The Cult Club: The Warriors (1979)
Dec 11 // Sean Walsh @bewilderingtof
The Cult Club is where Flixist's writers expound the virtues of their favourite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pack, as well as their enduring legacy.
Sometime during what must've been the summer of 2004, my father was living in New Fairfield, Connecticut (the only time, to my knowledge, he lived outside the city of Danbury). I was staying for sporadic lengths of time due in no small part to the fact that I'd lost both of my best friends (one to marijuana and the other to a pair of, to be fair, fairly sizable breasts) towards the end of that school year. One week, my then step-mother and sister had gone out west or something and my father and I had the place all to ourselves. It was a largely unmemorable time, which I'm sure is mostly because it was eight and a half years ago, but there are two very distinct things I remember about that week. My father shared two films from his childhood with me that blew my mind: giant creature movie Food of the Gods and the nine-against-the-world film The Warriors. Both films were incredible, but The Warriors especially captivated me.
Submitted for your approval, I will take you all on a trip back to 'sometime in the future' and together we'll explore the world of a gang from Coney Island known as the Warriors...
Let me break it down for the uninitiated: Loosely based on Xenophon’s Greek epic “Anabasis,” the movie follows the nine members of titular gang The Warriors as they and every other gang in New York City assemble in Van Cortlandt Park at the behest of Cyrus (Roger Hill), the ultra-charismatic leader of the city’s most powerful gang, the Gramercy Riffs. He tells them that they outnumber the city’s cops five-to-one and if they were to all join together, they could take the city over. Things go real bad real quick when Luther (David Patrick Kelly) leader of the trouble-making gang The Rogues, shoots Cyrus, sending the gangs into disarray. Luther then proclaims that the Warriors shot Cyrus, which pretty much marks them for death. The Warriors quickly find themselves hunted by every gang in the city as they desperately try to make their way to their home turf (approximately twenty-five miles away, according to Google Maps). They will face cops, guys with painted faces and baseball bats, punks on roller skates, and treacherous ladies as they make their long trek home.
One thing I remember most about the first time I saw The Warriors was being captivated by the movie. Everything about it oozed with awesome. The electric soundtrack seeped deep down into my system, the gangs were ludicrously colorful and each had their own gimmicks that would be silly to hear about but were, in practice, pretty badass (if you told me a bunch of dudes in karate gis were the most powerful gang in the movie before watching it, I would’ve given you quite the look), and the plight of the Warriors played out much like a video game: go from point A to point B, beat these dudes up while you do it, and don’t die. I think that might be the magic of The Warriors. It’s basically Beat’em Up: The Movie, despite coming out half a decade before the first beat’em ups, and ultimately became an excellent last-gen beat’em up itself, where it greatly expanded on The Warriors canon.
While several of the cast members went on to have decent careers, the most famous is likely to be James Remar, who you might recognize as Harry, Dexter’s late father and constant hallucination on Dexter. Remar plays the Warriors’ resident meathead jerk would-be rapist, and one of the most memorable characters in the film due to his crude behavior and aggressive streak, and has said that he owes his career to The Warriors.
Almost ever scene in The Warriors is memorable, but there’s several lines and characters that have gone down in cinema history, and even those who haven’t seen the film might recognize them: “Caaaaaaaan yooooooooooou diiiiiiiiiiiig it?” has popped up here and there, and while I can’t swear to it, wrestler Booker T may have gotten his one-time catchphrase from the film. The most iconic, “Warriors, come out and plaaaaaaaay-iayyyyyyy” and its accompanying bottle-clinking, has popped up in numerous places, including the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shame on a Nigga,” Twisted Sister’s “Come Out and Play,” and by Puff Daddy at the start of the remix of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear.” The Baseball Furies are arguably the film’s most iconic gang, and years later, a very similar gang of thugs popped up, appropriately enough, in the Streets of Rage games.
If you haven’t seen The Warriors, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the Director’s Cut. It takes something that was already nearly perfect and makes it even more awesome. The Warriors is one of those really great pieces of cult cinema because it’s pure badassery at its finest almost from the word ‘go.’ References pop up here and there and whenever you hear them, you’re sure to grin because you’re in on it. That’s ultimately what cult film is all about, right? Being in on it? And any movie that has a video game adaptation made (even decades after the fact) that actually comes out good? Well, I think we all know that’s saying something.
Next month: Be sure to tune in when one-time Electric Eliminator Hubert Vigilla takes a look at the classic post-apocalyptic rockabilly action-comedy Six-String Samurai.
PREVIOUSLY SHOWING AT THE CULT CLUB
November: Funky Forest: First Contact (2005)
July: Batman (1966)
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