THE OUTSIDERS 30th Anniversary

This week (March 25th) marked 30 years since The Outsiders was released theatrically. In tribute to this American classic directed by Francis Ford Coppola we would like to present our review.

Based on the best selling novel by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders tells the story of the Curtis brothers: Pony Boy (C. Thomas Howell) Soda Pop (Rob Lowe) and Darry (Patrick Swayze) all of whom are Greasers. Following their parents tragic death they’ve had to learn to live on their own and their small home has become the place where all their wild pals hang out, in effect establishing a secondary family of sorts.

In Tulsa Oklahoma where the Curtis’ live in there are two social factions. On one side there’s The Greasers (lower class) on the other, The Soc’s (upper class). This causes a constant tension and they are always clashing. Pony Boy’s best friend is Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio) a scruffy little kid who has parents that argue and neglect him. They both hang out with the older, wiser Dallas Winston (Matt Dillon) who’s a rebel even in his own circles. One night at the local drive-in, Dallas, Pony Boy and Johnny run into two Soc girls, the cute redhaired Cherry Valance (Diane Lane) and her friend Marcia (Michelle Meyrink). It’s clear that there’s an electricity between Cherry and Dallas (opposites attract) and he proceeds to act like a clown to get her attention, causing people around them to laugh. Soon his advances turn unruly and he’s reprimanded by Cherry, Pony and Johnny so he angrily leaves. One of their other pals, Two Bit (Emilio Estevez) is sneaking around having fun lifting girls skirts. He stops by and causes more mischief plying his greaser charms on Marcia. After the movie Pony, Cherry, Johnny and Two Bit are confronted by some Soc’s led by Bob (Leif Garrett) a jerky snob who is drunk and looking for trouble. Cherry is his girlfriend so he threatens them but it’s diffused when she leaves with him and the groups go their separate ways.

After getting in a fight with Darry for staying out too late that night, a defiant Pony Boy finds Johnny sleeping in the vacant lot where they were hanging out earlier and tells him they’re going to run away from home. As the two pals sit in the local park figuring out where to go, they see a car full of Soc’s slowly driving by, it’s Bob and his goons again. Another confrontation starts which leads to Pony being dunked in the water fountain by Bob and his friends while Johnny is kicked and beaten up. While the Soc’s are occupied with drowning Pony Boy, Johnny pulls his switchblade and attacks them. When Pony Boy finally comes to he sees that Bob has been killed and the jocks have dissapeared. He and Johnny are both in shock from what’s occurred. In desperation they go to Dallas for help and he points them to an old church in the country where they can hide out.

When Pony and Johnny get to the church it gives them time to reflect on all that’s happened and who they are. Pony relates his feelings on how he’s more artistic than tough and that while Soda understands him, Darry just doesn’t know who he really is. They do things like read books, play cards and set up rabbit traps to pass the time. With a little bit of money they’re able to buy some basic sundries like bologna, soda and cigarettes. The two change their appearances as well, Pony dyes his hair blond and Johnny has his greasy mop chopped. When Dallas arrives to check up on things he takes them out to Dairy Queen and gives the rundown on what’s happened since they left. When they get back to the church they are shocked to discover it on fire (likely due to a lit cigarette). It turns out some school kids on a field trip have gotten stuck inside so Johnny and Pony try to save them. They’re successful for the most part but Johnny is badly hurt when the burning structure collapses. Following the accident, Pony returns home, now considered a local hero and awaits the news on Johnny and if he’ll be able to stay with Darry and Soda or be sent to a state reformatory.

Meanwhile the death of Bob at Johnny’s hand has pushed the Soc/Greaser rivalry to its boiling point and the two groups decide that they need to have a rumble to set things right. The big confrontation occurs during a rainstorm (which only heightens the drama) and the blood spills on both sides but The Greasers triumph. Afterwards, Dallas and Pony head to the hospital to see Johnny only to discover he’s died. This drives Dallas over the edge since Johnny was the closest thing to a real brother he ever had and the one person he truly cared about.

The Outsiders was not only a great film about teenagers set in the 1960s, it was a starting point for most of the cast who went on to be the next generation of up and coming screen idols: Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing), Tom Cruise (Top Gun) Rob Lowe (St Elmos Fire), Emilio Estevez (The Breakfast Club), Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid), C. Thomas Howell (The Hitcher), Diane Lane (Chaplin), Matt Dillon (Drugstore Cowboy).

Before The Outsiders and its follow up Rumble Fish (filmed right after in the same city) Francis Ford Coppola had directed cinematic masterpieces as The Godfather 1 and 2, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. He was inspired to start production after learning that kids from a California high school loved the book and wanted him to direct the film adaptation. What Coppola brought to the story was a grand vision turning a teenage melodrama you might get in a 60s B-movie into a romantic period film in the tradition of films like Rebel Without A Cause (1955). It is a mixture of dirty, dusty urban city backdrops and operatic and beautiful ones inspired by such classics as Gone With The Wind (1939) (which is referenced both in the script and through the cinematography). The Outsiders both in written and cinematic form remains a classic work of American fiction which has continued to connect with young people all over the world.

THE COMPLETE NOVEL

In 2005 a redux edition of the film was released on DVD. “The Complete Novel” included 22 minutes of extra footage and new music and several deleted scenes were added back to the film to make it closer to the book. In the opening section of the film 1) Ponyboy gets jumped 2) the gang talk about going to the movies 3) Dally, Pony and Johnny hang out awhile together before going to the movies. In the ending section additions were 1) a courtroom sequence 2) Mr. Syme talking to Ponyboy 3) Sodapop, Ponyboy and Darry together in the park. The original score by Carmine Coppola was replaced with pop music from the 1960s. In addition to these changes the MPAA re-rated the film giving it a PG-13 for various adult content. Scenes were also deleted for pacing reasons but were included on the 2nd disc. Two commentary tracks were included, one with stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio and Diane Lane (who recorded it during a visit to the Coppola estate) and another with Matt Dillon and Rob Lowe.

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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