Rumble Fish

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Rumble Fish

On Location In Tulsa is a well researched little Making Of featurette, using talking heads mixed with stuff that was filmed at the time.

Matt Dillon describes his character Rusty James as “slow.” That was then, on the set. He isn’t interviewed for the DVD, which is disappointing. Cinematographer Steve Burum calls the film “an abstract piece that has a lot to do with people’s state of mind.” He says that Coppola considered it “an art film for the kids.”

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The novelist and co-writer of the script S E Hinton (Suzie to you) remembers Coppola asking whether she had anything else, in addition to The Outsiders. She told him, “I’ve got this weird book, called Rumble Fish, but no one understands it.” Coppola bought the paperback and apparently did understand it. After wrapping The Outsiders, the crew and a handful of actors, notably Dillon, had a two week break before filming began in Tulsa.

Ninety per cent was shot “night for night” and in one infamous scene in the diner, Dennis Hopper took 47 takes. “Dennis was in Apocalypse with us,” producer Doug Claybourne recalls. “And we had some crazy times with him then.” In an off moment, he is sitting on the set with a dejected-looking Dillon and a bored rigid Mickey Rourke rabbiting on to the unseen Coppola, “Can I try one more, man?” Ironically, after all this, he gives a memorable performance.

In the Percussion-based Score, Stewart Copeland talks intelligently about composing for the film. It was Coppola’s son Roman who suggested The Police drummer for the job.

“I want a feeling of time ticking, time running out,” was the only instruction the director gave him. “Francis wasn’t looking for film music. He was looking for something he had not heard before.”

There are six Deleted Scenes, many of which are quite long. Except for the last, a short meaningless moment with The Motorcycle Boy (Rourke), all are between Rusty James and Steve (Vincent Spano). In the film, Steve is the least understood of those who hang around the pool hall. These deleted scenes explain a whole lot about him and why his friendship with Rusty James is based in some way upon disillusionment with his brother.

He appears the most intelligent, with the possible exception of Smokey (Nicolas Cage), and certainly more middle-class than the others. Tall, blond, with glasses, he looks like a nerdy swot rather than a radical teenage spoiler. In a scene when Rusty James is prizing hubcaps off a fancy car outside a big house, Steve can't take it (“You know I don’t steal things. You KNOW that!”). And then they are chased by three guys from the house and escape over a fence in the wood and across the rooftops, where Steve almost falls to his death because he’s too scared to make a leap from one building to another with any kind of commitment.

“Sometimes you’re so stooopid!!” he screams at Rusty James.

Steve has a notebook, which he calls his Feeling And Ideas Book. Rusty James asks him what he writes in it. “It’s what I feel ever since my mother went to hospital.” She had a stroke, which we hear about in an earlier Deleted, when Rusty James calls across the high school forecourt, “Hey, Steve, is your mother dyin’?”, which only emphasizes his insensitivity.

The whole business with The Motorcycle Boy comes up again in another Deleted, when Rusty James is trying to persuade Steve to come with him over the river for a rumble of some kind. Steve refuses because “I have to go to school” and tells Rusty James to take Smokey, or BJ (Chris Penn), instead, but Rusty James says their loyalties are with The Motorcycle Boy, implying that Steve’s are not.

“You’re like a ball in a pinball machine, slammin’ about,” Steve says. “You don’t think of anything.”

“You don’t like The Motorcycle Boy, do you?” Rusty James says. “Why do you think he’s so cool?”

“He’s the only person I have ever met who is like someone out of a book.”

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2007
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Rumble Fish packshot
The heroism of teenage violence against a background of iconic posturing.
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Product Code: 8242991

Region: 2

Ratio: 1:1.78 (16:9) Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: On Location In Tulsa: The Making Of Rumble Fish; The Percussion-based Score; deleted scenes; music video; trailer

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