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The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors

That's what a super bad gang member got when he messed with The Warriors - a cult favorite directed by Walter Hill that was featured on Joe Bob's Last Call last Saturday. If you happened to miss this action-packed tour of the various gang turfs in New York City, you can check out all the cool stuff you missed by reading the commentary below, provided by MonsterVision host Joe Bob Briggs, America's greatest drive-in critic.

"The Warriors" Intro

"Right now, though, we're gonna kick off "Joe Bob's Last Call," and our movie is none other than the classic "The Warriors." Starring Michael Beck. You might remember Michael from two weeks ago as the dimwit redneck in the dimwit movie "Megaforce." Michael hopes you DON'T remember that, cause this is the performance he would rather be remembered for. Michael's the leader of a gang in Coney Island, called The Warriors, that goes uptown for a massive meeting of all the gangs in New York City, and before the night is over they've been to hell and back about 19 times. And I don't wanna give away the plot for those who haven't seen it, but these are the kinda gangs you only see in the movies. They're like the gangs in West Side Story--you know, gangs with a heart of gold. None of that New Jack City bullstuff, where they show you what a drug deal is REALLY like. Anyway, it's a fun movie--lot of campy seventies stuff in it--and as an added service to TNT viewers, I have here a New York City subway map, and as the night goes on, we'll be mapping the progress of The Warriors as they travel from Coney Island all the way to the Bronx and back again. See, this thing was directed by Walter Hill, and he actually CARED about the geography. He wanted you to know exactly where the gang was at all times. And so, thanks to the New York Transit Authority, I'm gonna let you know where the gang is AT ALL TIMES. You'll see when we get into it. All right? We're startin down here at Coney Island. This movie was made in 1979, so there weren't any Russians living there. Go down there today, it's all Rooskies eating cheese blintzes, but back then it was different. It was South Americans riding on the Wonder Wheel and eating those really bad hot dogs that New Yorkers always brag about.

Okay, let's look at those drive-in totals and then we'll be gangbangin.

We have:

Four dead bodies.
One riot.
Four brawls.
Exploding car.
One gunbattle.
Baseball bat to the noggin.
Police brutality, with billy club.
Spray-paint to the face.
Knife to the arm.
Leather-jacket gangs.
Purple-vest gangs.
White-paint-on-their-face gangs.
Military-fatigue gangs.
Chinese gangs.
Roller-skating gangs.
Mexican gangs.
Black gangs.
Muscle-shirt gangs.
Gangs that wear yellow silk jackets.
Gangs that wear kimonos.
All-girl gangs.
Skinhead gangs.
Kung Fu.
Graffiti Fu.

Four stars.

Check it out, and here at the beginning, after this first scene on the Coney Island boardwalk, we will be taking the D Train. I know, some of you New Yorkers are sittin there going, no, they're going to the Bronx, they're takin the F Train. Uh-uh. And I'll tell you why at the first break. D Train. Ocean Parkway station. No, Stillwell Avenue terminal. Here we go.

"The Warriors."

[fading] You know, I used to love Coney Island. They had the world's greatest freak show. Then about five years ago, they made em get rid of the freaks. They still had the SHOW--you know, people would drive nails up their nostrils, stuff like that, wrap anacondas around their neck--but it just wasn't the same. This country is going downhill, you know? We used to have three-headed babies. Now what have we got? "Step right up, come look at the extremely UGLY PEOPLE!" Hell, I can look out my back window and see that. Come to think of it [looking around] it's kind of all around us, isn't it? Well that's all I'M gonna say about it."

 "The Warriors" Commercial Break #1

"Okay, those Warriors are in trouble now, aren't they? Can you believe that, when this movie came out, it was blamed for gang violence all over America?

I mean, LOOK at those guys, in their matching outfits. Some of em wear BASEBALL uniforms. And look at the way they move. All graceful, all physically in top shape--that's because Walter Hill, the director, used Broadway dancers for all the gang roles. This thing is a CARTOON.

It's a good cartoon. It's a fun movie. But it's a little ridiculous that it got blamed for causing shootings and stabbings in theaters.

Hell, "The Godfather" is a THOUSAND times more violent, and nobody suggested pulling THAT movie out of theaters. And then we find out several years later that some of the more dim-witted members of the New York mob DID copy things out of

"The Godfather." They liked the way they were depicted in there. So in that case, the movie WAS putting ideas in their heads. Anyway, I'll tell you about the violence at the next break, but first I wanted to show you why they had to take the D Train. The reviewers said that this big meeting happened in Pelham Bay Park.

I don't think so. Because you've got those scenes of them walking up out of a station and into a cemetery, and then going through all these creepy dark areas, and then EMERGING into the park. And so obviously they got off at the 205th Street station in the Bronx, walked through Woodlawn Cemetery, and went to the meeting in Van Cortlandt Park. Now they're heading for the downtown train, cause they gotta get back to Coney without their leader. Roll it.

