Viking Night: The Outsiders
By Bruce Hall
August 25, 2015
Pretend like it’s 1982. Or if you weren’t around back then, allow me to paint you a picture: Ronald Reagan was president. Gas was $1.20 a gallon. Olivia Newton-John was the biggest star in the world. And the Dukes of Hazzard - Confederate flag and all - was in the Nielsen top ten TWICE. I guess it’s fair to say that at the time, America was an overconfident, well-traveled, shortsighted, supremely racist place to live. It was a very different time, but one thing has never changed, and that’s the fever for “prestige” films. Sometimes, a movie gets made just so everyone can look on in astonishment and say:
“Wow, you really did that. I am amazed. Please accept a pile of awards for your efforts.”
I don’t know if that was the case with The Outsiders, but when you look at the team on paper, it certainly looks like a squad built to win now. The director of Patton, The Godfather and Apocalypse now brings you a powerful coming of age story based on one of the most popular Young Adult novels of the 1960s - starring some of the hottest young stars of the 1980s! C. Thomas Howell! Matt Dillon! Ralph Macchio! Patrick Swayze! Rob Lowe! Emilio Estevez! Diane Lane! Leif Garrett! Some guy with horrible teeth and scary eyebrows who calls himself Tom Cruise! Holy crap, that’s like pulling names out of a hat and coming up with the 1985 Bears!
There was no way of knowing back then, but this was a cinematic Fantasy Draft of monumental proportions. Looking back, The Outsiders should have been one of the best films ever made. And some people think it was. I am not one of them, but by God I can see how they tried! Unfortunately, you don’t get points for effort, so much as you get points for whether or not a movie moves you to want to see it a second time. You’ve made a great film when at the end of it, you think “I’m dying to know what happened to these people”, instead of “Sweet Jesus, that was only 90 minutes? It felt like 900!”
But it’s not all bad. The Outsiders starts out pretty well; so much so that you might think you’re in for a different movie than the one you’re eventually going to end up watching. The place is Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the time is 1965. The young adult community has a social pecking order, and it dictates that you belong to the “Greasers”, which meant you were a leather-wearing hood from the wrong side of the tracks, or the “Socs” (pronounced “soshes” as if Sean Connery were trying to introduce himself to Sammy Sosa), which meant you had nicer clothes, but still enjoyed beating people up in your spare time. I did not know anyone in Tulsa had money, but I assume that this part of the story was either educational, or that there was a sci-fi element I happened to miss. Suffice it to say there are two cliques - the haves and the have nots. And in case you were wondering, they don’t like each other very much.