STUDIO: Paramount
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes
Four Making of Featurettes
Deleted scene
Introduction by Walter Hill
Original Theatrical Trailer

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Back in those days (has it really gotten to be so long ago that it was “those days?” 70s AND 80s retro fashion has come and gone, so I suppose yes), when you discovered a movie it was a weird, magical experience. For one thing, you would often discover movies on TV, and you would rarely tune in at the beginning. That means you came into a movie at some unknown point and had to figure out what had come before. And sometimes you didn’t even know what the hell the movie was at all. If you didn’t have a copy of TV Guide handy (which you had to search by hand, mind you), you wouldn’t know what you just saw.

That was how I found Walter Hill’s The Warriors. The first few times I saw it I only caught the movie from the Baseball Furies on up. It would be years before I saw the gang conclave that started the whole saga. The Warriors was a weird movie to me. Most of the actors were, as far as I was concerned back then, nobodies. I didn’t recognize anyone.

But even weirder was the general film itself. These gaudy, themed gangs running around New York City – I lived in New York, and I knew gangs, and they looked nothing like that. The whole thing was over the top and completely bizarre. But it was shot in the real New York City. I definitely recognized all those locations. The film seemed like it was made in New York by someone who had never actually been to New York.

"Holy crap! Disco is dead!"

What’s more is that no one knew about this movie. It was so underground that people wouldn’t even recognize the name when I mentioned it. If I met someone else who knew “Can you dig it?” or “Warriors… Come out to playayayay!” then I knew I had met someone else with the secret knowledge of this odd, campy but ultimately excellent movie.

But now we live in the computer age. The ironic and then some age. The age when everything old, and everything underground, is out for mass consumption. The Warriors stopped being even remotely secret knowledge a couple of years ago, but 2005 represents a real break in that dam – this year sees a video game from the same people who made Grand Theft Auto, a line of toys and now, a special edition DVD of the movie.

And boy is this DVD pissing me off.

The Flick

They’re 27 miles behind enemy lines. They’re the Warriors, a gang from Coney Island, and they’ve just been falsely accused of killing Cyrus, the man who was trying to unite New York City’s gangs into an army. Between them and home is 100,000 angry gang members – from the bat wielding Baseball Furies to the switchblade packing orphans to the sexy and deadly ladies of the Lizzies. Somehow the Warriors have to get through all of that and make it home.

The New York City night of The Warriors is heightened and bizarre. It’s every Iowan tourist’s nightmare – and dream. The streets are rain slicked and dangerous, the subways desolate mazes. And the gangs look like something out of Alex DeLarge’s fever dreams.

Walter Hill hasn’t made many changes in this special edition, but the ones that he has made show how much a small conceptual difference can affect a film. First, he adds an intro with a voice over and a scroll, which explicitly connects the film to the Greek myth that inspired it (or rather the Greek myth that inspired the book upon which the movie is based). This is sort of a big change to me – I would later learn about the origins of the story, but when I discovered The Warriors, the film had a conceptual purity. It just was what it was.

"Are you there God? It’s me, Lumpy."

But Hill goes even farther. The film was always “comic book”y in a way, but now Hill has made that even yet more explicit. The movie begins with comic book panels, and throughout the movie Hill uses panel transitions (including “Meanwhile…” boxes) instead of wipes. This is ridiculous. The movie worked perfectly without being turned into some kind of sub-Creepshow effort.

Hill’s real sin, to me, is that he has now set the film “in the future.” Combined with the comic book transitions, the film is now condescending. Instead of gloriously weird, now becomes completely constrained as a fantasy story. Even beyond that, there’s no need to make the movie set in the future. At the time the film was made, The WarriorsThe Warriors was only just a little bit left of reality – a few years earlier New York City had been bankrupted, a blackout descended some areas into the chaos of massive looting and arson, a lunatic gunman stalked the streets in the name of Satan and on the orders of a dog, and crime was at an all time high. Anything could happen in New York in the 70s, it seemed, even street gangs that looked like mimes.

"Wait, my appearance is part of a gay what-text?"

Thankfully The Warriors is too strong a movie to be really ruined. The story is perfectly propulsive, sending our heroes from one deadly scenario to the next over the course of just one night. The characters of the individual Warriors are lightly but skillfully sketched – you actually feel bad when some of them die, or get arrested. The actors Hill has cast would never go on to win Oscars, but there’s an honesty about their performances, if not much reality.

Most of all The Warriors remains a blast. Barry DeVorzon’s synth score is a joy, even if most of the pop songs suck. David Patrick Kelly is unbeatable as the bottle-clanking Luther. And the movie always takes itself completely seriously, even when one of the gangs is going about on roller skates like a bunch of Starlight Express rejects.

The addition of new CGI – another mistake.

8 out of 10 (should have been a 9)

The Audio/Visual

I’ll be keeping my old copy of The Warriors, just so I can have the film in the way God intended me to see it, but I won’t be tossing out this copy either. The film looks wonderful – crisp and bright in a way that it never did on WPIX, and miles better than the muddled original transfer. The Warriors is, because of its night setting, a dark film, but it’s also sort of a candy-colored one, which shines through here.

What stands out, though, is the sound. There’s a 5.1 mix that’s dynamic and exciting. The score booms, ramping up the excitement that Hill packs into his gangland fairytale.

9.2 out of 10

The Goodies

Nice chin. Close, but no Z’Dar.

Even though I have loved The Warriors for decades, I have known next to nothing about it outside of what happens in the movie itself. This special edition has opened up my head and shit knowledge right into it. We’re talking fact-packed fascination here.

Of course that means Laurent Bouzreau. Anytime I see his name pop up in the credits for a documentary on a DVD, I know I’m in for something good, and probably really in-depth. This is no exception. The making of The Warriors is filled with fascinating stories, and the cast of The Warriors has grown up to be fascinatingly bad looking. It’s pretty interesting to hear how well David Patrick Kelly claims to have come to terms with the shadow his bottle-clanking has cast over his career.

I agree. These new comic panel transitions are wholly shit.

There’s also an intro by Walter Hill, where he tries to explain himself for this new edition, and I don’t buy it. He doesn’t do a commentary, but honestly after the four part-documentary, he would probably be just repeating what we already heard.

Finally, there’s a deleted scene that would have gone at the beginning of the film. By cutting it, Hill kept all the action at night, plus the scene is just giving us info we were getting later anyway.

9.0 out of 10

The Art

csaOK, what the hell is this? The original movie poster – that painting of the armies of the night, looking menacingly out at us, is classic. Why replace it with this trash? I know that a lot of this review might sound like the knee jerk reactions of a hyper sensitive fan, but I guarantee that anyone who sees the original art (check out the cover for Rockstar’s fantastic new game based on the movie) knows that it is superior in every way.

4 out of 10

Overall: 9 out 10