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Paramount Home Video presents
The Warriors Ultimate Directors Cut HD-DVD (1979)

"Our friends are on second base and are trying to make it all the way home. The inside word is the odds are against them."
- D.J. (Lynne Thigpen)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 09, 2007

Stars: Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Deborah van Valkenburgh, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen
Other Stars: Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sanchez, Terry Michas
Director: Walter Hill

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:33m:55s
Release Date: July 03, 2007
UPC: 097361247649
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- DB-B B

DVD Review

While cheap, flea-bitten and nonsensical films often become, quite by accident, cult favorites, it is equally true that flat out attempts to make a cult film are usually doomed to failure, if not derision. The original Heavy Metal is a good example of the former; Heavy Metal 2000 is an example of the latter. So it is with Walter Hill's cult wannabe, The Warriors. My pained reaction at this disc quite took me by surprise. I recalled seeing The Warriors about 20 years ago and rather enjoying it. Looking at the film with older and more critical eyes, I am aghast at what passed for entertainment.

The premise of the film is fairly straightforward, though labored. Nine members from each New York City gang are to meet, unarmed, at a conclave in the Bronx. There, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs, Cyrus (Roger Hill), preaches a sermon of togetherness among the gangs to take out the city, from the mobs to the cops, because the gangs rule the streets. Alas, Luther (David Patrick Kelly), leader of the Rogues, has smuggled a gun in and shoots Cyrus. Simultaneously, the cops arrive on the scene, and in the ensuing mayhem Luther gets the word out that it was the Warriors, a gang from Coney Island, who offed Cyrus. Soon the word is out that the Warriors are to be killed,and they need to make their way back home to safety. The cops are after anyone gang-related, and the Rogues want to make sure the Warriors are killed so that suspicion won't turn their way. The rest of the movie concerns their efforts and the roadblocks of all the other gangs and the New York police in their way.

The Warriors are a completely uninteresting group of one-note characters. Rembrandt (Marcelino Sanchez) is predictably the spray-paint tagger. Ajax (James Remar) is the horny guy who keeps getting distracted by women they meet along the way. Swan (Michael Beck) is the stoic war leader whose authority is in doubt. The others don't even have that one note to their benefit, making them essentially a faceless group of nonentities about which it's impossible to feel or care much of anything. Added to the mix is a young girl, Mercy (Deborah van Valkenburgh), whose presence is engineered solely to provide a romantic interest, even though she doesn't really have anything to do with the Warriors and is only a millstone around their collective necks.

The fact that they are the stupidest group of mopes ever to join a gang doesn't help. So they need to get back home through twenty-plus miles of hostile territory, and the subway stations are being watched by cops and the other gangs? Well, they'll just forge ahead using the subways anyway, or walking. Even though there are plenty of parked cars visible it never once occurs to these lunkheads that they could swipe one of the cars and drive home. But that would be an awfully short movie. What can you say about a bunch of guys who think that they're going to get lucky when they meet up with an all-girl gang called (I am not making this up) the Lizzies? The whole setup is completely contrived and ridiculous from start to finish. The one good thing that the film has going for it is a periodic commentary by a radio D.J. (Lynne Thigpen) sympathetic to the Riffs, who is egging on the gangs to take a piece out of the Warriors (a sentiment with which I became wholly in favor of). To underline her words, the songs she plays (such as Nowhere to Run) echo their predicament. Her down-and-nasty voice and attitude, even though only her lips are visible, is about the only redeeming quality here, and the source of what little style the film demonstrates.

The filmmakers were obviously trying to make a youth impression by riding on Kiss' coattails. Many of the gangs are bedaubed with full face makeup of various sorts, including the Baseball Furies, a nebbishy bunch of made-up glitter boys unable to swing a bat, dressed in faux Yankee uniforms. Most asinine of all is the mercifully briefly-glimpsed gang, the High Hats, a bunch of top-hat wearing goons made up as mimes. I can't imagine a gang of mimes surviving on the streets for more than twenty seconds; sooner or later a wind would come up that they couldn't run through and that would be the end. Add to the mix for further silliness an unnamed gang of would-be yokels in overalls; apparently they are the Knights of Oshkosh B'Gosh.

Despite a number of homophobic remarks by the leads, the homoerotic element is ladled on from beginning to end so heavily that watching the picture feels like an evening in a bathhouse. The fascination with the picture suggests that there may be an overlap with the tightly-closeted folks who like the Village People but don't understand why. That doesn't help keep up the interest in the picture, and even the then-frenetic editing can't quite keep forward momentum thanks to the ridiculously bad performances. Since it is so cynically calculated to be a cult film, and fails so miserably in offering any quality, I have little choice but to recommend that it be disregarded completely.

This disc features the "ultimate director's cut" of the movie, though the differences are scanty. The principal addition is a brief narration by director Hill (channeling John Huston's gravelly voice) that creates an explicit parallel to Greek history and Xenophon. The comic book treatment of the story also is more explicitly brought out by transitions that use comic frames, replacing the retro wipes that previously changed scenes. Otherwise, it's still the same movie, stuck with its wooden line readings out of remedial junior high school and the less-than-threatening assortment of transvestites and mimes.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The color is quite good, especially on the blood-red titles. The comic book transitions are crisp and sharp. The low-budget film suffers from all the night shooting on location, with plugged up shadow detail. The AVC encode leaves the picture looking a bit soft, with some crispness of detail being lost in the process. The grain structure is largely eliminated in the process. The framing feels a little cramped, with headroom at the top tight much of the time and pointless added space at the bottom, making one wonder if the telecine operator messed up. The source print is nicely cleaned up and looks virtually pristine, though there's no disguising its origins.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
+
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 DD+ English track has its moments, with Barry De Vorzon's synth-heavy score coming across particularly well, with excellent range and good bass. The guitars on the rock portions of the music sound good even if lacking a bit of immediacy. The effects don't quite have the same impact, however, with the explosions and subway trains lacking substantial oomph. There's not much directionality, with the surrounds mainly being used for the music. The ambient sounds of the city do come across well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Laurent Bouzereau contributes another of his multi-part documentaries (totalling over an hour) that gives a substantial walk through the making of the picture, with particular emphasis to the casting, costume design and problems with filming. There's also an all-too-brief look at the reception of the film, and in particular its appeal to gangs. Most of the surviving cast and crew appear, looking shockingly older. Hill also provides a brief intro (1m:17s) that expresses his distaste for commentaries and the like. Finally, the only extra in HD is the theatrical trailer, which is in fairly rough condition.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

A poorly thought out and often ridiculous attempt at an action film, sadly lacking in thought, action, and logic. A rental, at most, for the curious, though the HD transfer has its moments.

 


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