripts produced, this picture and Where the River Runs Black, a dreamy ecological fable filmed in Brazil. In 1984, Jimenez was injured in an accident that made him a paraplegic. He would later turn some of his experiences into an award-winning 1992 feature film about rehabilitation, The Waterdance which he wrote and co-directed.

The conventional Hollywood wisdom of 1986 was that the subject matter of River's Edge was simply too grim for adaptation, even for issue-oriented TV movies. Producers Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford had just enjoyed a major independent hit in the Rosanna Arquette/Madonna film Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), released through Orion Pictures. They were enthused by the "dangerous ideas" in Jimenez' screenplay, as well as the realistically coarse, cruel dialogues written for the disaffected teens. Contracting with Hemdale Film Corporation, Pillsbury/Sanford brought in Tim Hunter, the director of the sleeper teen hit Tex (1982). Hunter claimed to understand the kids in question because he shared their ironic detachment: "My friends tell me I have a sense of humor that's too dry for the mass market. Well, when I first read this screenplay I thought it was a comedy."

Filming began near Sacramento in Central California, but river flooding forced the company back to Los Angeles, to the foothill area of Sunland-Tujunga. The most experienced new face in the young cast was Crispin Glover, who had been acting for five years and had just completed the role of Michael J. Fox's father George McFly in Back to the Future (1985). River's Edge also established the career of 22-year-old Keanu Reeves; three years later Reeves would shoot to stardom as the exaggerated teen Ted Logan in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), an image that stayed with him for years. River's Edge was the first film role for Ione Skye, who would make her mark as a leading actress opposite John Cusack in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything... (1989).

Lending counterculture credibility to the project is actor-director Dennis Hopper as the dissolute Feck, a local lowlife that some of the kids use as a marijuana connection. Feck considers himself an outsider, but the actions of John and Layne drive him to take matters into his own hands. Hopper gets to deliver one of the best lines in outlaw cinema. Recalling a gruesome road accident that left him staring at his own severed leg, Feck also noticed a beer can lying a few feet away: "I remember thinking, that's my leg... I wonder if there's any beer in that can."

A big buzz in 1980s Hollywood was the independent film movement, small features initiated outside the Hollywood system that often performed better than studio products. River's Edge tapped edgy subject matter that the studios would never touch. The movie received a brief art-film release in Seattle in October of 1986 but was shelved when little interest was generated. It was then sold to Island Pictures, which built up critical interest by positioning it as a gritty real-life exposé about an important, controversial subject. Crispin Glover made two appearances on The Tonight Show to talk about dropping out of the Back to the Future film series, but also mentioned his speed-freak character in a scary movie about real-life teenage crime.

Reissued in May of 1987, the movie generated renewed discussion in the mainstream trades: "how is somebody making money with movies we don't accept?" With its built-in sociological interest, the film garnered editorial coverage beyond newspaper entertainment sections. Critics went for the picture in a big way; even when not reviewed positively, the film's power as a real-life horror story was duly acknowledged. Attention-getting titles for reviews and editorial essays included "Defies Expectations," "Deadly Disaffected Teens," "Don't Narc on Your Friends," "Some Kind of Horrible," "The Grim Sleeper" and "Night of the Toking Dead." Critic Kenneth Turan responded to the grim tone of River's Edge by calling it "The Anti Brat-Pack Movie," an antidote to the cutesy view of teen life then popular in the films of John Hughes.

Established Hollywood had to admit that there will always be room for 'idea movies' from outside the system, that could not be initiated by a committee. After praising the completed film, critic David Ansen of Newsweek was reminded that he himself had rejected the screenplay. When Ansen was on a judging panel for the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards, he called it, "not up to Goldwyn standards."

