Over the Edge (film)

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Over the Edge
DVD cover
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Produced by Robert S. Bremson (associate producer)
Joe Kapp (associate producer)
George Litto (producer)
Written by Charles S. Haas
Tim Hunter
Starring Matt Dillon
Michael Eric Kramer
Pamela Ludwig
Harry Northup
Music by Sol Kaplan
Cinematography Andrew Davis
Edited by Robert Barrere
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • May 18, 1979 (1979-05-18)
Running time 95 min.
Country United States
Language English

Over the Edge is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan released in May 1979. Due to the negative publicity surrounding a wave of recent youth gang films such as The Warriors and Boulevard Nights, Over the Edge had a limited theatrical release in 1979. It stars 14-year-old Matt Dillon in his feature film debut.[1]

Depicting suburban life in the late 1970s and including themes of teenage rebellion and drug and alcohol use by junior high school students, and a rock music soundtrack featuring such bands as Cheap Trick, the Cars, and the Ramones, Over the Edge has achieved cult film status, and was an inspiration for the music videos for the songs "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana[2] and "Evil Eye" by Fu Manchu.[3]

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 the San Francisco Examiner entitled "Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree".[1]


Based loosely on the Finefrock/Koon story, the film follows a group of teenagers living in a fictional planned community called New Granada. The film begins with Carl Willat (Michael Kramer) and his friends, Richie White (Matt Dillon), Claude Zachary (Tom Fergus), and Johnny (Tiger Thompson) hanging out at the rec, which is the only place in the community where young people (who, as in the Examiner story, comprise about a quarter of the town's residents) can spend time and be somewhat supervised by rec counselor Julia (Julia Pomeroy).

From a vantage point above an overpass, Mark Perry (Vincent Spano) and his friend shoot a hole in the windshield of a passing patrol car with a BB gun and flee through New Grenada on their bikes. They pass Carl and Richie and tell them to hide because the police are on their way. Sgt. Ed Doberman (Harry Northup) arrives shortly, spots the boys, and pulls them from their hiding place in the weeds behind an electrical control box. He searches them and finds a three-inch pocket knife in Richie's pocket, so he shoves the pair into the patrol car, takes them to the station, and calls Carl's father Fred (Andy Romano) to come pick up the boy and warns him about the pair's delinquent behavior.

Carls father Fred Willat is the owner of the local Cadillac dealership and is well-connected within New Grenada's business community. Before getting Doberman's call, he is talking to Homeowners Association president Jerry Cole (Richard Jamison) about getting wealthy Texas landowner Mr. Sloan (Lane Smith) to come to see the land across the street from the rec, and hopefully build an industrial park there instead of the planned twin cinema and roller rink, thereby making the community friendlier to business at the expense of the local kids. Back at the police station, Doberman is questioning Alex and Joe about who had the BB gun when Richie utters the most famous quote from the movie: "I only got one law: a kid who tells on another kid... is a dead kid." Richie is then taken out of the room while Doberman continues lecturing Carl and warns him that if he continues his bad behavior he will likely end up at the hill, an infamous juvenile detention facility in the area. Once home, Carl goes upstairs to his bedroom and blares Cheap Trick on his headphones.

The next day at school, Carl and Richie tell Claude about their misadventure with the police, and Claude announces that he took speed (which he later speculates was actually LSD) to prepare for an upcoming test: a surprise creative writing assignment related to the slide of the third panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych by Hieronymus Bosch that was projected onto the classroom wall. Afterward, the students are assembled in the school's Cafeterium for a presentation about the recent shooting of the police car, where Carl exchanges looks and smiles with Cory (Pamela Ludwig). That evening, Carl gets dressed to go out (this time listening to The Ramones on his headphones) and then goes downstairs and asks his father about the land across from the rec. Fred tells him about the new proposal for an industrial park, telling him that it would be a better reason for people to move to New Grenada than "a bowling alley," [sic] and the apoplectic Carl storms out to go join his friends over at the rec.

The kids have brought pot, alcohol, and music to an impromptu party at the rec's playground, where Claude buys a gram of hash from his friend Tip (Eric Lalich). An announcement about a party at a boy's nearby house spreads through the crowd of kids, and the group migrates there to encounter a burgeoning party replete with everything teens are into: sex, drugs, beer, and Van Halen. Carl is handed a joint on his way to the basement, where he sees Mark, the boy who shot the police car and inadvertently got Carl busted, making out with Cory on a couch. Coming over for a hit from the joint, Mark threatens Carl by saying that if he mentions his name to the cops, he'll be eating through a tube, then melts away into the party. Carl then tells Cory that she could do a lot better than Mark and heads upstairs, unknowingly followed by Mark and his friend who, after Doberman arrives in his patrol car to bust the party, beat up and rob Carl as he is walking home alone and warn him again to mention their names to the police. Carl stumbles home but is unable to sneak into his house unnoticed by his parents, who interrupt their meeting with Jerry Cole to grill the boy about who beat him up and ultimately fail in trying to get him to tell them who did it. After Carl goes upstairs, Jerry suggests to Fred that the rec should be closed the next day so that the kids won't be making trouble when Sloan and his people come to visit.

