Foster City: "Over the Edge"?

Columnist Damian Morris checks out a movie reportedly based on youth crime in Foster City, and gives us his scathing review.

I received a comment on my last column about my interest in investigating Foster City's past, with a mention of the movie Over The Edge.  The movie was allegedly based on events that took place in Foster City in the 1970s.  Like any writer worth his salt, I did some research; not a great deal mind you, but certainly more than I ever did for the history class I took in college.  It took about an hour's work on the Internet.  I surely could have used the Web back in those days.

I came across some common themes about the movie, such as it was based on a San Francisco Examiner article, "Mouse Packs: Kids on a Crime Spree."  It was also mentioned that it was Kurt Cobain's favorite film.  He apparently had better taste in music that he did in movies.  Unfortunately, I could not find a copy of the Examiner article.  But there was also a lot of conflicting information out there, such as who wrote the Examiner piece and what year it came out. (Side note: I remember when the Examiner was a real newspaper.  I used to read it on my commute from SF to Foster City on the Samtrans 47X Express bus, which sadly no longer exists.)

I also stumbled upon several websites where people could put there own recollections about our early era.  Most of it was chat about the good old days, but the majority seemed to rebut the notion that there was ever more than mere mischievous pranks happening here.  I could be wrong, but that's a rarity.  I'm sure we had our fair share of wayward youth like any town, but not to the extent that was depicted in the film.

So I decided to rent Over The Edge and see what it was all about.  I'm not a movie reviewer, but should that position open up on Foster City Patch, I may be up for some overtime.  In a nutshell, the movie was virtually unwatchable.  It may be the fact that its over 30 years old, but it does not hold up.  I admit that I did not watch the entire thing, but certainly enough to catch the gist. It was sensationalistic and over dramatized, with neglectful or pampering parents, stereotypical directionless teens and cookie cutter cops. Basically, it stunk.

One of the main themes was teenage boredom in a suburban planned community.  There was plenty of boredom in my unplanned community when I was growing up, and I never resorted to trashing cars or some of the other stuff we see in the film.  And I didn't have access to a lovely Quonset hut rec center that the kids in the movie did. Another notable item about the film is that it was Matt Dillon's first role.  Decades before The Situation and the other slobs of Jersey Shore, Dillon was displaying his ab muscles in a half t-shirt.  He eventually got shot, so I didn't have to look at them anymore.

In all seriousness, teen crime and troubled youth can be a problem in any community, whether planned or not, rural, suburban or urban.  This movie didn't give a very convincing portrait of it, but it is a very real concern.  You'll often hear the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" at our Foster City Mothers' Club gatherings, and I'm a firm believer in that.  A combination of parents, friends, teachers, coaches, Scout leaders and many others are the key ingredients that have had a positive influence on my kids and those of my friends.

For example, my daughter's high school volleyball team took on San Mateo High Friday night.  I was not there as I was a bit under the weather, but my wife said it was like old home week.  Many of the players on San Mateo were the same girls that my daughter played with on the Bowditch volleyball team years back, as well as Foster City AYSO.  I remember fondly the hoopla surrounding soccer season opening at Sea Cloud Park.  I was a spectator for most sports, excluding my illustrious stint as an assistant Little League baseball coach one year, but many of our friends were coaches, refs and administrators of the various sports leagues.  Sports is but one aspect of what holds a community together and provides our kids the direction they need.  Boy Scouts is another.  I watched with pride as my son ascended the ranks in Foster City's Troop 175, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout, as did many of his compatriots. Troop 175 is a high adventure troop so he got to go on many exciting trips, such as snow camping, canoeing down the Missouri River, and 50 mile hikes. 

Well, that's all folks.  We'll see you in a couple weeks.

