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Coming-of-age drama about teenagers growing up in 1950s Oklahoma. The youngest of three orphaned brothers gets into trouble with the law after he and his "greaser" friend are attacked at a park by the rich "socs."
For more about The Outsiders and the The Outsiders Blu-ray release, see the The Outsiders Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on July 1, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Diane Lane
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
» See full cast & crew
The Outsiders Blu-ray Review
Rebels with Cause
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, July 1, 2014
In 1983, Francis Ford Coppola released The Outsiders to modest box office and respectable reviews, but Coppola himself was not satisfied with the film. Pressured by studio executives to respond to criticisms from test audiences, Coppola had eliminated major sequences from author S.E. Hinton's slim novel—a decision that was especially tough for Coppola, because his whole reason for making The Outsiders was an earnest request from a Fresno, California school librarian and an entire eighth-grade class that he adapt Hinton's work for the screen. The director also came to regret his decision to set the film to a classical symphonic score composed by his Oscar-winning father, Carmine. His initial thought had been to parallel the sound of Gone with the Wind, because the novel plays a key role in the film's plot, but Coppola later decided that The Outsiders needed a different sound. Its story of adolescents prematurely forced into adulthood was already operatic enough without an orchestra behind it. The Outsiders has remained a fan favorite among Coppola's films, not only on its own merits, but also because, as with The Godfather, the ensemble cast is a tribute to the ability of Coppola and his producer, Fred Roos, to spot rising talent. The young cast included Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell and the future Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio. All were unknown at the time. In 2001, Coppola persuaded Warner Brothers to let him recut the film. He added back major sequences, removed a few scenes that had been used to bridge the gaps and replaced much of his father's score with classic rock-and-roll (something that Coppola admits he could not have brought himself to do while his father was still alive). The result, which Coppola dubbed "The Complete Novel", was released to theaters in 2005 and enthusiastically received, especially by the actors whose performances had been restored. Warner released "The Complete Novel" on DVD with new commentaries and an entire separate disc of extras, and has now released it on Blu-ray.
The Outsiders is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma of the 1950s, and the film was shot on location with period-specific cars, wardrobe and production design, but the story exists in a kind of detached, private world that mirrors the universal isolation of adolescence. Adults play a minimal role, although they always hover around the edges, sometimes as a beneficent presence, but more often as a threat. The central figure and occasional narrator is Ponyboy Curtis (Howell), the youngest of three orphan brothers, who, at just fifteen, does not understand why his oldest brother, Darrel (Swayze), has become such a dictator since their parents died in a car crash. What Ponyboy can't see is that Darrel, who is barely a man himself, is struggling to comprehend the responsibility that's been suddenly thrust upon him. The middle brother, Sodapop (Lowe), sees the strain between his two siblings and feels trapped between them. Because the Curtis brothers come from the poor part of town, they belong to the so-called "Greasers", along with their friends Dallas (Dillon), Two-Bit (Estevez), Steve (Cruise) and Johnny (Macchio), who is Ponyboy's age. Greasers have to travel in packs to protect themselves from the rival "Socs" (short for "Socials"), the rich kids who cruise in their Mustangs looking for lone Greasers to attack. In the film's opening (one of the restored sequences), Ponyboy is assaulted by a group of Socs as he walks home from the movie theater, where he's just watched The Hustler. His fellow Greasers rescue him before he suffers any real damage, but the incident is especially unnerving for Johnny, who is still traumatized from a Soc beating he received a month earlier. Sneaking into the drive-in that evening, Ponyboy and Johnny encounter Cherry Valance (Lane), a pretty Soc girl whom Ponyboy recognizes from school. They end up sitting with Cherry and her girlfriend, Marcia (Michelle Meyrink), after the girls have bolted from the car where their drunken boyfriends, Bob and Randy (Leif Garrett and Darren Dalton), were getting carried away. Bob and Randy, who were part of the gang that attacked Ponyboy, object to such fraternization. A series of threats, feints and near misses leads to a violent encounter from which Johnny and Ponyboy find themselves fleeing town in fear of the law. Dallas, who has the most criminal experience of any of the Greasers, directs the youngsters to a derelict church in the countryside, where Johnny and Ponyboy spend a week roughing it, passing the time by reading Gone with the Wind, and trying to come to terms with what has happened. Distance from their family and social conflicts provides an opportunity to reflect, and this section of the film plants the seeds for its ultimate resolution. But first Johnny and Ponyboy must find a way to return home and confront both the Socs and their own demons. As is often the case in both life and fiction, restoring peace and order comes at a steep price. The enduring popularity of Coppola's film rests on the same quality that has made Hinton's novel a classic of young adult literature. Both capture the extremity of adolescent emotions in a credible and relatable manner that evokes identification both in those who are currently undergoing the same experience and in those for whom adolescence is a distant memory. Everything in the world of Ponyboy and his circle is outsized: the youthful exuberance, the fear and frustration, the anxiety, the tearful sadness and the incomprehension of what the world wants from them. Through careful selection of his young ensemble, then nudging them gently through performances that, as some of them acknowledge, they didn't fully understand themselves at the time, Coppola was able to capture on film the very quality in Hinton's novel that had so captivated the Fresno eighth graders who had written to him (and many more readers who hadn't). Working with cinematographer Stephen H. Burum, Coppola turned the dusty streets and scrub brush of Tulsa into a visual language that would help frame these emotions, and he and Burum arrayed large numbers of Greasers and Socs across the widescreen frame to convey a sense of their shared pain, even if they didn't know they shared it. The Outsiders has several events that could be called cataclysmic (or, less charitably, melodramatic), but one of the notable effects of the performances and Coppola's handling of the material is that these events do not feel out of place. They seem a natural outgrowth of the crises brewing within the characters, as if their emotional turmoil were erupting into the outside world in tangible form. Indeed, in two specific instances, that is precisely what happens—someone is pushed too far, snaps and does something extreme, from which they can't turn back. There is probably no adolescent who has not felt close to such a moment on numerous occasions. The Outsiders speaks to that experience and, in Ponyboy's narration, to the possibility of something beyond it.