A couple of dissenting voices were heard amid the mostly positive publicity. The original reporter who broke the news of the 1981 source murder complained that the filmmakers had grossly exaggerated the true story, inventing extra sleazy characters and making the kids far more corrupt than the real ones had been. For the town of Milpitas, the release of River's Edge struck much too close to home. When the local multiplex announced plans to book the movie, the mayor took steps to have the engagement cancelled.

By Glenn Erickson
River's Edge -

River's Edge -

As might be expected, realistic dramas about nihilistic, antisocial teenagers have never been very numerous. The 1969 exploitation/art film Last Summer by Frank and Eleanor Perry follows some bored upscale teens that murder a man and rape one of their own peers just out of the need for "something to do." Also reflecting real woes in society is 1979's Over the Edge, written by Charlie Haas and Tim Hunter and directed by Jonathan Kaplan. In a sterile and oppressive rural planned community, a large group of unhappy younger teenagers respond to parental neglect and police harassment by engaging in increasingly larger crimes that culminate in a violent rebellion. The "shocking" aspect of these stories is that the kids involved are from upper middle-class backgrounds -- the old juvenile delinquency arguments about poverty and environmental disadvantage do not apply here. Tapping more directly into the problem of nihilistic youth crime is the independent production River's Edge (1986) written by Neal Jimenez and directed by Tim Hunter. It's partially based on a real incident that occurred in Milpitas, CA in 1981. A 16-year-old boy raped and strangled a 14-year-old girl and then dumped her body in a ravine. Investigators and reporters were further outraged by what happened later. After committing his crime, the killer returned to his high school and bragged about what he had done. He showed the body to at least 10 fellow students. Two days passed before two of the students finally informed law enforcement. Their reason for the delay? They didn't want to get into trouble. The teenage murder in Milpitas ignited a new conversation about disaffected youth. Were America's children no longer connected to the most basic notions of moral responsibility? The kids in the Milpitas case were passive and apathetic. They behaved as if events outside of their personal bubble of comfort and convenience were not real or relevant. Although its central facts parallel the real-life case, River's Edge presents a fictionalized story about a bleak, disturbed group of Generation X teens, latch-key kids already into alcohol and substance abuse. None of them have lofty ambitions for the future. Few relate well to other people, not even close friends. The killer, John (Daniel Roebuck), is seriously disturbed. After killing his girlfriend at the side of a river, he simply sits and stares without emotion. The main characters Matt and Clarissa (Keanu Reeves and Ione Skye) talk about the crime but feel no immediate compulsion to do anything about it; they instead discuss the nature of simply not caring about such things. The manic Layne (Crispin Glover) responds by initiating a one-man crime coverup; he pops pills and often passes out in his car. Some of the kids eventually tell the alcoholic loner, Feck (Dennis Hopper), what has happened. An ex-biker, Feck is moved to act from residual guilt of his own -- he admits to having killed his own girlfriend years before. His intervention results in another murder. The project began with UCLA film student Neal Jimenez, who in 1986 succeeded in having two of his scripts produced, this picture and Where the River Runs Black, a dreamy ecological fable filmed in Brazil. In 1984, Jimenez was injured in an accident that made him a paraplegic. He would later turn some of his experiences into an award-winning 1992 feature film about rehabilitation, The Waterdance which he wrote and co-directed. The conventional Hollywood wisdom of 1986 was that the subject matter of River's Edge was simply too grim for adaptation, even for issue-oriented TV movies. Producers Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford had just enjoyed a major independent hit in the Rosanna Arquette/Madonna film Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), released through Orion Pictures. They were enthused by the "dangerous ideas" in Jimenez' screenplay, as well as the realistically coarse, cruel dialogues written for the disaffected teens. Contracting with Hemdale Film Corporation, Pillsbury/Sanford brought in Tim Hunter, the director of the sleeper teen hit Tex (1982). Hunter claimed to understand the kids in question because he shared their ironic detachment: "My friends tell me I have a sense of humor that's too dry for the mass market. Well, when I first read this screenplay I thought it was a comedy." Filming began