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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Outsiders


Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: 12
Available 31 October 2011

Sixties in Tulsa, Oklahoma was a time of great social inequality. On the poorer side of town the ‘Greasers’ work in low paid jobs and go to school alongside their more affluent ‘Socs’, the two gangs continually battle over territory. This turf war moves into another more tragic phase when the Socs catch Johnny Cade and Ponyboy Curtis out in the open. In the fight that follows the Socs try to drown Ponyboy, but are stopped when Johnny kills one of them. Afraid and on the run the two turn to Dallas Winton for help. He gets them out and into a safe hiding place, but an unexpected act of heroism brings the three back to town and back into the arms of the law. Meanwhile, the ‘Greasers’ and the ‘Socs’ continue to head towards a final rumble, one that will end in further tragedy...

The Outsiders (1983 - 1 hr, 54 min, 56 sec) is a teen coming-of-age drama directed by Francis Ford Coppola from the original novel by S. E. Hinton. The book was famous in its day for being written by a teenager for teenagers. The project had an odd beginning. Coppola coming off the success of the Godfather films was looking for a much smaller project to get his teeth into, when he received a petition from a small Californian high school whose library club had written to him to say how the book was their favourite and asked him to make it into a film. Intrigued, and not a little flattered, Coppola read the book and agreed with the kids that not only could the film be made, but that it could have the same epic feel as Gone with the Wind, an epic for a new generation.

The young cast which Coppola gathered together would make any modern film maker drool. Either through luck or great casting the film was able to gather together the young talents of Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, C Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Patrick Swayze and Emilio Estevez.

Although the film shares the same heritage of Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, it takes the teen tale to a whole new level in the capable hands of an innovative director. Some of the film's tropes came naturally to the director, like the Corleones, we are presented with a story which is essentially about family and belonging. Furthermore like the Corleones and Kurtz from Apocalypse Now these people are in search of a better world for themselves. Coppola takes a fairly unremarkable story and creates something special on the screen. No longer is this just a story of teen tragedy and triumph, with the use of the sunset motif Coppola also makes it about the loss of the innocence.

As Coppola mentions on the disc the film was originally cut down, partially by himself and partially by the film company. However, this decision never really satisfied him and through the intervening twenty years he continued to get letters asking why scenes from the book were missing, knowing full well that they had been shot and left on the cutting room floor. Rob Lowe fared the worst of any of the actors with nearly all of his work being cut from the film. Now Coppola has reinstated the missing material to make the film a more complete record of the book and for the first time audience can see the film as it was originally intended.

The Blu-ray is presented with a restored 2.40:1 full HD 1080p print, sporting a 5.1 DTS HD English audio track. The print's restoration makes it difficult to tell what was originally missing, from just looking at the film as the parts have been spiced together seamlessly. The predominantly red and blue colour palette shows no bleed and the picture is well detailed.

There a good spread of extras, including two full length audio commentaries, one from Coppola who also provides a video introduction and one from the cast, including Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio and Patrick Swayze.

Staying Gold: A Look Back at the Outsiders (26 min, 24 sec) has various surviving members of the cast discuss their time on the project, although Tom Cruise is obvious by his absence. It also has contributions from the original author and Coppola. It’s a worthy piece and a cut above the average retrospective.

NBC’s News Today from 1983 ‘The Outsiders’ Started by School Petition (4 min 43) is a slice of contemporary news program and as such the quality isn’t that great.

There is a piece (7 min, 23 sec) with the seven members of the cast reading extracts from the book, mostly their own character descriptions.

S. E. Hinton on Location in Tulsa (7 min, 33 sec) goes back to the town where she grew up to take the audience around her home town, showing how the film/book connected with her real life.

The Casting of ‘The Outsider’ has Fred Roos, who was responsible for casting the film taking the audience through the unusual process which was undertaken to cast this film, oddly and expectantly this was a very interesting piece, especially as Coppola had videotaped it.

The film is wrapped up with the original theatrical trailer and six deleted and extended scenes.

The film does have its flaws, but ultimately they are few, given the director and the impressive cast. However, remember that this is one of Coppola’s smaller projects, so if you’re looking for the Godfather for teens you may be a little disappointed.


Charles Packer

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