The Warriors: Ultimate Director’s Cut
February 4, 2006
Walter Hill, ,
Starring: Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sánchez, Terry Michos, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen, Ginny Ortiz, Mercedes Ruehl, John Snyder, ,
Attention all you Boppers out there. Word on the street is that there’s a new edition of The Warriors on DVD. Can you dig it?
When The Warriors came out in 1979 it was a modestly budgeted movie made by an up-and-coming director named Walter Hill and a then-unknown cast. The film performed well at the box office but reports of gang-related violence at a few screenings caused the studio to panic and pull it from theatres. But the film had left its mark and over the years it quietly cultivated a loyal following thanks mainly to regular screenings on TV and the occasional midnight showing at repertory theatres. Hill has decided to revisit his movie and altered it slightly so that it closer resembles his original comic book vision.
The premise is pure B-movie hokum. A gang known as the Warriors is trapped on Manhattan island in New York City, framed for the death of a rival gang leader. They must fight their way back to their turf on Coney Island and go through several territories of other gangs out for their blood. It’s a chase movie broken up by several exciting fight scenes and commented on by a late night DJ (Thigpen) like a Greek chorus as she spins tunes that offer clues for what awaits the Warriors next. It is this simple yet effective set-up that makes the film work so well.
Hill’s new tweaks to the movie are obvious right from the get-go as he narrates an opening scrawl featuring parallels to some nonsense about what we are about to see with a Greek myth. Some of the scene transitions are now done in a more overt, comic book style a la panels featuring stylized frames from the movie. It doesn’t look too bad but is unnecessary and does tend to upset the rhythm of the film somewhat.
The tension between the Warriors’ stoic war chief Swan (Beck) and cocky gang member Ajax (Remar) is nicely done and gives an edgy quality to their group dynamic. It enhances the relentless urgency that kicks in once they are on the run, fighting their way back home. The closer they get, the tougher the gangs are that they have to face. And they are a colourful assortment, from skinheads to the Baseball Furies, a bizarre gang dressed up in Yankee pinstripes and face-paint. You would think that they would look ridiculous but there is something about them, maybe it’s their lack of speaking, that is creepy.
The film’s score features an ominous electronic rock music comparable to what John Carpenter was also doing at the time (see Halloween). The pulsating score matches the rhythm of the editing. The music also enhances the tough, street vibe as it chugs along much like the subway that runs through the city and that will deliver our heroes to safety.
The Warriors is set almost entirely at night and presents the city as a dark, foreboding labyrinth fraught with danger that lurks around every corner, much like what Escape From New York (1981) would capitalize on for an even greater effect. Even though Hill claims this to be a comic book-like film, it really doesn’t feel or look like one despite his recent tinkering. The gritty setting, the ominous music and the constant danger that our heroes are in doesn’t evoke a comic book vibe at all. And this is what fans of the film like about it.
“The Warriors: The Beginning” examines the film’s origins. It was based loosely on a book by Sol Yorick and was optioned by the producers. Hill was gearing up to make a western but funding fell through at the last minute so he made The Warriors. This featurette also takes a look at the casting process including an amusing anecdote that James Remar tells of how he got the role of Ajax.
“The Warriors: Battleground” examines the filming process. They shot mostly at night and on location in New York City. It was a tough one as principal photography took place during the summer with short nights and in rough neighbourhoods.
“The Warriors: The Way Home” explores how the encounters with various gangs, like the Baseball Furies, was done. Cast and crew members dish some great anecdotes in this featurette. Hill regrets that he had Ajax captured by the cops because so many people later on told him how much they liked the character.
“The Warriors: Phenomenon” examines the end of the film, the post-production process and its enduring legacy. The editor was rushed to get the film done so that it could beat a rival gang movie, The Wanderers (1979) to theatres. Fans will delight in David Patrick Kelly’s recounting of how he came up with the film’s most famous line.
Sadly, no deleted scenes are included. All we get is a glimpse of the original opening scene but that’s it. What a missed opportunity. This DVD does not live up to its Ultimate Director’s Cut moniker.