Over the Edge (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Jun 05, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
  • Bookmark and Share
Over the Edge (Blu-ray Review)


Jonathan Kaplan

Release Date(s)

1979 (March 5, 2024)


Orion Pictures/Warner Bros. (Shout Select/Shout! Studios)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: A-

Over the Edge (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


The “young people in revolt” genre has a long cinematic history, going as far back as 1933 with Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite (a film that heavily influenced Lindsay Anderson’s If.... in 1968). While the true godfather of the genre is probably Nicholas Ray’s unforgettable 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, that hasn’t necessarily provided a template that all subsequent films have followed. (The great Circle of Influences can stray far from the source before eventually winding its way back to it.) Some examples of the genre have leaned more heavily into exploitation than others, capitalizing on the anxieties of the older generations about just what those meddling kids were trying to get away with. Even a horror film like The Exorcist tapped into those fears back in 1973, with Regan MacNeil’s scandalous behavior while under the influence of Pazuzu proving to be almost as terrifying as the demon itself, at least for relatively conservative mainstream audiences. Projectile vomiting and levitation were nothing compared to children spewing profanity and masturbating with a crucifix.

There’s a middle ground, however, and some of the most effective examples of the genre have been exploitation films that still managed to offer a sober and even sympathetic examination of the root causes behind teenage rebellion against societal norms. Jonathan Kaplan’s 1979 film Over the Edge falls into that category, exchanging the repressive authoritarianism of the educational system in Vigo’s Zéro de conduit for the existential ennui of Michelangelo Antonioni, all while still preying on parental fears about loss of control over their children’s behavior. In Over the Edge, boredom is the issue, driven by a capitalistic system that’s more concerned about property values in its real estate developments than in proving an outlet for children to blow off the steam that builds up whenever they don’t have anything productive to do. If restlessness is the source of the chaos in Over the Edge, greed is its cause.

Charlie Haas and Tim Hunter’s script for Over the Edge was loosely (very loosely) inspired by a 1973 story that they had read in the San Francisco Examiner. Written by journalists Bruce Koon and James Finefrock, Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree was an account of the youth crime problem in Foster City, CA, a planned community that offered all the amenities save for anything to keep children busy. Haas and Hunter changed the setting to the fictional New Granada, CO and altered most of the details, but the basic concept is still the same. Originally, they saw the Examiner article as ripe material for an exploitation movie, which it certainly was, but as their story developed, they ended up finding the humanity in the characters that they created. That’s also thanks in no small part to the fine cast of non-actors that was assembled for the film, with Haas and Hunter joining Kaplan and talent scout Jane Bernstein in visiting public schools in order to track down potential candidates outside of the usual casting pipeline.

Their biggest score was a then-unknown 14-year-old by the name of Matt Dillion, but the rest of the cast is filled with equally inexperienced young actors who still managed to give their characters unexpected depth, including Michael Kramer, Pamela Ludwig, Tom Fergus, and Vincent Spano. The yin and the yang of the authority figures are represented by Julia Pomeroy as the operator of the rec center that provides the children with the only harmless outlet for their energies, while Harry Northrup is the local police officer who’s only too happy to harass the kids while shutting the rec center down. The rest of the adults are caught in the middle, most notably Andy Romano and Ellen Geer as the parents of Kramer’s character Carl. Once the rec center is closed, the tensions that were simmering just below the surface end up exploding, and while all the parents are attending an emergency community meeting at the local school, the children lock them inside and stage a riot in the parking lot. That’s the area where Haas and Hunter’s script diverges the most widely from what actually happened in Foster City, but it’s exactly the kind of catharsis that an exploitation movie requires. You can’t have a buildup without a payoff.

Speaking of scores, the most over-the-top element of Over the Edge is probably the incessant open drug and alcohol use by the children, which is taken to a borderline Reefer Madness level that may well have been intended to terrify adult audiences with the sight of what their own children might be doing in secret. Despite the realistic setting and plausible characters, Over the Edge is sometimes only too happy to veer into melodrama. The fact that it still works as well as it does is due to the talents of Jonathan Kaplan, who has always had a knack for finding the right balance with any kind of subject matter. Sadly, the original production company Orion Pictures didn’t find any balance whatsoever in marketing the film, creating lurid posters that misleadingly made it look like a horror story, and entirely failing to capitalize on the lure of the fantastic soundtrack that Kaplan gifted them with (including songs from Cheap Trick, The Cars, Little Feat, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, The Ramones, and Valerie Carter). Over the Edge barely even got a theatrical release in 1979, and it quickly sank without a trace. Thankfully, that was near the dawn of the home video era, and it eventually started to build up a cult following on VHS. That’s fortunate, because while the story that inspired Over the Edge is very much of a time and a place, the way that the film can speak to disaffected youth regardless of their own personal circumstances makes it a truly universal experience.

Cinematographer Andrew Davis (yes, that Andy Davis) shot Over the Edge on 35mm film using Panavision cameras with spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. This version is based on a new 2K scan of the interpositive, with no other information available about the work that was done to it. The results are clean, without much of any damage visible. The optically printed opening title sequence displays the expected softness, but fine detail after that is reasonably well resolved. Contrast and black levels are solid, with perhaps just a bit of crush in some of the darkest material. The colors are nicely saturated, with some of the flesh tones in the exterior sequences looking a little ruddy, but that may be intentional in order to evoke the feeling of the harsh suburban Colorado sun. The grain remains tight throughout, possibly thanks to a little grain reduction, but nothing egregious, and it’s in keeping with how the grain would have been softened on release prints. Short of the original camera negative becoming available at some point in the future, there probably are few improvements that could be made given the elements that were available, and it’s the best version of Over the Edge currently available on home video.

