Walter Hill‘s forty-seven year career as a filmmaker has seen numerous ups and downs. His last box-office hit was 1990’s Another 48 Hrs., and while the eight films he’s made since include a couple bangers (Trespass, 1992; Last Man Standing, 1996) the last three decades are arguably evidence of a filmmaker in decline. That’s hopefully not the case, but if it is we can rest easy knowing that Hill has long since secured his spot in the echelon of top genre filmmakers.
Hard Times (1975), The Driver (1978), Southern Comfort (1981), 48 Hrs. (1982), Streets of Fire (1984), and Extreme Prejudice (1987) — any filmmaker would kill to have made any one of these, but they all belong to Hill. And, of course, he also made 1979’s stylish, otherworldly cult hit, The Warriors. The film’s home video existence has been a spotty one with Paramount inexplicably giving more love to Hill’s misguided director’s cut from 2005 than to the original, but that drought has finally ended. Imprint, a ViaVision sub-label from Australia, has just released a fantastic box set featuring both cuts, and as the Blu-ray debut for the theatrical version it is a must-own for fans.
The Warriors (1979)
New York City is home to hundreds of street gangs, each walking their own turf and watching their backs on a nightly basis. The violent competition may be about to end, though, as the charismatic leader of the city’s most powerful gang has called for a peace summit suggesting they instead join forces. He’s gunned down mid-speech, and members of The Warriors are framed for the murder. With every other gang in the city out for their blood, the nine members of The Warriors make a desperate thirty-mile run for their own home turf on Coney Island.
It’s clear from the very start that The Warriors is a stylized tale one or more steps removed from reality, and the result is an action/adventure about loyalty, brotherhood, and honor among thieves. Hill keeps the energy and momentum moving with electric set-pieces and eclectic characters that not even stilted dialogue can dampen. It’s a different world, one you can’t stop watching even as you’re glad you’re not living in it.
The script — co-written by Hill and David Shaber, based on Sol Yurick‘s novel — knows it’s building an artificial world, one where we’re meant to sympathize with gang members and take thugs wearing overalls and roller skates seriously. Wisely, the film never insists we take it all too seriously, though, as humor is layered throughout in the character interactions. Character is king here from the diverse personalities in The Warriors themselves to the other gangs up to and including the film’s de facto villain, a Napoleon-like madman named Luther (a terrific David Patrick Kelly). His ominous, bottle-tinged threat of “Warriors, come out to play!” is lodged in pop culture, and few comeuppances are as cathartic.
This isn’t a big movie, and action beats are kept to the level of brawls, but it never feels small thanks to its capturing of New York City. Hill and cinematographer Andrew Laszlo take hold of the city’s nighttime landscape from Central Park to Coney Island, and it ends up feeling like a gritty, adrenalized travelogue. Barry DeVorzon‘s score adds to the energetic journey making for a sensory ride across a seemingly foreign land. The Warriors remains an off-kilter and highly satisfying blast.
The less said about the director’s cut the better, but fans will be happy to see its inclusion here as well. Hill’s decision to recut the film and add comic panels and narration comes from an understandable intention, but the film’s fantastical elements are already evident in the theatrical version. Adding these beats only serves to weaken and undercut the experience.
Imprint’s slick new box set features a hardbox containing two snapcases, one for each version of the film. The films themselves are sourced from Paramount’s own master and have received no restoration work — the picture still looks fine with deep blacks and grain intact, but a proper restoration would do wonders. Each disc includes different extras as well, and they’re detailed below. They’re all worth checking out, but the new interviews with Kelly and James Remar are especially engaging and enlightening.
Theatrical cut [1:32:54]
- *NEW* Commentary by film critic and author Walter Chaw
- *NEW* The Warriors from the Cutting Room Floor [10:45] – Deleted/extended scenes from the television version including an alternate opening set during daylight hours, a longer version of Cyrus’ speech, more from the DJ, and additional dialogue beats.
- *NEW* Sound and Fury: Scoring The Warriors [15:09] – Composer Barry DeVorzon talks about bringing a “contemporary edge” to his scores, how Walter Hill challenged him with that phenomenal title track, and more.
- *NEW* Last Train to Coney Island [11:41] – Actor David Patrick Kelly shares recollections of his early career, his time on stage and studying with Marcel Marceau, his time on The Warriors, and more. This is a great interview with a character actor who never disappoints.
- *NEW* We Got the Streets [16:15] – Actor James Remar recalls his entry into acting, his auditions for the stage show of Grease, the production of The Warriors, and more. As with the interview above, this is a fantastic listen with a hard-working actor.
- *NEW* Nowhere to Run [15:38] – Actor Dorsey Wright talks about Remar’s method acting, his realization that the movie was something bigger and better than he expected, his friendships with the cast, and more.
- *NEW* Literally Classic: The Ancient Greek Roots of The Warriors [21:51] – A lesson in Greek literature!
- *NEW* Magic… Whole Lot of Magic [9:44] – A video essay by Chris O’Neill
- The Warriors Scrapbook [18:31] – A photo gallery offering a look behind the scenes.
- TV Spot and Theatrical Trailer
Director’s cut [1:33:59]
- *NEW* Commentary by author/historian Chris Poggiali and author Michael Gingold
- Introduction to director’s cut by Walter Hill [1:19] – Hill explains his intentions behind this mistake.
- The Warriors: The Beginning [14:08]
- The Warriors: Battleground [15:25]
- The Warriors: The Way Home [18:08]
- The Warriors: The Phenomenon [15:24]
Buy The Warriors directly from ViaVision and Imprint.