The Outsiders (1983)

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The Outsiders is an enjoyable and strange movie in the filmography of Francis Ford Coppola. He decided to make the film after receiving a letter from the Lone Star School in Fresno, California, full of many signatures, requesting him to do so. The original novel was written by S. E. Hinton (who also wrote Rumble Fish, which was also filmed by Coppola and released in 1983) when she was a teenage girl and clearly resonated with American teenagers who could identify with many of the characters and themes. The story provides a very clear, childish view of the world but still manages to touch on the many life decisions that can affect us, young or old.is out on blu-ray 31st October 2011.

Viewed nowadays, you can easily describe the central storyline of The Outsiders as a mix of Rebel Without A Cause with some Stand By Me. The greasers are always at odds with the socs because they come from opposite sides of the geographical and economic divide. But one young man, Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell), finds his life taking a few turns that remind him how people can’t always just be labelled as greaser or soc. But can he convince anyone around him of this fact and perhaps change things for the better?

A small and personal story that also aims for a sense of grandeur and epic scope, The Outsiders is a bright and stylised look at a difficult road through life overlooked by the rosiest of childhood sunsets. There are plenty of moments that people can choose to mock and dismiss (some of the performances teeter into the overearnest territory of bad am-dram, the innocent lives of boys bonding together can be viewed as something quite homo-erotic and the tragedy is almost on a par with standard TV movie melodramas) but audiences will get much more from the film if they take the whole thing as it was intended – a straightforward adaptation of a book showing that time of life when children often pretend to be adults until they are reminded of their vulnerability and lack of worldly wisdom.

The extended edition of the movie features a lot of extra footage, of course, and also a lot of different musical choices. Coppola also chooses to replace a lot of the score with timely track choices, a choice that (alongside the opening sequence and coda) once again calls to mind the likes of Stand By Me and even American Graffiti. but let’s face it, this movie is all about the cast, a veritable who’s who of 1980s cinema. C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralp Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise. Considering that Rumble Fish also featured Matt Dillon and Diane Lane alongside Mickey Rourke, Nicolas Cage and Chris Penn it’s worth considering Coppola as, ironically enough, the godfather of the brat pack.

Less well known than many other Coppola movies, it would be easy to overpraise The Outsiders. There are many shots that are visually stunning and infuse the material with a golden glow of childhood, no matter what situation that childhood is developing in, but it’s also just as flawed and faltering as it is honest and beautiful. Certainly worth  a watch, and a potential purchase, but not one to recommend to everyone.

When Francis Ford Coppola gives his movies the “special edition” treatment he doesn’t do things by half and the Blu-ray release of The Outsiders is another great package for fans. First of all, this is the extended edition of the film with over 20 minutes of additional footage and different music cues, as mentioned above.

Then we have the commentary tracks. The first track by Francis Ford Coppola is relaxed and informative, with most of the information concerning the gestation and creation of the extended version of the film in front of you. The second track is gold for fans, a chat recorded when the revised movie was shown in 2003 to a reunion of the cast including including C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane and Ralp Macchio. Rob Lowe and Matt Dillon are also on the chat track though recorded separately.

Staying Gold: A Look Back At “The Outsiders” mixes archival material from the shoot with talk about the impact the movie had on both the cast and audiences and provides more great stuff for fans. A lot of the later footage was filmed at the 2003 reunion and presentation of the extended cut. It runs for about 26 minutes and is consistently entertaining throughout.

A lovely little NBC piece, that runs for just under 5 minutes, is included that covers that initial letter and petition to Francis Ford Coppola. As an extra treat for the school, two of the cast members (C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Swayze) pay a visit to those who signed the petition.

7 cast members (those who featured in the commentary track plus Leif Garrett) read some extracts from the novel, a treat for fans of both versions of the tale.

S.E. Hinton visits a number of the Tulsa locations in a small featurette that also provides some background on the beginning of her writing career.

The Casting Of “The Outsiders” is yet another featurette mixing some chat from 2003 with great archival footage.

A number of deleted/extended scenes feel unnecessary, considering the way that so much extra material has been seamlessly reintegrated into the film, but will please those who just want more and more time with the characters and story.

And then there’s a trailer from 1983 that showcases the characters and the fact that it’s based on the classic teenage novel.

Considering the sheer wealth of supplementary material here, there’s surprisingly little crossover and nothing feels truly worthless or boring. For fans, this is the best package you can get.

DIRECTOR: FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
STARS: C. THOMAS HOWELL, RALPH MACCHIO, MATT DILLON, DIANE LANE, PATRICK SWAYZE, ROB LOWE, EMILIO ESTEVEZ, TOM CRUISE
RUNTIME: 114 MINS APPROX (EXTENDED EDITION)
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

DISC Rating: ★★★★★

2 Comments
  1. Julio Kukanja says

    Isnt mind blowing the a decade after the conversation and the Godfathers that Coppola so effortlessly devoted himself to these teen dramas.. I loved his idealism in this and rumblefish, as a teenager this film did speak profoundly speak to me. But yeah what a cast, beautiful photography aswell.. i can still recite that poem by Robert Frost..

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    You’re right, Julio. Coppola is so often overshadowed by his own great achievements that it’s easy to forget how versatile and prolific he was at certain times.

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