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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Teens > Rumble Fish - Special Edition (Paramount DVD)

Rumble Fish – Special Edition


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Film: B



Continuing his innovative and underappreciated work after his 1979 masterpiece Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola went from the ambitious One From The Heart (1982, reviewed elsewhere on this site) to a pair of distinct and strong adaptations of novels by S.E. Hinton.  There was The Outsiders and the less recognized Rumble Fish, both the same year, the latter of which is the subject of this review.


In the more serious and stark of the two films, it (by Coppola’s admission) is the least seen of his films, give or take One From The Heart.  Like One From The Heart, he has participated in a new Special Edition that is exceptional and does the film real justice.  Now that we have a video format like DVD that looks like a novel on a shelf, we will hopefully see more people catching up on great literary adaptations such as this one.  In it, Matt Dillon is Rusty James, a wild teen whose only real role model has been his older brother Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke) because his father (Dennis Hopper) is such a burnout and failure.


This results in being sort of lost, as the start of the film shows when he is being “called out” to be in a street fight.  He is shooting pool and will take a detour to see his girlfriend (Diane Lane) beforehand, but it is only a break before the conflict.  Throughout, he drifts in and out of trouble, but his luck in surviving and/or not getting arrested will not last much longer.  Something’s got to give and it is coming around very quickly.


Dillon never got the credit he deserved as an actor and is the little-acknowledged king of the last great cycle of honest teen films that also included important films like Over The Edge, Little Darlings, My Bodyguard, Coppola’s Outsiders and Liar’s Moon.  With Conservatism, Political Correctness and a general sense of infantilism seeping into filmmaking in the early 1980s, his importance as an icon has been lost and purposely so, but he (and his brother) held in there and are fortunately still with us today.  As with nearly all Coppola films, the cast is great and offers some of the best work of their careers.  Vincent Spano, Chris Penn, Nicolas Cage, Sophia Coppola (as Domino) and Diana Scarwid also star.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is shot in beautiful black and white by the amazing Stephen H. Burum, A.S.C, with only slight touches of color here and there.  This transfer is from a new print and well transferred one at that.  Detail is good, as well as gray scale, making it one of the best monochrome films on DVD to date.  Oh, and that Dean Tavoularis production design is so good.  The new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is an upgrade of the old Dolby A-type analog optical theatrical sound, including the impressive score by Stewart Copeland, drummer at the time for The Police before the band split and he went on to do a few more film scores.  The sound may be a tad forward at times, which makes one wish for DTS, because the sound is there for it, but it plays very well otherwise.  The dialogue shows its age slightly, but not much, thanks to the care Coppola always takes with sound.


Extras include another winning commentary by Coppola, some great deleted scenes that should have stayed in the film because they are so good, the original theatrical trailer, Music Video for Stewart’s Don’t Fence Me In, featurette on the score and an on location featurette on the making of the film including the new electronic and video technologies he was using at the time.  Those alone are a must for any serious film person or filmmaker, but Rumble Fish is a true gem and this DVD finally brings it some justice.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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