Thursday, 29 May 2014

Great Comic Book Movies That Weren't Based On Comics: The Warriors

I f***in' love The Warriors, and have seen it more times than...well, let's put it this way. In the time it took you to read this, I just watched it again.
I can't believe anyone who reads this site and puts up with my drivel hasn't seen this flick at least a couple of times ( except maybe my old pal David Holman, so here you go, Dave, specially for you! )

The Warriors was directed by Walter Hill, king of the tough guy movie makers, and concerns a meeting of all the street gangs in New York, set up by Cyrus, the leader of top gang The Gramercy Riffs. Cyrus is a would be messiah who has a dream to unite them all together and take over the city.

Unfortunately, calling a bunch of psychotic juvenile delinquents together is never a good idea, and Cyrus is shot by Luther, unhinged weasel faced leader of The Rogues. Luther pins the murder on our heroes, Coney Island gang The Warriors, and from that moment on, they have to run and fight their way the length of New York, with every cop and every other gang in the city out to get them. As simple and elegant as that.

From the first frame, it's obvious we're not in anything approaching the real world. Hill's plan at the time was to film the movie as a literal comic book, with freeze frames and panel borders, but couldn't fund it completely. But anyone with eyes to see will recognize a comic book when they're looking at this movie.

 As The Warriors race through the neon lit night, they're also playing a weird version of baseball, with each subway station being a 'safe zone ' until they eventually reach Coney, and win the game by staying alive.
An analogy pointed out even more by Lynn Thigpen as the mysterious radio announcer who regularly updates the other gangs as to how The Warriors are doing and where they are.
Along the way they encounter, and battle, a myriad of comic book street gangs, like:
Roller-skating dungaree wearers The Punks:

Lizzies The Lizzies:

And the most comic ( and KISS ) inspired gang The Baseball Furies:

To make it even clearer that we're in fantasy land, The Warriors only ever encounter cops and gangs on their night flight. Real people are rarely glimpsed, and are only ever bystanders in the action.
The only exception is this scene, where the gang's tight lipped leader Swan, and his new love ( picked up along the way ) Mercy, sit exhausted on the subway. I won't spoil it if you've somehow yet to see the movie, but it's a tiny, beautiful moment that defines both characters absolutely.

Years later, Hill did get a chance to rejig the movie and do it with all the panel borders and stylistic comic book flourishes he wanted, in The Warriors: The Ultimate Directors Cut:

And it's bloody awful. Like putting cream on top of a cream cake, it's a pointless exercise. The only reason to get it is the documentary that comes with it, which includes a really sweet interview with Deborah Van Valkenburgh who played Mercy, perennial movie bad guy James Remar recounting how he got the part of Ajax, the gang's loose cannon, and marveling that he's still talking about it all these years later, and David Patrick Kelly ( Luther ) talking about how his Mum saw the film, and commented: ' You were very good, David, you ALMOST looked tough... ' 
Far better to watch the original, which is on youtube at the moment, so go do it already. Can you dig it?


  1. Oh, man. I love Warriors so much. Have the DVD (the regular, original cut) and would watch it once a week if I had the time.
    However, I never knew that Walter Hill was specifically aiming at a comic book look and feel, although it makes sense now that I think about it.
    Otherwise - and, sorry, it's sort of a tangent but this post reminded me of it - a few months ago another comics blogger made the point that the blaxploitation films (and also martial arts movies) of the early '70s were basically the first comic book superhero movies. Can't say I disagree with that assessment...

  2. It's a no brainer, Edo, if you love comics, you love The Warriors. And I'd agree, you love Enter The Dragon, Shaft In Africa, Cleopatra Jones etc etc.
    Anybody else? Dave, watch these movies, will ya?!!

  3. I saw this again recently and with each viewing it's just as entertaining. It's another one of those films where everything just seems to come together perfectly. Michael Beck reminded me of a low-rent American version of Michael York. Sadly his career seemed to go nowhere, but James Remar has done fairly well -usually playing a-holes!

  4. Awesome movie. I been wanting to have Can you dig it!!! as my ring tone for a while. I read there was a book from where they made the movie and the author, a guy called Sol Yurik that was inspired in Xenophon's Anabasis. Years later, watching it again in college having read Xenophon I saw all connections and still is a fun movie each time I watch it.