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DVD Review: Rumble Fish

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Rumble Fish was first released on DVD way back in 1998 in a rather bare bones edition, now we are given a nice Special Edition release. Before going any further I have something to admit: I have never seen this movie before. It is one of those movies that has been on the “to see” list, but never made it to my screen until now. I am glad I finally got to see it, it’s a very good film.

Rusty James adores his brother, and wants nothing more than to live up to his reputation. He is the leader of a gang in a time when the gang life is on the downturn. They are a group of kids with nowhere to go. Rusty is in conflict with other local gangs, as well as trying to be a stand up guy for his girlfriend. His brother comes back to town and that doesn’t exactly help as Rusty feels added pressure of having his brother there.

This film is, essentially, an art film for teens. It is shot in beautiful black and white, with the only color elements being the rumble fish. It has a fantastic score from Stewart Copeland, formerly of the Police. Everything is highly stylized, and nothing could truly be termed as realistic, but that adds to the appeal. The acting is over the top, everyone is moody and full of angst, and it all works. Sort of a different take on West Side Story.

Francis Ford Coppola directed the film, and with the Director of Photography, Stephen Burum, they have given it a wonderful look. The angles and use of shadow are inventive, interesting, and unlike anything they could have accomplished in color. Coppola was also the screenwriter, along with the book’s author, S.E. Hinton. Together they have successfully given these characters life on the screen.

This DVD edition looks fantastic, the black is deep, detail is high. It is hard to believe that it was made over 20 years ago. In an age where color is king, it is nice to see a director who does such a great job with black and white.

Video – The video is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, anamorphically enhanced of course. It is a wonderful transfer. Nothing at all to complain about.

Audio – Sound has been remixed for a 5.1 Dolby Digital track that sounds great. It especially does justice to the wonderful score.

Extras – This is not an absolutely busting special edition, but what it has is very good.
-Deleted Scenes – A selection of scenes that didn’t make it to the final cut. Nothing that drastically alters the film, but it is nice to have them.
-Making of Featurette – This is a nice feature, it discusses them shooting on location, and shows how they shot a lot of the movie in front of a blue screen to get an idea of how it could look.
-Score Featurette – New interview with Stewart Copeland on the creation of the unique score, the sampling of sounds and percussion based sound. This is very interesting.
-Music video for “Don’t Box Me In” – The song from the closing credits.
-The original trailer.
-Commentary with Francis Ford Coppola – This is a very good track. Coppola is talkative and there are very few stretches of dead air. He relates shooting anecdotes about the stars, points out family members, explains how some of the shots were attained. He comes across as personable, and a sentimental softy at heart.

Bottomline – This was a surprise, I liked it a lot. I think I liked it more for the technical elements than any underlying tale being told. The stylized performances, great black and white photography, the score. It is definitely worth your time and effort. Looking for a different type of teen film, this should fit the bill.

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  • http://bonamassablog.us Joanie

    The book was very popular when I was growing up. The movie was done quite well and managed to capture the essence of the book.

    S.E. Hinton was sort of the John Hughes of the literary world back in the 80s.