‘The Warriors’ is a 1979 film directed by Walter Hill based on the novel of the same name by Sol Yurick as well as taking elements from the Greek epic poem ‘Anabasis’ on which the novel was based. By mixing these elements together the film is a unique work in itself.
Taking place over the course of one night the film follows nine members of a street gang from Coney Island who travel to the Bronx to attend a conclave called by Cyrus leader of the city’s most powerful gang, The Gramercy Riffs. During the meeting Cyrus is shot by Luther leader of the Rouges who then frames The Warriors leader Cleon for the murder. Cleon is killed and the remaining eight have to get back to Coney through hostile gang territories when all truces have been called off.
Along the way they pick up Mercy, a loud mouthed girl previously affiliated to the low status gang The Orphans who is dragged and then follows them home. Have confrontations with the cops and other gangs, The Turnball AC’s, The Baseball Furies, The Lizzies and The Punks. Before a final confrontation with Luther and the Rouges.
Filming of ‘The Warriors’ was done almost exclusively on location in New York, working from Dusk till Dawn with a limited budget and minimal support from the studio. This resulted in the main cast being sent to stunt school as the studio refused to fly any stunt people out from Hollywood. Director Walter Hill himself was used as the stunt double for Cyrus.
The style of ‘The Warriors’ is unlike anything else. Hill manages to capture the decaying beauty of late 70s New York with beautiful framing shots and slow pans. The plot is in part moved on by a radio DJ relaying messages from various gangs, played by the late Lynn Thingpin, the viewer only sees her mouth in extreme closeup to the microphone. The DJ takes the place of a chorus in Greek theatre, this throwback to Ancient Greece is reenforced with the blocking of scenes of the The Gramercy Riffs at their headquarters coordinating the hunt for The Warriors.
Barry De Vorzon’s soundtrack was also something different. One of the first to extensively use synthesisers this is mixed with some classic rock songs and two written for the film. The closing theme ‘In the City’ written by De Vorzon and Joe Walsh has gone on to become a staple of Eagles live shows since the bands reformation.
On it’s release the film was not well received, although initially it did good business at the box office. It also attracted the attention of real life gangs, and this seemed to lead to some instances of violence at movie theatres. So the film was quickly pulled.
However the film went on to gain a cult following and became a staple at Midnight Screenings in New York as well as elsewhere. Over the last 30+ years it has been reevaluated by critics and is now held up as a classic.
Like many other cult films fans of ‘The Warriors’ like to attend screenings in costume. Many will wear brown leather vests in the style of the titular gang although by far the most popular look is that of the face painted Baseball Furies. Outside of cosplay ‘The Warriors’ has inspired real life gangs, including The Coney Island Warriors SC which aims to promote positivity to the youth of Coney Island.
In 2005 Walter Hill put together an ‘Ultimate Directors Cut’ of the movie. However the changes are minimal. There is the addition of a spoken word introduction that explains the story of ‘Anabasis’ and ties it to the movie plus some comic book style inter titles between scenes. Both were things Hill wanted to do originally but ran out of time and budget for.
‘The Warriors’ is like a comic book come to life. It has elements of gritty realism, but also over the top characters like face painted Baseball Furies, yet somehow it creates a world that is believable. A true cult classic.