Out of the Blue (1980)


(director/writer: Dennis Hopper; screenwriters: Gary Jules Jouvenat/Brenda Nielson; cinematographer: Marc Champion; editor: Doris Dyck; music: Tom Lavin/Neil Young; cast: Linda Manz (Cebe/Cindy), Dennis Hopper (Don Barnes), Sharon Farrell (Kathy Barnes), Don Gordon (Charlie), Raymond Burr (Dr. Brean), Eric Allen (Paul), Fiona Brody (Carol); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Leonard Yakir/Gary Jules Jouvenat; Discovery Films; 1980-Canada)
“Provides a jolting lesson in its conclusion about sex, drugs, and rock music.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Neil Young’ edgy score from his album Rust Never Sleeps nails down the hard-hitting alienation theme for this intense psychological drama. Out of the Blue is set in small town America (filmed in Canada) and tracks the dysfunctional Barnes family–junkie mom Kathy (Sharon Farrell), the incestuous pedophile dad Don (Dennis Hopper), and the troubled nihilistic punk rock teenager Cebe (Linda Manz)–and how their unmanageable psychological problems and dumb lifestyle destroys them.

It’s written, directed, and stars Dennis Hopper (“Easy Rider”/”Colors”). The other screenwriters are Gary Jules Jouvenat and Brenda Nielson. Hopper plays a former biker who spends 5 years in prison after losing control of his truck while drunk with his young daughter at his side and crashing into a school bus full of children–killing many youngsters.

The story focuses on Cindy’s alienation from family, other school children, and authority figures. The alienation includes her adulterous waitress mom, who has been taking smack and fooling around with slimy family friend Charlie (Don Gordon). In Cindy’s more lucid moments, she pines to be a punk rock star and seems to be having a blast conversing with other truckers on the CB, where she goes by the handle of Gorgeous. But Cindy is unhappy and bored; she finds life unbearable and feels abandoned by her father’s imprisonment, and the deaths of Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, and Elvis. She messes up in school, hangs out in smoky roadhouses and bowling alleys, and shouts out to whoever is within earshot that “Disco sucks! Punk is here forever! The pint-sized ball of mischief hopes for better days when her father gets released from prison and the family becomes a nuclear unit again. But his return offers no solace for the tomboyish Cindy, who receives improper love and support from her disturbed parents. Don gets fired from his job in the garbage dump and returns to drinking and partying with his slacker friends. He is not there for his daughter, except in a perverted way; while mom is too strung-out on drugs to be there for her.

In one telling scene, dad picks Cindy up in his convertible after school and asks “What did you learn in school today?” She replies “Nothing.” The two misfits, who seem cut out of the same mold, can’t support each other because they are both too far gone to act reasonable. It’s a film of extremes and of wildly obsessive behavior that provides a jolting lesson in its conclusion about sex, drugs, and rock music.