[fading] See, they shoulda CARRIED one of these subway maps, instead of just jumpin on trains. But it's probly a gang rule or something. If you're in the gang, you wouldn't be allowed to have a subway map stickin out of your back pocket like a German tourist.

Wouldn't be cool. You wouldn't get any CHICKS."

"The Warriors" Commercial Break #2

"So "The Warriors" was released on February 9th, 1979, and what happened is that weekend there was a teenager who got stabbed to death in a theater lobby in Oxnard, California, where they were showing the movie. And then on the same day, a kid got shot in the head at a drive-in in Palm Springs where they were showing the movie. And then the following week, a Boston gang went to see the movie, and on the way home they stabbed a 16-year-old to death on the subway. So the media got all over this movie. Paramount pulled all its advertising out of the newspaper and all its TV and radio spots. Cause people said the advertising was causing gangs to go nutzoid. The original poster had hundreds of gang members on it, all staring straight ahead, and the poster said: "These are the Armies of the Night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City." And people in New York got upset because they said "The Warriors" was the movie that taught teenagers how to jump over the turn-stiles in the subway. I DON'T THINK SO. But they had an incident where some gangs jumped over the turnstiles and harassed some people at the 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue station, and everybody said "Get rid of that movie!" Have you ever BEEN to the subway station underneath the Port Authority bus terminal at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue?

You really think guys jumpin over the turnstiles are gonna BOTHER YOU in that place?

I would really be more concerned about RATS EATING YOUR SOCKS. Thank you very much. Back to the movie.

[fading] Oh, I say they jumped on the 4 Train, here, which would be a straight shot down the East Side, but . . . FIRE ON THE TRACK. Not gonna be that easy, is it? So the skinhead gang was right about here, Bedford Park Boulevard, and now they're out on the streets again, lost in the wilds of the Bronx."

"The Warriors" Commercial Break #3

"Why is there always a subway train JUST PULLING INTO THE STATION when those lucky Warriors are escaping? Well, it's probably because this whole story was based on a TRUE story from 401 B.C. There were 10,000 Greek warriors who were fighting in Persia, and their leader got killed, and so they had to retreat. But they were way the hell up in the middle of Persia, so they had to make their way back to the sea, fighting different Persian tribes all the way back. This story was told by the Greek historian Xenophon, and then it was retold by

Sol Yurick in 1965 in a novel, and then Walter Hill kinda changed up the novel and made it into "The Warriors." And he put all kinds of Greek mythological touches into the movie.

Like the gang leader was named Cyrus, and the original Persian leader was Cyrus the Younger. And the leader of the Warriors is Cleon, a Greek name.

And there's that guy Ajax, the one who grabs the girl in the scene we just watched, played by James Remar in his film debut. And so what we've got here is these Greek warriors, crossing a barren landscape where trains come and go like magic, the hands of fate directing them toward the magical meeting place, the 14th Street/Union Square station.

But I think they're going the wrong way. You know why? Because first of all, we know they're still in the Bronx. There's a fire on the 4 line. If they went straight down the east side (yay), then the next big battle at the 96th Street station would happen on the Upper East Side, which, let's face it, what kinda gangs are you gonna find there? Vicious bond traders? I don't think so. So what happened is they're in the South Bronx, they just jumped on the 2 Train at 149th Street and Grand Concourse, and they're headed for the 96th Street station on the WEST side. Trust me. This'll all make sense when we get finished.

[fading] Of course, the subway system of Persia was different. Persian subways--Persia's the same as Iran, right? Iranian subway system. That's what we got here. That's why there's nobody riding the subways EXCEPT these guys."

"The Warriors" Commercial Break #4

"The undercover cop who arrests Ajax in Central Park--THAT was Mercedes Ruehl, in her screen debut. She was a stage actress, starred in many Broadway plays, including "Lost in Yonkers," and went on to more movies, of course. So our heroes aren't getting much closer to the big meeting in Union Square, are they? I love the gang that wears New York Yankees uniforms and fights with baseball bats--vicious utility infielders! So anyway, they just beat the bejabbers out of THEM in Central Park, but The Warriors are all busted up now.

One of em just got arrested. One got killed by the train. Cleon is dead in the Bronx. Two are trying to get out of Central Park. And three just got off the train in Union Square BUT... they just spotted some CHICKS.

Did you ever wonder . . . why didn't they just take a cab? I mean, they're a gang, right? In 1979, it's maybe 25 bucks to take a cab to Coney Island. They rob ONE GUY and they have cab fare. Or how about the old-fashioned solution: steal a car. Nope. They're, like, making TRANSFERS.

This is strictly a MASS-TRANSIT gang. Okay, roll it.

[fading] They coulda done the same story on buses, too. They could be really mean to the bus driver.

Refuse to stop for handicapped people. Stuff like that. There's a lot of variations on these ancient Greek stories. Where's Jackie Chan when you need him? Jackie would just jump in a speedboat and race down the East River. I don't think Jackie would be digging down in his pants pockets for a subway token, you know?"

