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Edge Case

07/04/2011

I was going to write a round-up about the batch of pretty bad movies I’ve seen lately, but after a Friday night at the Roxie, I’d rather write about one of my all-time favorites, Over the Edge, which played in a Midnites for Maniacs triple bill with Tex and River’s Edge. The evening was made special by its guests in attendance, screenwriters Tim Hunter and Charlie Haas. You can listen to the post-screening Q&A here.

Over the Edge

I first saw Over the Edge on HBO, somewhere around 1981. The film had been cursed with a limited initial release, so it never played in a theater near me. (There’s a long 30th anniversary interview piece at Vice Magazine, where you can read more about making the movie and its release issues. Thanks, Pam.) When it landed on cable, it played several times a day, so I caught it as often as possible. Something about the kids, the clueless authority figures, the awkward budding relationship, and the awesome soundtrack felt really real to me. And I wanted Cory’s hair.

At the time, I was in tenth or eleventh grade. (I want to say tenth, but everything I can dig up about the cable release suggests it had to be a bit later.) The music was all stuff I owned. The clothes were all what I wore. If you look through my old photo albums and put pictures taken at my high school next to stills from the movie, you could mix them up and not know one from the other. We didn’t lock our parents inside Arlington High, and there was a lot more for us to to do than there was for the poor, bored kids in Over the Edge‘s misplanned community of New Granada, but the film offered a contemporary teen’s-eye-view that I had never seen on the screen.

Some people look at the movie now and think it’s a little far-fetched, but I can tell you in all honesty that there is nothing in that movie apart from locking up the town’s adults that didn’t occur in some fashion around me. Even the gun-handling (though not cop-related) led to a sad end for one of our classmates. And though no firey vandalism occurred at the school I attended, there was an infamous incident about an hour away where cars were beaten and burned at a Black Sabbath/Blue Öyster Cult show.

Looking back on it now, I still feel for the kids, which is pretty much the point of the film. (And this comes from someone who’s been on the neighborhood crime council, and who’s father-in-law was a cop.) I think I identified most with Carl. He’s a good kid who happens to befriend someone a little more troubled and reckless than he. Here’s where the old parental chestnut of “I don’t want you hanging around with so-and-so” comes in (a theme more blatantly mixed with class issues in the night’s companion film Tex). Carl’s parents are, of course, right in thinking that Carl’s friend Ritchie will probably get their son into trouble, but how much of what they say comes from real knowledge of the situation and how much from that knee-jerk reaction that “my kid can’t be the bad one”? It’s never the “good” kid, the wealthier kid, or the smart kid who’s at fault. They want Carl to hang around with “the right people.” The trouble is, there are no “right people” in New Granada, and that includes their son.

I think Over the Edge was the first movie I recorded on videotape. For a long time, I had a crappy video with that and The Wizard of Oz on it, both recorded off of the television. Eventually that tape wore out. The Wizard of Oz was my other favorite at the time. I had a chalkboard in my bedroom to keep track of the number of times I had seen it. When I left for college in 1982, the tally sat at 26 1/2. Why I bothered with the half, I don’t know, but keeping track was somehow important to me. I never tracked how often I watched Over the Edge, but it has to be over a dozen viewings. I found myself anticipating many of the lines as we watched at the Roxie that night.

One interesting fun fact about the Roxie show was that the rare 16mm print of Over the Edge belonged to Negativland‘s Peter Conheim, who loaned it out of his collection for the night and took part in the Q&A. Apparently, he got the film from eBay about a decade ago. It’s one of his favorites, as well.

I went to Trader Joe’s on Sunday, and they were playing the Cars and the Clash, which struck me as an odd bookend to hearing the same bands in the movie on Friday. The rebellion songs of yesterday become the Muzak of tomorrow. I wasn’t sure whether it made me feel old or young. Does time pass too quickly or just stand still? Then I got carded at the register when buying beer. The cashier looked at me, down at the ID, and gave me that “you’re faking it” look, raised eyebrows and all. She even hesitated when returning the license. Believe me, I haven’t seen that accusatory stare in many, many years. I know she was just surprised at the date, but who fakes an ID by an entire generation? Still, her attitude just made me laugh. I felt like a teenager again.

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From → Movies, Ponderings

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