near Sacramento in Central California, but river flooding forced the company back to Los Angeles, to the foothill area of Sunland-Tujunga. The most experienced new face in the young cast was Crispin Glover, who had been acting for five years and had just completed the role of Michael J. Fox's father George McFly in Back to the Future (1985). River's Edge also established the career of 22-year-old Keanu Reeves; three years later Reeves would shoot to stardom as the exaggerated teen Ted Logan in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), an image that stayed with him for years. River's Edge was the first film role for Ione Skye, who would make her mark as a leading actress opposite John Cusack in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything... (1989). Lending counterculture credibility to the project is actor-director Dennis Hopper as the dissolute Feck, a local lowlife that some of the kids use as a marijuana connection. Feck considers himself an outsider, but the actions of John and Layne drive him to take matters into his own hands. Hopper gets to deliver one of the best lines in outlaw cinema. Recalling a gruesome road accident that left him staring at his own severed leg, Feck also noticed a beer can lying a few feet away: "I remember thinking, that's my leg... I wonder if there's any beer in that can." A big buzz in 1980s Hollywood was the independent film movement, small features initiated outside the Hollywood system that often performed better than studio products. River's Edge tapped edgy subject matter that the studios would never touch. The movie received a brief art-film release in Seattle in October of 1986 but was shelved when little interest was generated. It was then sold to Island Pictures, which built up critical interest by positioning it as a gritty real-life exposé about an important, controversial subject. Crispin Glover made two appearances on The Tonight Show to talk about dropping out of the Back to the Future film series, but also mentioned his speed-freak character in a scary movie about real-life teenage crime. Reissued in May of 1987, the movie generated renewed discussion in the mainstream trades: "how is somebody making money with movies we don't accept?" With its built-in sociological interest, the film garnered editorial coverage beyond newspaper entertainment sections. Critics went for the picture in a big way; even when not reviewed positively, the film's power as a real-life horror story was duly acknowledged. Attention-getting titles for reviews and editorial essays included "Defies Expectations," "Deadly Disaffected Teens," "Don't Narc on Your Friends," "Some Kind of Horrible," "The Grim Sleeper" and "Night of the Toking Dead." Critic Kenneth Turan responded to the grim tone of River's Edge by calling it "The Anti Brat-Pack Movie," an antidote to the cutesy view of teen life then popular in the films of John Hughes. Established Hollywood had to admit that there will always be room for 'idea movies' from outside the system, that could not be initiated by a committee. After praising the completed film, critic David Ansen of Newsweek was reminded that he himself had rejected the screenplay. When Ansen was on a judging panel for the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards, he called it, "not up to Goldwyn standards." A couple of dissenting voices were heard amid the mostly positive publicity. The original reporter who broke the news of the 1981 source murder complained that the filmmakers had grossly exaggerated the true story, inventing extra sleazy characters and making the kids far more corrupt than the real ones had been. For the town of Milpitas, the release of River's Edge struck much too close to home. When the local multiplex announced plans to book the movie, the mayor took steps to have the engagement cancelled. By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States April 1999

Released in United States August 1999

Released in United States August 27, 1986

Released in United States Fall October 31, 1986

Released in United States May 8, 1987

Released in United States on Video October 28, 1987

Shown at Gen Art Summer Arts Festival in New York City August 5-9, 1999.

Shown at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival (Forty Years of Indie Cinema) April 15-20, 1999.

Shown at Montreal World Film Festival August 27, 1986.

Began shooting January 20, 1986.

Released in United States April 1999 (Shown at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival (Forty Years of Indie Cinema) April 15-20, 1999.)

Released in United States May 8, 1987

Released in United States August 1999 (Shown at Gen Art Summer Arts Festival in New York City August 5-9, 1999.)

Released in United States August 27, 1986 (Shown at Montreal World Film Festival August 27, 1986.)

Released in United States on Video October 28, 1987

Released in United States Fall October 31, 1986