"The Warriors" Commercial Break #5

"The old lesbo-gang trick, huh? They shoulda known when they met the girls and they said "We're the Lizzies." And actually, YOU shoulda known that the girls were no good, because this is a Walter Hill movie, and in a Walter Hill movie the women are almost always liars and hookers and no-good gold-diggers of one sort or another. I know actresses who get all excited because their agent calls em for an audition, and then they go, "Oh no--it's a Walter Hill movie." And the agent says, "Well, just wear a mini-skirt, honey." He doesn't have the best reputation with women. He makes GUY movies. He has kind of an interesting life. He's from Long Beach, California, son of a dockyard worker, and he tried a lot of different jobs-- tried being a cartoonist, tried journalism, did construction, oil drilling, and then he got a job as a second assistant director on films like "Bullitt" and "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Take the Money and Run." Second assistant director is not a real important job. It's kind of a traffic-director job. It's REAL low on the totem pole. You walk around with a walkie-talkie, telling gaffers where the coffee is. But that's where he got the movie bug, and so he started writing screenplays, cause somebody told him that's how he could become a director. And he sold several of em. He wrote "Hickey and Boggs," and "The Getaway," which was a big hit. And then he made his directorial debut with "Hard Times" in 1975, followed by "The Driver" in 1978, and then "The Warriors." Probly his most famous movie was "48 HRS.," with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, and then he hasn't had any big hits since then so he's not exactly in as much demand as he once was. But anyway, he makes tough films, about tough guys, and "The Warriors" is one of em.

Back to the flick.

[fading] We're ALL at Union Square station now. Have you noticed that nobody ever RIDES these trains EXCEPT gang members? Every train that pulls into a station is TOTALLY EMPTY except for the cast of this movie. You'd think you'd have a few drunk sailors, or SOMETHING. Some drag queens getting off work. Some Guatemalan guys who work at the airport. But these are ghost trains. Woooooooooo."

 "The Warriors" Commercial Break #6

"I love that scene where the prom couples get on the train with the gang. Rips your heart out, doesn't it? And, of course, that fight scene in the restroom of the Union Square station was famous for being the head-busting brawl that everybody pointed to as the reason this movie was causing so much violence.

I think it should be famous as the only time I've ever seen a public restroom in a New York City subway that was actually OPEN. Anyway, they're almost back home in Coney Island now. But the story is far from over.

It's time for the final sequence of a great seventies movie, "The Warriors."

[fading] From Union Square I'm gonna say they took the N Train, through Brooklyn. As you can see, we've been marking the route of The Warriors on this New York City subway map, and it follows EXACTLY the same route as the ancient Greek soldiers who fled Persia in the time of Cyrus the Younger. "And down to the sea they came, in subways." Ah, it's late."

 "The Warriors" Outro

"And so The Warriors frolic in the Coney Island surf, like Ukrainian tourists. A fine ending to "The Warriors," the great Walter Hill flick, from 1979. It was supposed to make big stars out of Michael Beck, the gang leader, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, as his girlfriend. Didn't quite work out.

One reason it didn't work out is that Michael Beck's next few movies were things like "Megaforce," with Barry Bostwick, and "Xanadu," with Olivia Newton-John.

Okay, I wanna remind you one more time that next week we'll have "Skeeter," the giant-mosquito flick, followed by "Endangered Species," the Colorado cattle-mutilation classic. Where else would you see a double feature like that? Only on "Monster Vision."

And that's it for me. Did you hear the one about the photographer who went to a haunted castle to try to get a picture of this ghost which was said to appear only once in a hundred years. So the photographer sits in the dark till midnight, when the apparition is supposed to become visible. The ghost shows up, and turns out to be a friendly ghost. The ghost even says he'll POSE for the picture. So the photographer is very happy.

He pops an old bulb into his camera, takes the picture. Dashes home to his studio. Develops the negative. Groans. The picture was underexposed-- completely blank. Because, see, the spirit was willing, but the flash was weak.

Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die.

[fading] Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, "Does this taste funny to you?"

Two cannibals are sitting by a fire. First cannibal says, "Gee, I hate my mother-in-law." Second cannibal says, "So try the potatoes.

A man gets captured by cannibals and every day they poke him with spears and use his blood to wash down their food. Finally the guy calls the chief over and says, "You can kill me or you can eat me, but I'm tired of getting stuck for drinks."

So much for cannibal jokes."
"The Warriors" is now a computer videogame, from the makers of "Grand Theft Auto" and "Liberty City Stories." The movie is set in real time over a 90-minute period of one night. The computer game prequel covers the entire summer leading up to that fateful night. You can play an individual, or use the "war chief" mode to issue orders to other members of your gang. Newsweek magazine says, "The result is an ominous, thrilling experience that deftly recreates the mood of the movie." Or you can just play a gang member dressed as a baseball player, breaking heads with your great big bat. Warriors videogame

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Host segment transcript of January 1998 broadcast
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