Suburbia (film)

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Suburbia (film).jpg
Video release cover
Directed byPenelope Spheeris
Produced byBert Dragin
Roger Corman
Written byPenelope Spheeris
Music byAlex Gibson
CinematographyTimothy Suhrstedt
Edited byRoss Albert
Suburbia Productions
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • April 13, 1984 (1984-04-13)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States

Suburbia, also known as Rebel Streets and The Wild Side, is a 1984 American coming-of-age drama/thriller film written and directed by Penelope Spheeris, and produced by Roger Corman, about suburban punks who run away from home. The kids take up a punk lifestyle by squatting in abandoned suburban tract homes. The punks are played by Chris Pedersen, Bill Coyne, Timothy Eric O'Brien and Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea, amongst others.

It contains live footage of D.I. performing "Richard Hung Himself", T.S.O.L. performing "Wash Away" and "Darker My Love", and The Vandals performing "The Legend of Pat Brown". In turn, the film inspired the Pet Shop Boys song "Suburbia."


A hitchhiking teenage runaway, Sheila, is picked up on Interstate 605 in the Greater Los Angeles Area by a woman with a toddler. When the car gets a flat tire, they find a telephone booth on the edge of an abandoned tract housing district. While the mother is on the phone, the toddler is attacked and killed by a stray dog.

Another teenage runaway, Evan Johnson, leaves his suburban home and alcoholic mother, ending up at a punk rock concert by D.I., where Keef slips drugs into his drink, and the concert ends abruptly when a female attendee has her clothes torn off by the punks in the audience. Jack Diddley offers Evan a place to stay at "T.R. House", a punk house in the abandoned tract housing district off Interstate 605. Along the way they pick up Joe Schmo, who also intends to move into the house. Joe changes his mind when he learns each resident must be branded with the letters T.R., for "The Rejected", but winds up coming back and accepting the brand after discovering his father is homosexual. He begins to form a romantic relationship with Sheila, who has also moved into the house.

The next morning, several men from "Citizens Against Crime", including Jim Tripplett and Bob Skokes, drive through the neighborhood shooting at the packs of wild dogs that roam the area. T.R. kids Razzle and Skinner confront them, but the situation is defused by Jack's African-American stepfather, police officer Bill Rennard. Jack, Evan and Skinner steal food for the house by raiding the garages of a nearby suburban neighborhood, and make further enemies of Jim and Bob by disrupting their garage sale. When Evan sees on the news that his mother has been arrested for drunk driving, he collects his younger brother Ethan and brings him to live at T.R. House, where Sheila gives him a mohawk. Sheila admits to Joe that she was physically and sexually abused by her father.

During a T.S.O.L. concert, the T.R. gang get into a fight defending Skinner. The men they were fighting with enter the concert and stab a security guard, framing the T.R. kids for the crime by using the knife to hang a flier with "T.R." written in blood. Jim and Bob next witness the T.R. crew vandalizing a convenience store. At a meeting of the Citizens Against Crime, they accuse Bill and the rest of the police of not doing enough to curb the teenagers' criminal behavior, declaring their willingness to take the law into their own hands. Bill goes to T.R. House and implores the teens to stay out of trouble. That night, Jim and Bob invade the house and threaten the teens, assaulting Sheila in the process. The next morning, the kids find that Sheila has killed herself by overdosing on Keef's drugs. Not knowing what to do, they bring her body back to her parents. When the T.R. kids come to the funeral, Sheila's father insists that they leave. Joe reveals his knowledge of Sheila's abuse, and a fight breaks out, hospitalizing Sheila's father.

At a Vandals concert that night, Bill shows up and warns the T.R. kids to clear out of T.R. house immediately, before their actions bring the Citizens Against Crime down on their heads, but they decide to stay. Learning of the violence at the funeral (unaware Sheila herself was a punk and acting like the T.R. kids randomly attacked an innocent girl's funeral), Jim and Bob show up at the house and are attacked by the teens, who drive them off. They bring their car back around for another pass, accidentally running over and killing Ethan. Bill arrives, but is too late to prevent the tragedy.


  • Bill Coyne as Evan Johnson
  • Chris Pedersen as Jack Diddley
  • Jennifer Clay as Sheila
  • Timothy Eric O'Brien as Skinner
  • Wade Walston as Joe Schmo
  • Mike B. The Flea as Razzle
  • Grant Miner as Keef
  • Maggie Ehrig as Mattie
  • Lee Frederick (credited as "Robert Peyton") as Jim Tripplett
  • Jeff Prettyman as Bob Skokes
  • Don Allen as Officer Bill Rennard
  • Andrew Pece as Ethan Johnson
  • J. Dinan Myrtetus as Sheila's father
  • Ilene Latter as Sheila's mother
  • Donna Lamana as Tina Johnson
  • Gavin Courtney as Joe's father
  • Gina Carrera (credited as "Julie Winchester") as Sandy Dawson
  • Marlena Brause as Mrs. Tripplett
  • Dorlinda Griffin as Mother
  • Robert Griffin as Toddler


Director Penelope Spheeris recruited street kids and punk rock musicians to play each role, rather than hire young actors to portray punk rockers.

Suburbia was filmed in and around the cities of Downey and Norwalk in California. The abandoned housing tract was a former neighborhood along the west side of I-605, around the Alondra Boulevard off-ramp; Firestone Boulevard CA 42 was to its north, with Alondra Boulevard to its south. The entire area was Eminent Domain starting in the late 1960s / early 1970s, wherein it sat mostly vacant until its demolition in c.1990; some houses still had inhabitants until c. 1980. This was a gang-infested area; many abandoned houses were "drug houses", or, just as in the film, "crash houses" (e.g. the "T.R. House" ). I-105 now occupies most of the property, and has since the early '90s. In the early days of Metallica, then-bassist Ron McGovney hosted auditions/rehearsals and made demos in a house in the same tract.


Vincent Canby called it a "clear-eyed, compassionate melodrama about a bunch of young dropouts" and "probably the best teen-agers-in-revolt movie since Jonathan Kaplan's Over the Edge."[2]

Home media[edit]

The film is a part of Shout Factory's Roger Corman Cult Classics series, reissued on DVD in May 2010.


  1. ^ Chris Nashawaty, Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses - Roger Corman: King of the B Movie, Abrams, 2013 p 189
  2. ^ Screen: Down-And-Out Youths In 'Suburbia' - New York Times

External links[edit]