Phyllis McArthur October 26, 2010 at 12:02 AM
opps, 1970!
Sarah Yokubaitis October 26, 2010 at 12:06 AM
Good point Phyllis! Any Foster City residents that can confirm or deny this rumor? Email sarahy@patch.com or comment below!
Troy October 26, 2010 at 04:47 PM
"One of the main themes was teenage boredom in a suburban planned community" is the main theme in the movie. Though it does seemed based on Foster City or a city like it, as with a lot of movies it is over sensationalized for shock effect. Today FC has more activities for youth and adults than any place I've ever lived. We have the best schools and I wouldn't raise my daughter anywhere else... ---Zack Armstrong
Jennifer Minkey-Selvitella January 03, 2011 at 09:02 PM
I was one of many Foster City kids who was obsessed with this movie when it came out. Anyone raised her since the late 60's and early 70's, will remember when HBO first landed here. There was a very small rotation of movies and "Over the Edge" was one of them. It played as many times as it could be scheduled in a 24 hour period, and daily to boot. It wasn't until I attempted to rent it years later, I discovered it supposedly was based on actual events in our very own "planned community." Charles S. Haas was the autor of the article and co-wrote the screenplay. I tried in vain to locate him and find out about the article, but never received a return reply. I can tell you this from 1st hand experience; there was a group of "older" boys who were catergorized as "stoners" at the time who I thought were really scary as did all of my friends. There was a police officer, Officer Bearman, who was their arch nemesis. He was not well liked by any of the young pre-teens (and frankly he was a little scary too). Many of my friends who also had the same obsession with this film, all felt the police officer role had to have been based on him. There are a couple of retired teachers from Bowditch who still live here, who taught during that time. They can substantiate some of the movie, but not to the extent of the shooting, which was clearly fabricated. Hope this helps!
Mike b January 31, 2011 at 01:48 AM
I believe its a wishful myth , I lived it!
Kristopher Perry February 13, 2011 at 02:17 AM
I have not only watched Over The Edge, I've lived it. I grew up in Foster City, California. The junior high in the movie is based on Bowditch middle school in Foster City and it looks just like it. I did not go to Bowditch until 1980 but my older brother was there from 72 - 74. His name is Kerry Perry and the Vincent Spano character in the film is based on him. My brother remembers three men coming out to the school who were not law enforcement interviewing kids about their lives. These guys were planning on making a documentary about Foster City because in 1974 it had the highest rate of teen vandalism (per capita) in the nation. They ended up making Over The Edge. Wherever they shot the film looks just like Foster City did growing up. Just suburbs in the middle of nowhere. There was always houses being built and we would make them into our hangouts until we had to move on to another one. I ended up going to juvenile hall five times and just like in the movie they call it "The Hill", which is short for Hillcrest. No cops died like in the movie and no big crazy scene at the school like the finale, just a bunch of kids with nothing to do without a lot of supervision getting in trouble. I love the movie though. It is literally like looking into the past...a very accurate portrayal of my childhood.
Phyllis McArthur February 13, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Wow! I knew it!!!! I had blogged on this several times and nobody believed me. Clearly, the stuff at the end was just a fabrication to sell movies, but I knew that the dinamics of this community did spark kids to get crazy!
Phyllis McArthur February 13, 2011 at 02:47 AM
If you google "Foster City in the Movies" you will see my blog, no longer with that company so I have no name in the blog
Joseph T. Cutietta September 25, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I also grew up in Foster City, and graduated from Bowditch in 1970, the first year it opened. Although; "Over The Edge," is over the top, it is a pretty accurate view of life in FC in the early '70's. I hung out with a group of guys who called themselves; "The Bros." Which called Marlin Park our home, and hung out under the tree ( which is no longer there) on the small hill by the restrooms. We hung out at The Rec which was held at the Bowditch Gym on Saturday Nights. We drank booze and smoked pot outside on the playground during the time the rec was opened. Some of my friends would sneak out at night to break car antennas, and do minor damage, but never any graffiti. I never joined in any of these activities, but heard the stories. We would go into under construction homes like in the movie, but never did any damage to them. In general I think the movie represents what it was like to grow up in FC in those days, but it was ramped up to sell tickets.
Phyllis McArthur September 25, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Joseph, I have been rather obsessed with this story, what are your thought about the Examiner's story?
Joseph T. Cutietta September 25, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Phyllis: I have not read the article, even though I worked for both the San Francisco Chronicle and The Examiner from 1979 until May of 2011 as a District Manager. I would like to obtain a copy from The Ex, and will try to call them Tuesday. I do know a lot of hooliganism went down around that time. I got a job at the old QFI Market in San Mateo in 1973, so I did not participate in any shenanigans, once I started working at age 16. I still lived in FC and had my old friends, but the kids interviewed for the movie were a couple of years after my crew had out grown that phase in our development. But I do know it was boring growing up then, and having only Port of Call Shopping Center to hang out at! I only wish I would have been interviewed for the film!


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