Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'The Outsiders': Revised, but Still Staying Gold

The Outsiders
"The Outsiders" who became Hollywood insiders: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise. (AP)
By Jen Chaney Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2005; 12:00 AM

"The Outsiders: The Complete Novel" (List price: $26.99)
Released: Sept. 20

"The Outsiders," Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel, may not have been a blockbuster hit at the box office. But when it was released in 1983, this look at misunderstood greasers growing up in 1950s-era Oklahoma certainly made an impression.

"The Outsiders" emerged as the most popular in a series of film versions of Hinton's teen tales -- including "Rumblefish" and "That Was Then, This Is Now" -- and catapulted the careers of several young actors, including Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise. It also gave adolescent girls a brand new cast of Teen Beat pin-ups to adore.

Now, more than 20 years later, "The Outsiders: The Complete Novel" has arrived on DVD with 22 minutes reinserted into the film and a mostly transformed musical score. As Coppola explains in one of the featurettes on this excellent two-disc set, he always regretted cutting several scenes that matched moments from the book, and also felt the original score -- composed by his father, Carmine Coppola -- was too treacly and over-the-top. This director's cut attempts to right those perceived wrongs.

The book's legions of fans will likely be pleased by the new version, as will those who felt the original film lacked in the Rob Lowe department. The former "West Wing" star has much more screen time in this "Outsiders," as the added scenes focus largely on the three Curtis brothers played by Lowe, Swayze and C. Thomas Howell.

The updated music, which includes period rock tunes from such artists as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, is generally a welcome improvement, though certain scenes -- like Ralph Macchio's climactic run-in with a "soc" and the burning of the church -- might have benefited from Carmine Coppola's more dramatic approach. It's unfortunate that both versions of "The Outsiders" don't appear here. Comparing the two side-by-side could have been both instructive and valuable to completists still curious to see the original.

That misstep is mostly compensated for by the second disc's numerous engaging bonus features, including "Staying Gold: A Look Back at 'The Outsiders'"; a featurette hosted by Hinton; a giggle-inducing glimpse at the audition process for the film; a segment on the movie from the "Today" show; and a few additional scenes. The first disc also comes with two commentary tracks: one by Coppola and another featuring Swayze, Lane, Howell, Macchio, Lowe and Dillon. Of all the extras, the "Staying Gold" documentary -- which includes behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals as well as the set -- and the casting segment are the most worthwhile.

Because of the teen idol status conferred on virtually everyone in "The Outsiders," it's easy to forget how visually compelling and well acted -- particularly by the touchingly vulnerable Macchio -- the movie was. This DVD -- even with its additions and modifications -- should serve as a permanent reminder.

Most Amusing Bonus Point: The "Casting of 'The Outsiders'" is by far the best part of this DVD set. "Every actor under the age of 35 -- and I mean everyone -- was lined up against the wall," Lowe recalls during this featurette. Viewers are treated to segments from a few of those auditions, including readings by Cruise, Lowe, Swayze and others who ultimately were cast. Even better is the glimpse at those who tried out and didn't make the cut, including Helen Slater, Vincent Spano and Anthony Michael Hall, who read for the part of Pony Boy. But Kate Capshaw, who, at close to age 30, was a little old to be playing a teen, scores the biggest laugh. When asked what age range she can play, she hesitates and says, "I'd say 21 to 30 ... What do you think?"

Most Candid Bonus Point: The actors occasionally share some interesting tidbits during their audio commentary ... that is, when the men aren't gushing over Diane Lane's beauty. The most honest comment is Lane's remark about a scene in which Leif Garrett's character is drunk: "I think Leif had made the Method choice for his inebriation that night."

Missing in Action: Almost all of the stars of the film appear in the bonus material. Two notable exceptions: Estevez and Cruise. Cruise may have been busy, but couldn't someone have talked Estevez into saying something?

Also New on DVD This Week: "Lords of Dogtown" and "Robots."

Coming in Next Week's Bonus Points: A review of Walt Disney's Platinum Edition of "Cinderella."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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