The Outsiders Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum, a film school classmate of Coppola's and a frequent collaborator with director Brian De Palma, shot The Outsiders. Rarely has the full width of the anamorphic Panavision frame been so consistently filled with interesting sights and worthwhile performances. Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray is one of its best catalog releases to date, featuring a film-like texture, a fine and natural grain pattern, deep blacks, excellent detail and the kind of richly saturated colors that are meant to evoke the style of earlier teenage classics like Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden. Some viewers have reported a difference in quality between the restored footage and the original material, but I did not observe any obvious distinction. At an average bitrate of 28.43 Mbps, The Outsiders falls significantly above Warner's typical range of compression, and one can only be thankful. The film's imagery is atmospheric and suggestive, and it deserves all the bandwidth it can get. Coppola's company, American Zoetrope, has been known to play an active part in the preparation of its films for Blu-ray; perhaps that was the case here.
The Outsiders Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Outsiders was originally released in Dolby Stereo in 1983, but the 2005 release of "The Complete Novel" probably featured a multi-channel digital track (although I have been unable to confirm this). Contrary to the notation on the back of the Blu-ray case, the Blu-ray's soundtrack is 5.0 (not 5.1), encoded in lossless DTS-HD MA. I do not have the DVD for comparison, but it is listed as having a 5.1 track. Whether the mix never had separate LFE or the LFE was blended back into the five channels, the track has broad dynamic range and good fidelity. With one possible exception (a major event that can't be identified without spoilers), nothing in the mix calls for deep bass extension. In addition to the all-important dialogue, which is generally clear but occasionally drowned out (deliberately) by overlapping sounds, the soundtrack of "The Complete Novel" is notable for its memorable selection of rock tunes, including several Elvis Presley songs, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Real Wild Child", Carl Perkins' "Lend Me Your Comb" and Them's "Gloria" (the last one a holdover from the original release). The twang, vocals and powerful beat of these tunes provide a natural accompaniment to the elemental sentiments being expressed onscreen, and the Blu-ray's track delivers the songs with the right level of force and presence. There are several major sequences involving action, but The Outsiders' sound mix is more attuned to small, quiet moments than big set pieces. Even one of the film's most important events (the encounter that forces Johnny and Ponyboy to leave town), is handled so that the audience barely hears what is happening.
The Outsiders Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Warner released the shorter theatrical cut of The Outsiders on DVD in 2004 and 2008, with only a trailer. In between, the "Two-Disc Special Edition" of "The Complete Novel" appeared with a wide array of extras that have been ported over to Blu-ray.
The Outsiders Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is understandable that viewers who became fans of The Outsiders in its original version are disappointed that this Blu-ray contains only "The Complete Novel" but not the theatrical release. Since Warner is the king of double-dips, here's hoping they release a deluxe edition in the future that includes a second disc with the theatrical cut so that everyone can have their preferred viewing experience. For new viewers, however, I heartily recommend "The Complete Novel". I was impressed by The Outsiders in the shorter cut, but I wasn't truly moved by it until I saw "The Complete Novel". Warner's Blu-ray is an impressive presentation and is highly recommended.
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The Outsiders Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Outsiders: The Complete Novel Edition Blu-ray - March 21, 2014
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of The Outsiders: The Complete Novel Edition. Director/producer Francis Ford Coppola and screenwriter Kathleen Knutsen Rowell's classic stars C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, ...
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