Promoted as “Tomorrow’s city… today,” the planned community of New Granada sold itself to investors and homeowners on an ideal of harmony and perfection in the sunshine which would have been difficult to realise in even the best of circumstances, but they wanted to believe, which is why the adults now have such difficulty in confronting the factor which was overlooked, that their children might not hold the same ambition of quiet, clean neighbourhoods, finding them suffocating, their unfocused energy and curiosity burning for application.
The land promised for a twin cinema and roller rink complex having instead been turned over to an investment firm for an industrial site, their sole escape is the youth centre run by social worker Julia Vogel, but seen as an accomplice to their behaviour rather than a controlling factor their sanctuary is disrupted by the police at the behest of the Homeowners’ Association. The presumption is that with nowhere to gather the children will disperse, but instead, triggered by the mishandling of a confrontation by the police, they will take their anger to the streets.
Inspired by a newspaper article on pre-teen crime published in 1973, the creative team behind Over the Edge knew first hand of frustration, resentment and alienation as explored in the comprehensive documentary on Arrow’s new Blu-ray edition, director Jonathan Kaplan and Tim Hunter, who co-wrote with Charles S Haas, having had parents who were blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Kaplan’s composer father Sol providing the score for Over the Edge alongside tracks from Cheap Trick, Van Halen and The Cars, paralleling the narrative of the film where the parents and teachers expect compliant teenagers who will unquestioningly accept their authority, the studio wanted established bankable talent in the lead roles whom Kaplan inevitably found “too cutesie,” an indication of the irreconcilable difference in vision which would ultimately lead to the film being poorly marketed then buried upon release.
Instead casting unknowns, many of whom had never previously acted, including Matt Dillon in his first film role, the teenagers of Over the Edge are not bad, they are not materially deprived, but they are unhappy and above all ignored, their day-drinking parents more concerned with their careers and standing in the community than raising their children; before they moved from Chicago, Cory (Pamela Ludwig) used to go hiking with her father, now he is unseen as she breaks into empty houses to smoke weed with her friends.
Touted as a favourite film of Kurt Cobain, it was commented that “Nirvana were the band who told America how unhappy its children were,” but in fact had anyone been paying attention Over the Edge had shouted that same message years before, unheard and ignored, the presumption being, as confirmed in the accompanying short educational film Destruction: Fun or Dumb? which is shown to the students of New Granada High School that discipline and punishment are an adequate substitute for empathy and support.