Smells Like Over the Edge

The following article is presented for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research and is not a final authority on the subject. 

Today, we’re going to a place called New Granada, Colorado. The year is 1979. Cheap Trick is singing “Surrender” on the radio, and we’re bored. Really, really bored.

Actual events in Foster, California inspired Over the Edge. A newspaper article about the events, titled “Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree,” was written by James A. Finefrock and Bruce Koon. It appeared in the November 11, 1973 edition of the San Francisco Examiner.

Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunter (who later directed River’s Edge) wrote the screenplay for Over the Edge after doing heavy research in Foster, California.

Over the Edge starred a fourteen-year-old Matt Dillon in his debut acting role. It featured a cast of relative unknowns, including Vincent Spano. Over the Edge starred actual teenagers. That’s why they all look so young. The movie was shot on location in Greeley, Colorado.

Check out the trailer.


The movie follows Carl (Michael Eric Kramer), a good kid who is mixed up with a few juvenile delinquents. Peer pressure and boredom draw Carl deeper into a lawless world where parents are just figureheads. Eventually, Carl gets into a big bunch of trouble with his friends.

Over the Edge dealt with heavy themes–drug use, underage sex, and teenage crime. The film saw limited theatrical release in 1979, but was later rediscovered by my generation on cable TV. We thought it was very cool.

The music was phenomenal. We’re talking Cheap Trick, The Cars, The Ramones, Little Feat, Jimi Hendrix, and Valerie Carter. It was Classic Rock™ before it was on every third radio station.

Kurt Cobain has been quoted that Over the Edge defined his personality. Kurt related most to Claude Zachary, a gaunt doper with a mute younger brother. In the above picture, Claude is the kid wearing overalls.

The video for Nirvana’sSmells Like Teen Spirit” was inspired by Over the Edge. The music video is very mild compared to the movie, but I can see the comparison. The song does capture the boredom and desperation in Over the Edge.

Here’s the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video: (There’s a commercial, but the video is good quality)


If you haven’t seen Over the Edge, I recommend it. It was the Rebel Without a Cause for the late 70s. I don’t think my generation had a Rebel Without a Cause, unless you count Footloose or The Breakfast Club, which are tame in comparison to Over the Edge.

Some helpful individual has downloaded Over the Edge in its entirety to You Tube. Click here for Part 1. The quality is good.

Want to know more about Over the Edge? Click here for a fantastic–though long–article about the movie and the people involved in making it. There are tidbits like Vincent Spano was a very nice guy while Matt Dillon was…less likable. The article also features excerpts from “Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree.”

Fun Factoid: Orion originally wanted to change the storyline of Over the Edge into a Romeo and Juliet-esque romance.


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