Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that a steel cage death match between the cast of The Outsiders, Dazed and Confused, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High would be a nice way to spend $40.
"Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold."
Based on the novel by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders is a novel that numerous school systems have taken on as reading material for their high school classes. After a 15-year wait, the book was adapted into a movie, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather). The movie was released to mixed reaction, as many felt the film fell far short of what the book accomplished. The new release adds over 20 minutes back into the film and structurally, is more faithful to the book. Is this a good thing?
Facts of the Case
Children helped influence Coppola to make this film, and also helped sway him to release this extended version. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1960, the film is an ensemble of young talent. A young group of outsiders nicknamed Greasers grew up on the seedy, poor side of town. The Greasers are comprised of Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell, The Hitcher) and his older brothers Sodapop (Rob Lowe, St. Elmo's Fire) and Darrell (Patrick Swayze, Road House), who lost their parents in a car crash. Ponyboy's friend Johnny (Ralph Macchio, The Karate Kid) never stays at home because his parents never want him around. Sodapop works at a gas station with Steve (Tom Cruise, Minority Report) and they also have a friend named Two-Bit (Emilio Estevez, Repo Man). The Greasers frequently clash with the Socs, who are the bluebloods of Tulsa, if there is such a thing. The Socs are led my Bob (Leif Garrett, Walking Tall), who dates Cherry (Diane Lane, Unfaithful).
Tensions rise after Johnny was scarred in an attack by the Socs, presumably by Bob, and when Ponyboy and Cherry start to talk, and even flirt, that causes some bad blood between the groups. When someone is stabbed to death, this murder affects both sides, and Johnny and Ponyboy try to find some common ground not as Greasers or Socs, but as young kids growing up.
Coppola was persuaded to make this film as the result of a grade-school petition from a California school. And when the film was released, it did appear a bit uneven, as there were many parts that were not in the final cut that caused some concern among fans. And Coppola received more letters as a result, asking about the beginning of the film, or that there weren't enough scenes with a specific character. When he was asked by his granddaughter about the film, he was a little bit embarrassed of the cut of the film, and started to look into the possibility of extending it.
As one who wasn't too familiar with the book or film until after high school, the claims about The Outsiders being along the lines of a young person's Gone With the Wind may be aiming a bit high. And the "Greaser" and "Soc" nicknames almost make it feel closer to West Side Story than anything else. But the film is still very good regardless. The performances by Howell and Macchio are excellent, as they are two kids that are scared of what's happened to them so far, but they appreciate the small things in life, and look forward to more of them in the future. Apparently, the character who is done the most justice in this new cut of the film is Sodapop, and Lowe, who subsequently was the macho sex symbol in Oxford Blues and Youngblood goes against that character. Even though he plays Ponyboy's older brother, there's a large part of his character that is very maternal, while Darrell is the de facto head of the family. The other key thing about the film is that the characters are flushed out a little bit more in the opening than they were before. Ponyboy's voiceover made little, if any sense at all. And now, not only does it stay true to the book, but you get a quick minute or two with each character before diving into the story. The score, which was done by Coppola's father Carmine, has been mostly removed, replaced with songs from the era, the majority by Elvis Presley. This helps both with the era and the location, as you'd assume that the Greasers would listen to Elvis in the middle of Oklahoma and all.
While The Outsiders may not be the epic film that a lot of people had in mind, it definitely improves an average film, and its devotion to the source material makes it an enjoyable ride all the way through. It's safe to say that those who liked the first film will love this version, and those who haven't seen the first film will enjoy this film regardless of what was put in or taken out.
One of the nice things about revisiting a film several years (or a couple of decades) after it first aired is that you can bring back a lot of the parties to the films' initial success. And Kim Aubry, who has already produced several Coppola DVDs, has done another outstanding job. The film includes two introductions and commentary tracks. The first is from Coppola, who points out what footage is new, and explains his reasons for what was added into the film, along with his motivations for removing his father's score. And as usual, he has a lot of other stories about the production of the film, and some of the technical and stylistic decisions he made for it at the time. He always is a wealth of information, and this is no different. There's also another commentary with six cast members. Howell, Macchio, Lane, Swayze, Lowe and Dillon provide their thoughts, with the first four reuniting for a commentary at Coppola's estate. Dillon and Lowe are recorded separately, but are edited into the overall track, sometimes pretty seamlessly in the middle of a conversation, which is a nice touch. Even with six people, there are long pauses while everyone watches the new footage (which they never saw as part of the film), and the reunited cast is a little too quiet for me. Lowe is the "chatty Cathy" of the group, and it would have been nice to have him as part of this, but it's still OK. Everyone recalls the production, and they all have a Cruise recollection or two, especially when someone mentions that he got the script to Risky Business during filming. All in all, this was pretty good also.
Disc Two's supplements focus on the production of the film, with some nostalgia thrown in. Even after the 22 minutes that were added, there is another 12 minutes of deleted and extended scenes that cover the opening and closing of the film. The highlight of the disc is Staying Gold: A Look Back at The Outsiders, which features new interviews with Howell, Lane, Dillon, Macchio and Howell, along with Garrett (who quiet frankly, isn't getting better with age). The motivations for Coppola making the film are discussed, along with the reasons for the extended version now, and even covers some of the reunion that Lane, Howell, Macchio and Swayze had at Coppola's estate, where they saw the red mustang that Dallas stole, were well fed by the director, and everything right up until the cast watched the film for the commentary. It's a nice mix of information and recollection. Following that is a tour of the film's Tulsa locations with Hinton, where she talks about where they are in the film, along with a look at the casting of the film. Fred Roos, who has cast Coppola films since The Godfather, discusses his original thoughts of the cast (which he happened to have on some legal pads), an ample screen footage of each eventual cast member is included. The interesting ones are the ones who didn't get the roles. Imagine Helen Slater (Supergirl) or even Kate Capshaw (who even in 1982 looks like she's 30 years old) as one of the Socs. Or even Adam Baldwin (Full Metal Jacket) in Garrett's role. The cast that did get the roles also share their thoughts on the process, and the feature is as good a look as I've seen on a film's casting in a long time. The six cast members also read excerpts from the book, which is a nice inclusion, and each member reads for about two or three minutes. There's a dated segment from the Today show about how the film came together, and the film's original trailer is the last piece of bonus material.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Honestly, I can't think of too much that could have been added. Aside from the tragedy of Lowe not being involved in the commentary with the group, and perhaps a small demo on the restoration effort, the film looks great, sounds good, and has a lot of bonus material. That's all anyone could ask for.
This new extended edition of the film, combined with the entertaining supplements on both discs, make for an excellent overall package. Aubry has done justice to another Coppola forgotten classic, and should be commended for the work that was put into it.
The court finds the Greasers and Socs not guilty, and Aubry and Coppola are acquitted as well as a result of this excellent work. The court eagerly looks forward to what Aubry and Coppola will do next, and in the words of Johnny Cade, hopes that they "stay gold."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Director's Introduction and Commentary
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