If you don’t like Coppola’s ‘The Outsiders’ we can never be friends. Ever.
I’ve referenced it on these pages a few, whether it’s Two-Bit’s Mickey Mouse t-shirt, the brief ‘Spraycan Art’ appearance or just the general look and feel of the film. It’s the reason I love denim, the reason I really started reading, the reason why I took an interest in Van Morrison’s work, the reason I love Diane Lane, the genesis of my Tom Waits fandom. Adding to that list, it’s also the reason I’ll challenge anyone who thinks Stevie Wonder totally went off the boil in the 1980s. The lists and bombastic prefixes I hurl around like a hot spud are open to change—that’s the nature of the obsessive mind, right? But this stays constant: ‘The Outsiders’ is my favourite movie of all time, and ‘Stay Gold’ is the record I’d want played at my funeral. It’s not the most cerebral of Coppola’s output—it’s a children’s (young adults?) film to some degree—but it’s just perfect. I’ll take it over ‘Apocalypse Now’, the first two Puzo adaptations and ‘The Conversation’—’Tetro’ was a beautiful piece of filmmaking, but the melodrama and stagey dialogue couldn’t contend with the timelessness of Greaser/Socs warfare. And yes, “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight…” still has me in tears. This film is prone to make me act a fool.
Stephen Burum’s cinematography elevates the proceedings from teen angst to something infinitely more widescreen and Coppola’s occasional heavy-handed stumbles are disguised in this instance by the simplicity of the narrative and great central performances. Seeing as I never caught ‘Over the Edge’ when I was very young, this was an introduction to the presence of Matt Dillon (it’s all about the magazine sweep near the film’s conclusion) and the extent of C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio’s range. Even Emilio Estevez’s ‘Transformers’ style switch from clan clown to battle-ready stance with a few flicks of a switchblade is seared into my pysche. Over-stylized? Undoubtedly, but this isn’t a subtle movie—it’s a grand affair that overlays a 1950s wrong-side-of-the-tracks b-flick with a 1930s big studio grandeur. That’s why the extended cut from 2005 jettisoning Carmine Coppola’s orchestral score was a poor decision. That version’s fine for the uninitiated, and the restored footage is largely excellent, but to see the ending altered felt like a tweak too far. Dallas’s brutal exit and the Johnny voiceover have long been cues to grieve and the studio fucked with my formula.
In terms of apparel, ‘The Outsiders’ lays down the rules—if you’re cool, it’s Chucks, double-denim and black t-shirts. Metallers sporting denim vests have known all along that it’s a strong look when it’s executed right. If you’re square, it was pastel pants and a sweater round the neck. Motherfuck a preppy. Those lightweight garments looked even more wretched after a rumble in the rain. That was drummed into my psyche at an early age and there’s still a great deal of validity in those onscreen divisions. The rich dressed like pricks and the poor looked effortlessly cool. Is there a more beautiful musical bookend than Stevie’s paean to wide-eyed innocence? No. Please—feel free to prove me wrong. So why the heck has it never had a UK DVD release? Sweden got a version briefly but we’re not deemed worthy. In fact, skip the DVD— few films warrant the hi-res glory of Blu-ray more than Francis’s definitive work. They could even put the deeply patchy 1990 14-episode follow-up TV series from Coppola and S.E. Hinton in there too. While they’re at it, can we have a very special edition of ‘The Wanderers’ too?
While I was raised on the painted artwork that reflects the director’s grand intentions, lifting the lead characters to somewhere almost fantastical before they’re brought back down to earth with the bump of a falling church roof, I’ve become acquainted with the simpler portrait shot and clean fonts used in most of the posters and DVD art. The lesser-seen Italian art above (often cropped) for their version, which seems to translate as ‘Boys of 56th Street’ looks closer to ‘Class of 1984’ than the sensitive portrayal it actually is. They even put Johnny Cade into some adidas Nizzas for no real reason. The German poster seems to show a completely different cast, Thailand got heavy on the romance, while France’s goes heavy on the violence angle, ensuring some audience disappointment for those expecting bloodshed. One of the Japanese efforts is fantastic—check Francis’s face in that ‘O’…
R.I.P. Darrel “Darry” Curtis.