The next day at the rec, everyone is talking about the assault on Carl, but he reveals the names of his attackers to only to Claude, Richie, Johnny, and Alan (Brian Parker), another friend of theirs. Meanwhile, Doberman has arrived and Julia goes outside to talk to him about keeping the rec open for the day but, despite Julia's objections, he comes inside, promptly searches Claude, finds the gram of hash, calls for "assistance," and takes him into custody. They emerge from the rec amongst a crowd of rowdy teens to find Richie standing defiantly on the roof of the patrol car. After a brief foot chase, Richie gets away and the police leave.

A short while later, Richie and Carl are riding their bikes when they come upon Cory and her best friend Abby (Kim Kliner), who have just emerged from a house carrying a plastic bag. Richie grabs the bag and finds a handgun inside that the girls had just stolen from the house, and then they all go to a half-finished town home that Carl and Richie call their condo. They excitedly plan a "picnic with a gun" for the next day, and Cory gets up and starts dancing with the gun in her hand, pointing it at Carl playfully, but the gun goes off, and Carl briefly scares everyone by falling back pretending to be shot, after which the teens leave for their homes.

At the picnic the next day, Richie, Cory, and Carl take turns shooting the stolen pistol and realize that Carl is the only one who has any aim at all. Later, Claude tells the group 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 admits that he confessed to Doberman whom he sold the hash to because he was arrested the previous month. Richie then points the gun at Tip, pretending he's going to shoot him, and Johnny lights a firecracker that sounds like a gunshot when it explodes, which Tip's mother hears from a nearby tennis court. The group then throws Tip into the pond adjacent to his family's condo and run off. Cory gives Carl a quick kiss, showing him that she likes him after all.

When Carl gets home, his mother tells him that he is forbidden to see Claude or Richie 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 takes a swing at him, but gets smacked across the face, and once again goes to his room and puts on the headphones. In science class the next day, Carl overhears Tip's mother talking with the school's principal (Molly McCarthy) in a connected classroom, where she reveals the names of the boys who assaulted her son the previous afternoon. Carl then grabs Richie in the hallway and they run to Richie's house, where Richie grabs the pistol and the keys to his mom's Bronco, which they plan on using to leave town. Shortly, they accidentally flip the Bronco and flee the scene in opposite directions. Doberman chases Richie, tells him to stop, and fires a warning shot into the air, but Richie points his pistol at him, so he fire a single shot and kills Richie. Carl then runs away to "his" condo, but not before calling Johnny to confirm that Richie is really dead, then 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 Mark's BB gun and shoots him in the shoulder (not harming him), which causes him to crash his bike. Mark then sits down with Carl and they talk about what they're going to do about the parent situation, deciding in the process that their fight was stupid and they should team up instead. Then Carl goes home and, upon climbing into the house through an upstairs window, sees his mother (Ellen Geer) on the phone with his father discussing a community meeting being held at the school that night, to talk about the new trend of violence with the kids. He locks himself in his parents' bedroom and picks up a phone extension, asking them if they wish that he had been shot, too. He then flees out the window and goes to the rec, where all of his friends are.

They decide to show the parents that they need to listen to them, so they go to the school, where the meeting is in progress, chain the doors closed with their bike locks, and begin lighting fireworks, trashing the school, and even destroying cars in the parking lot. All hell breaks loose when the kids break open the trunk of the patrol car and pull out the guns, shooting at everything and eventually blowing up several cars and starting fires. Julia, locked inside the school, sees Johnny riding through the halls tearing down posters, so she convinces him to give her the phone from a nearby office, hand it to her and, because the cord is too short, dial "O" for her. Outside, Carl chases after a kid who has stolen Richie's bike, so when Cory is unable to find him, Claude offers to walk her home. Several police cars arrive with sirens blaring, and officers quickly remove the chains from the school doors. Doberman sprints to a car and speeds off to find and arrest Carl. He quickly locates the boy, puts him into the car, and handcuffs him to the roll cage, telling him that he'll have to spend a few weeks on the hill and hopefully make some smarter choices after he is released. However, Mark is waiting down the road and shoots the car, causing it to swerve, smash into the rec, and start a fire. Carl removes the handcuff keys from the front pocket of the unconscious Doberman, unlocks the cuffs, and sprints from the rec seconds before it explodes in a massive fireball.

The next morning, Carl boards a bus with a few dozen other teens involved in the vandalism incidents, including Mark and Abby, for their ride to the hill. As they go beneath the overpass from which Mark had shot the patrol car, Carl, seated at the back of the bus, sees Claude, Johnny, and Cory waving from above. Carl then turns around to face the front of the bus, relieved that Claude will look after Cory while he is serving his short sentence. And the credits roll.


Soundtrack album[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b Mike Sacks (August 2009). "Over the Edge: An Oral History of the Greatest Teen Rebellion Movie of All Time". Vice 16 (9). Retrieved 2013-09-18. 
  2. ^ St. Thomas, Kurt. Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects (2004): 103–104
  3. ^ Reece, Doug. "Popular Uprisings" Billboard November 1, 1997: 18

External links[edit]