Ah to be a cool kid who knows all the cult film references and pop culture quotes. I’ve realised from talking to some film buffs lately that I’ve simply not seen enough cult films. I’m already three quarters of the way into a yearlong challenge to watch more films made before I was born to tackle a lack of varied viewing there (currently at 40 watched). So I’m starting this a little early but once a month I’m going to tackle a cult film from this list:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cult_films
Starting with one I have seen and love to ease me in:- The Warriors (1978)
It was my Dad who got me into this film. I’ve grown up with him loving and re-watching this and although it took a while to make me a convert (teens are stubborn and don’t always like liking the same things as their parents), it was so worth it once I did. Plus I recently found out that they had a Warriors day on Coney Island last month that I wish I could have gone to. Among numerous mentions in other media (including the band Mock Turtles naming their biggest song ‘Can you dig it’), this film even had its own game in 2005, though sadly I’ve not been able to find a copy yet.
Harbouring one of my favourite opening sequences to a movie, The Warriors cuts to the chase quickly. It’s neon lights at first, the wonder wheel the first thing we see. Then it’s the subway journey, we see the Warriors, and the other gangs getting ready. The one on one conversations between the Warriors help us understand what’s happening. It’s cleverly done with music that gets you excited for what’s to come. The opening does a great job of hyping up the conclave, much like such an occurrence would have been spoken about in person. Already you can you’re getting a stylised looking film, with lots of attention to detail. I love getting to see the different gangs and their outfits.
The conclave scene must have been a challenge to shoot but also incredibly exciting. There’s what feels like a genuine buzz to the scene and not least as soon as Cyrus begins talking. The main man lives up to the hype too, Roger Hill has a pretty brilliant voice and gets some of the best lines too, ‘Can you count, suckers?’ and the aforementioned rallying cries of ‘Can you dig it?’. What happens at the conclave sets up the rest of the film and it’s not one you could say suffers from slow pacing.
One of my favourite things about sitting back and re-watching this again was appreciating how brilliantly the film intertwines the soundtrack as part of the story by having it as though a radio DJ with a sultry voice and ulterior motives is choosing it. It’s a part narration as such, a way of helping us understand what the Warriors are up against before they do.
The cast all do a great job, particularly as none were very well known about the time. I really like Dorsey Wright as Cleon as well, even though ultimately we don’t see a lot of him. It’s interesting how Michael Beck developed into the lead, he makes a very commanding war-leader as Swan. Just the right amount of serious, brooding nature in his acting. The chemistry he shares with Deborah Van Valkenburgh who plays Mercy looks genuine. Their onscreen relationship is really interesting. How it develops over the course of the film. Swan doesn’t seem to be a words kind of man which appears to perplex Mercy somewhat, so when he stops her playing with her messy hair on the subway (when the dressed up couples are judging her) it’s rather touching. His way of saying she looks beautiful anyway. Then the flower scene of course is just lovely. Heck, i was rooting for these two.
The scenes where The Warriors have to face off with rival gangs are incredibly entertaining. My person favourite might be the scene where the baseball crew appear, it’s brilliant. Though the run-in in the toilets with the roller skaters is equally entertaining. As are the Lizzies of course! I love their approach which is subtle and cunning in comparison to their male counterparts. Of course the end scene back on Coney Island is iconic. The hatred we’ve been building up for the Rogues escalates with the excellent but chilling battle cry of ‘Warriors, come out to plaaaaay-i-ay’. It’s a fitting ending to a very enjoyable ride.
There’s something ridiculously enjoyable about the whole situation despite how crazy and often violent it is and when you consider that it mirrored real life, that’s a whole other thought. So I can see why some did not take so kindly to the film. To be fair to the film though, it neither tries to explain why so much violence was happening, or glamorise it, it simply documents a young bunch of friends and the sticky situation they end up in. Perhaps I can find some understanding in grouping together and defending your friends because on a far more tame level, that’s like going to an away match watching my beloved Leicester. You wear the gear that distinguishes you from the other fans and you stick together. The opening is also one of my favourite movie openings, the music you hear and the images of Coney Island.
Some cult movies become so popular because of how bad they are, some because of how good they are but not on a mainstream level. The Warriors probably falls into the latter. This is a film that holds up very well considering it’ll be forty years old in 2018! There’s something still very much reminiscent of the era in which it’s filmed though. You get the impression they just couldn’t make it in the same way anymore.
For a brilliant piece of insight into the film and how it was made, check out this piece – http://www.villagevoice.com/news/remember-the-warriors-behind-the-chaotic-drug-fueled-and-often-terrifying-making-of-a-cult-classic-7607043
My rating for The Warriors? It has to 5/5