The Outsiders: The Complete Novel

January 28, 2012 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

When looking back at “The Outsiders”, I forgot a few things: How good it was and how good the casting was. I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that this movie had the best cast of the 80’s. Now that’s saying a lot as a lot of stars came to fruition in the Reagan-era but any cast that includes Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane and Matt Dillon…well, that’s a good cast. Now granted, most of those stars found their fame just a few short years after this movie was released (noteably C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio and Emilio Estevez) but, obviously, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon and Diane Lane have managed to hold onto their careers; even if Mr. Cruise is a bit left of center these days. One can’t really mention this movie without talking about its esteemed director, Francis Ford Coppola. Although Mr. Coppola seems to be a little more focused on his wine these days, I’d put “The Outsiders” in his pantheon of best films to see (and that’s saying a lot with the likes of “Apocalypse Now” and “Godfather I and II”).

Much like “Rebel without a Cause”, “The Outsiders” focused on the teens and the adults weren’t only ignored, but hardly even shown. The movie is morality play in the timeless battle between the classes. On one hand you have the “Socs” (pronounced “sew-ches”) that traditionally come from wealthier backgrounds. They drive nice cars, wear nice clothes and are generally going to go on to better things. On the other you have the greasers. This is the focus of the story as told from their point of view. The greasers are just that – they have grease in their hair, they don’t have cars and they wear torn and tattered clothes. There’s a natural rivalry between the two clashing groups and as an audience member, we’re meant to side with the greasers. The “Socs” are portrayed as rich, arrogant snobs who treat their girlfriends like objects and drive around drunk all of the time. The greasers are really no different, but we see the motivation for what they do whereas we just the actions of the “Socs”.

The cast of characters reads like a who’s who in Hollywood (albeit 20 years ago). And the central story revolves around Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and his two brothers, Darry (Patrick Swayze) and Sodapop (Rob Lowe). The three have formed a tight bond ever since their parents were killed in a car crash. Darry has been given custody and though not the father figure that we’d dream of, he does manage to keep his brothers fed and, for the most part, out of trouble. The rest of the cast revolves around these three. Johnny (Ralph Macchio) is Ponyboy’s best friend and the two form a bond after getting in a deathly fight with the “Socs”. This leaves Two-Bit (Emilio Estevez), Steve (Tom Cruise) and Dallas (Matt Dillon), the latter of which has just been released from jail. Two-Bit and Steve don’t really have much of a role in the movie, they’re just other greasers that make up the gang. The story moves on a little more when we meet Cherry (Diane Lane), technically one of the “Socs” but with enough foresight to see beyond the gruff exterior of the greasers.

The film is based on the 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton who also penned “Rumble Fish” and “Tex” (along with a few others) and was actually petitioned to be brought to the screen some twenty five years ago. Coppola also directed “Rumble Fish”, a film which dealt with similar issues but is far more visually entertaining. Like it or not, “The Outsiders” was quite the movie in its day. Like “Rebel without a Cause” before it, the teen angst and the troubles of growing up alone and poor are all shown here. Ultimately, there’s little redemption in their world, brought up by the lead “Soc” Bob (Leif Garrett) when he reveals that after the big brawl, there really will be no winner. “Things will be just the same as they were and we’ll still be ‘Socs’ and you’ll still be greasers”. Food for thought, for sure and proof that growing up is never easy.

Video: How does it look?

“The Outsiders” is another in Warner’s line of Two Disc Special Editions, something which has become the gold standard of re-issues. The movie is shown in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the resulting image is a welcome sight to sore eyes. The film has been given a brand new digital transfer that is breathtaking in some scenes, though some of the stock footage and darker scenes do suffer from some artifacting. It had been a while since I’ve seen the movie and after watching the original theatrical trailer, it’s clear (no pun intended) to see how much better this looks on this new DVD. The additional footage is seamlessly integrated into the final cut, making it very hard to differentiate between the original cut and the extended cut. On the whole, it was a lot better than I had expected it to be. Outstanding.

Audio: How does it sound?

I’ve not seen a lot of Francis Ford Coppola’s movies and was quite surprised when I sat down and heard the re-mixed soundtrack on this movie. The DVD comes equipped with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but I found Coppola’s use of music to be energetic and really add a lot of emotion to the movie. For example, I was nearly in tears before the opening credits ended with Stevie Wonder’s “Stay Gold” playing in the background. Coppola’s use of surf music sounds like a combination between “Pulp Fiction” and those old Frankie Avalon beach movies (and if you look closely, they’re playing in the background of the drive-in scene). Suffice it to say that I was fairly impressed by the audio and though it won’t blow the roof off the house, it’s solid and does deliver.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The real draw of this new DVD is the additional 20+ minutes of footage added back into the movie. It helps add some more depth to the characters and gives a bit more backstory. Also present on the first disc are two audio commentaries. The first is with Director Francis Ford Coppola who manages to give a very insightful commentary track. He’s full of pieces of information, motivations of characters and details about the shoot. As I mentioned before, I’ve not seen a lot of Coppola’s work, so this was a welcome addition. The second track comes with an introduction – actors Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell and Matt Dillon all showed up (Lowe and Dillion did theirs later) for a viewing of the movie and offer up a pretty good commentary track. They seem to have a lot more fun than Coppola did, but the more the merrier. Die hard fans will want to listen to both of these tracks.

The second disc contains the rest of the supplements, starting off with ten minutes (7) deleted scenes. These vary in quality from being presented in anamorphic widescreen to looking very grainy and non-anamorphic. We don’t know why they were cut from the movie and these didn’t even make the new “extended” cut of the movie, but they’re here nonetheless. “Staying Gold: A look at ‘The Outsiders’” is a very comprehensive documentary that covers all of the bases. It contains new interviews with cast and crew and is far better made than most of those “Behind the Scenes…” features that we’re all very sick of. What I found most interesting was the casting tapes. Fred Roos was the casting director for the movie and we’re treated to footage that’s over twenty years old with some very familiar faces reading for parts. Adam Baldwin, Anthony Michael Hall, Helen Slater and Kate Capshaw are all people who went up for the movie that didn’t get parts in it! There’s a vintage news segment on “The Outsiders” being made into a movie with scenes from a school and children asking Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell all sorts of questions. This was interesting, but not much more. Also included is “On Location with S.E. Hinton” and the original theatrical trailer as well as the new 2005 trailer. All in all, this is the most definitive version of “The Outsiders” to date and any fan of the movie will love having this disc in their collection.

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