Friday, July 15, 2011

The Warriors

The Warriors
seen @ Epix Movie Free For All, Tompkins Square Park, New York, NY
7.14.11

I've been fortunate in that I grew up in New York without running afoul of any gangs. The only one I can recall even hearing about was during my early years of high school. They were called the Decepts, as in the Decepticons from The Transformers. I never saw one, but I heard about them a great deal during my freshman year. I'm not sure where their turf was either. I went to school during the late 80s on the far west side of Manhattan, near Lincoln Center, so perhaps they were staked out in that vicinity; I don't remember for certain. I don't recall ever being afraid of running into them, either. They probably only came out at night. After school my friends and I would either linger around the building, playing Chinese handball, or else we'd go to Central Park and play hacky sack or frisbee, but either way, we never saw any Decepts.

Gang warfare was a much bigger deal here in New York during the time The Warriors was released. I was too young for that, of course, but it was a major factor in the city's notorious reputation. Some people have a certain nostalgia for that era. I can't possibly imagine why; New York in the 70s was a much crazier place. Just watch Taxi Driver and you'll see what I mean.

I hadn't seen The Warriors in quite awhile. This was a last-minute change to my schedule; I was prepared to see a different outdoor movie on Wednesday night, but it got rained out (and I was caught in the rain - ugh!). This movie screening at Tompkins was way different than when I saw the genteel Mr. Hulot's Holiday. For one thing, there was a live band playing before the show! Not a great one - another Motorhead/ACDC wannabe among thousands - but still, how often do you see that at an outdoor movie screening? There was free food (of the popcorn/cotton candy variety), a tiny carousel for the kiddies (though why you'd bring kids to a movie like The Warriors is beyond me) and a raffle with free giveaways, including the grand prize of an iPad! To my knowledge, this is the first time the cable channel Epix has hosted a summer movie series, and it looks like they went all out. 


There were two screens; one at the same spot as where I saw Hulot, where the old bandstand was, and the other on the lawn towards the center of the park. A smart move; they accommodated more people in search of a spot that wasn't obstructed by tree branches. I got to the park much later than I had planned, and I certainly wasn't expecting such a sight. I found a spot on the lawn, amidst the fireflies, wishing I had brought a blanket, like I did for Manhattan, or a chair, like I did on Wednesday (when it rained I had to use my chair as an umbrella!).

I had forgotten that The Warriors makes use of comic book imagery throughout the movie. It's not based on a comic, but there are transitional sequences throughout the film in which you see the image turn into a comic book-like image and it pulls back to reveal "panels," like in a comic, complete with narrative captions, to take you from one scene to the next. It's clever, and I can't help but wonder what made director Walter Hill decide to do it. The violence in the movie is no different from what you'd find in a mainstream action movie of that era; it's not graphic nor is it campy, and the Warriors are more anti-heroes than superheroes. Should this movie count as a comic book movie?

The extensive use of the subways make this film a distinctively New York movie. Of course, the  subways were nothing to write home about back in the 70s, either - graffiti everywhere, less reliable service, and less safe. These days the pendulum has swung in the completely opposite direction: much more secure (this was true pre-9-11 as well), almost no graffiti, comparatively cleaner, and equipped with countdown clocks to let you know when the train's coming (in the movie, someone says something like, "I hate waiting for the trains!" and that got a big cheer from the crowd). 


The biggest difference, though? The pervasive politeness. The MTA, in recent years, has rolled out a new line of subway cars and installed them with automated messages piped through the PA system. It began with post-9-11 admonitions to report any "suspicious" activity, and expanded to a variety of suggestions on proper subway behavior. They get played constantly, and while I don't doubt that they fill a need - we New Yorkers tend to treat subways like our own personal, private space without thinking about others - there's something about it that seems inherently wrong. It's hard to explain. Modern New York (20th century and beyond) has had a rep for pushiness and rowdiness that has always been part of its character. People used to be less uptight. An insult wasn't always meant to be derogative and people understood that. And the subway system never needed to double as a nanny. 

Again, don't get me wrong; many of the changes, not only in the subway but in the city in general, are for the better and I approve of most of them. But at the same time, I'd hate to see New York scrubbed completely free of its rough edges.

4 comments:

  1. I liked this article. It was nice to get a perspective on this film from somebody who actually grew up in New York City. I'm actually moving there in a few weeks to attend NYU - Tisch for film school.


    Anyhow...hello! My name is Nathanael Hood from Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear!

    I just want to invite you to my blog's blogathon. It will be taking place in about three weeks. The topic is MONSTER MOVIES FROM THE 50S!!!

    I would love it if you would participate! Send me an email at nahood@ursinus.edu.

    Here are a couple of links to more information:

    http://forgottenclassicsofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2011/06/next-blogathon-monster-movie-mania.html

    http://forgottenclassicsofyesteryear.blogspot.com/2011/07/blogathon-update.html

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  2. I'm already on the list, remember? I'm doing 'It Came From Beneath the Sea.'

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  3. Very interesting write up of one of my favourite films Rich.
    You must have seen the newer Walter Hill director's cut of The Warriors from what you say about the comic book imagery. Those comic book transitions weren't used in the original release and even thought they're part of Walter Hill's original vision of the film I know a lot of "old school" fans of The Warrior's really don't like them.
    If you can get hold of the Director's cut DVD there are some very interesting documentaries on the background to this film.
    You've got a very interesting site by the way, I like your style and I wish you luck in the future.

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  4. Well thanks a lot Paul! I'd seen 'The Warriors' prior to this, but I don't recall whether or not the comic book imagery was there. Being a long-time comics fan, I naturally didn't mind. It may not have added anything to the story, but it made the movie as a whole a little bit more unique.

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