Over the Edge depicts American suburban life in the 1970s and includes themes of teenage rebellion and drug and alcohol use by junior high school students. The rock music soundtrack features Cheap Trick, the Cars, and the Ramones.
The film was inspired by events described in a 1973 San Francisco Examiner article entitled “Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree” by Bruce Koon and James A. Finefrock. The article reported on young kids vandalizing property in Foster City, California.
Screenwriters Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunter began work shortly after the article’s publication, including field research in the town itself where they interviewed some of the kids. Hunter said that the script accurately reflected the article with the exception of a more violent ending.
Orion Pictures helped finance the film; producer George Litto borrowed an additional $1 million. Director Jonathan Kaplan, who was just 30 when hired, took a documentary approach to filming, using unknown actors. Among them was Matt Dillon, then age 14, who the filmmakers discovered in a middle school in Westchester County, New York. This was Dillion’s feature film debut. Shooting took place over 20 days in 1978 in Greeley and Aurora, two cities in Colorado.
Due to the negative publicity surrounding a wave of recent youth gang films such as The Warriors and Boulevard Nights, Over the Edge had a limited theatrical release in 1979. But the film has since gained cult film status. Early on, it was listed on critical top-10 lists and was favorably reviewed by Vincent Canby at the New York Times. Director Richard Linklater said the film influenced his film Dazed and Confused (1993).
“Over The Edge”: The 1979 teen angst film that introduced a generation to Rockford, Illinois’s Cheap Trick
A FILM ISSUE – Over the Edge
Over the Edge (1979) | TCM
Vandal in the Wind: OVER THE EDGE (1979) | Acidemic
THIS WEEK ON TCM UNDERGROUND: THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART III (1998) AND OVER THE EDGE (1979) |Streamline
Course File for “Film Genres and the Image of Youth” | Journal of Film and Video
Playing House: Screen Teens and the Dreamworld of Suburbia | A Family Affair: Cinema Calls Home. (2008)
Over the Edge Movie Review & Film Summary (1980) | Roger Ebert
House of Self-Indulgence: Over the Edge (Jonathan Kaplan, 1979)
Acidemic – Film: Vandal in the Wind: OVER THE EDGE (1979)
Coming To Grips With The American Experience – New York Times