Audio is offered in 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. There’s a touch of excessive sibilance in some of the dialogue, but it’s always clear and comprehensible. The good news is that the music is reproduced with some heft despite the fact that it’s in mono, with a decent amount of bass and dynamics. Over the Edge is the kind of film that doesn’t really need a full remix, but it would be nice to get an updated version that preserves the original mono dialogue and effects while presenting the music in full stereo. One can dream, but in the meantime, there’s little to complain about with this rendition of the theatrical mono track.

The Shout! Studios Blu-ray release of Over the Edge is #156 in their Shout Select line. The disc is housed in a transparent blue Amaray case that displays a still from the film when the case is opened. The following new and archival extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary with Jonathan Kaplan, George Litto, Tim Hunter, and Charlie Haas
  • Audio Commentary with Michael Kramer and Mike Sacks
  • Watch Out for Children: Making Over the Edge (HD – 16:03)
  • Coming of Age: Writing Over the Edge (HD – 17:08)
  • My Father Told Me: Scoring Over the Edge (HD – 14:10)
  • Wide Streets + Narrow Minds
    • Part 1: The Big Stool Pigeon (HD – 11:08)
    • Part 2: This Is the Kid (HD – 7:46)
    • Part 3: Blonde-Haired Jesus (HD – 10:16)
    • Part 4: A Face in the Crowd (HD – 12:53)
    • Part 5: Boom Boom (HD – 10:03)
    • Part 6: A Training Film for Vandalism (HD – 10:17)
    • Part 7: Kids Are More Honest Than Adults (HD – 10:18)
  • Destruction: Fun or Dumb? (HD – 12:48)
  • Trailers (HD & Upscaled SD – 5:58, 3 in all)
  • TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 1:04, 2 in all)

The first commentary with Jonathan Kaplan, producer George Litto, Tim Hunter, and Charlie Haas was originally recorded for the 2005 DVD release from Warner Bros. They offer a wealth of information about the cast and crew, including their filmographies (although obviously that’s a bit out of date at this point). The young actors became an integral part of the construction of the film, with Matt Dillon’s defiant attitude in particular informing much of what happened in it. They also influenced the soundtrack, since many of the songs that ended up in the film were ones that the kids were listening to on the set. (Interestingly, the original song that played over the finale was The Who’s Baba O’Reilly, but Kaplan opted for The Valerie Carter cover of Five Stairsteps’ O-o-h Child instead since it ended everything on a more hopeful note.) The entire story evolved significantly over the course of the development and production o f the film, and the group provides plenty of insights into that process. There are a few gaps throughout the commentary, some of them pretty lengthy, but it’s still a valuable track.

The second commentary was originally recorded for the 2021 Region B Blu-ray from Arrow in the UK. It pairs Michael Kramer with journalist Mike Sacks, who has covered the film for the website Vice. It’s naturally a bit more focused on Kramer’s own experiences making the film, but Sacks brings the receipts in terms of all the research that he has done over the years regarding Over the Edge, so there’s plenty of great information here that isn’t in the older group commentary. Evern where it does overlap that track, it’s still interesting to hear Kramer’s perspectives from a different level of the filmmaking process than what the writers, producer, and director experienced.

The next three featurettes are all-new interviews that were produced by Daniel Griffith’s Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. Watch Out for Children: Making Over the Edge is with Jonathan Kaplan, who discusses how he ended up becoming involved with the project, the inspirations for the script, the casting process, and various stories about the production. He had been hoping to direct the unfinished Sex Pistols film Who Killed Bambi, so Over the Edge appealed to him because he felt that it was an American punk rock story. Coming of Age: Writing Over the Edge is with Charlie Haas, who goes into more detail about the way that he and Tim Hunter developed the story from the San Francisco Examiner article, including how they explored some real housing developments to get a feel for what they were like. He also talks about the cast, as well as the impact of the final film. Jonathan Kaplan returns for My Father Told Me: Scoring Over the Edge, talking about his father Sol’s musical background and his work on Over the Edge, as well as giving a bit more information about the song selections. He also analyzes some of his father’s musical cues.

Wide Streets + Narrow Minds is a seven-part documentary on Over the Edge that Elijah Drenner created for the 2021 Arrow Blu-ray. Jonathan Kaplan, Tim Hunter, and Charlie Hass are joined by other members of the cast and crew including Michael Kramer, Matt Dillon, Vincent Spano, Tom Fergus, Pamela Ludwig-Dreyfus, Harry Northup, Julia Pomeroy, and more. Journalists Jim Finefrock and Bruce Koon are also on hand to discuss their 1973 story for the San Francisco Examiner. It’s a comprehensive look at the making of Over the Edge from conception to development, production, casting, and release, as well as the legacy that the film has left behind. Unfortunately, there’s no “Play All” option here, so each segment has to be selected individually.

Aside from the Trailers and TV Spots, there’s one other extra on the disc, but it’s a doozy. Destruction: Fun or Dumb? is the unintentionally hilarious 1976(?) educational film about vandalism that’s excerpted in Over the Edge. The title song alone has to be heard to be believed.

While some of the extras here were ported over from the Arrow Blu-ray, there are a few others that are missing from this release. That includes a Q&A from a 2010 screening of Over the Edge at the Walter Reade Theater in New York; audio-only excerpts from a Projection Booth podcast about the film; audio-only interviews that Mike White did with members of the cast and crew; the complete audio of the Welcome to New Granada rock opera by Drats!!!; plus a variety of other image and text galleries, including the Vice retrospective by Mike Sacks. Yet Shout! Factory has added new features of their own, so this is one case where both releases have their merits. On the other hand, Shout! has the edge in terms of video quality, so unless you already own the Arrow version, this should be your first choice. Fans of Over the Edge will find plenty here to keep them busy, and newcomers will be able to watch it for the first time in its best possible light.

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook.)