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The Warriors (Arrow Video) UHD Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Warriors (Arrow Video) UHD Review

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    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: December 12th, 2023.
    Director: Walter Hill
    Cast: Michael Beck, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly
    Year: 1979
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Warriors – Movie Review:

    A very loose interpretation of the story of Anabasis from Greek mythology, Walter Hill's 1979 production The Warriors is a popular fan favorite that does a fine job of mixing action, adventure, and glam rock. Released on a rather dodgy looking disc by Paramount years back in its original theatrical cut and then in 2005 in Walter Hill's Director's Cut of the film, Arrow does right by fans of the film and brings both cuts of the movie to UHD/Blu-ray for the first time in North America.

    For anyone who hasn't seen the film, it starts off when a gang named The Warriors are requested to send some delegates to a huge meeting organized by Cyrus (Roger Hill), who happens to lead the biggest of the New York City street gangs, The Riffs. Cyrus pleas with the rest of the gangs for unity – he feels that if they all work together then the city will be theirs for the taking and not even the cops will be able to put a stop to them. Everyone seems to be in agreement about this but then suddenly, a punk named Luther (David Patrick Kelly of Commando) from a gang called The Rogues shoots Cyrus dead. When the crowd turns towards where the gunshots erupted, he blames it on The Warriors and chaos ensues. As the cops move in to shake everyone down, the Warriors run for it and whole up in a cemetery for a while to try and come up with a plan on how to get back to their home turf on Coney Island.

    When they spot the subway, they figure that they can hop the train to Union Station and catch the connecting train back home – should be a breeze, right? You'd think so except that The Riff's want payback for the murder of Cyrus and they think that The Warriors are responsible for it. They put out the word by way of a local radio disc jockey who instructs all the boppers to get down to it, and all of a sudden The Warriors find that the rest of the gangs are out to bring them in dead or alive.

    An extremely stylized film set in the not too distant future, The Warriors is a blast from start to finish. It starts off with a fantastic opening sequence in which the gang members all make their way to the place where Cyrus will speak and once the murder happens, it's off like a bullet. The movie moves along at a very fast pace and while this does happen at the cost of character development, we still get to know enough about everyone, Swan (Michael Beck) and Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) specifically, that we at least know enough for the movie to work. The film has a lot more to do with the actual chase than the characters that are being chased and as such it doesn't require an in depth background for each gang member to function properly – we know who they are and that's more or less enough.

    The cinematography in the film is excellent. The scenes shot in the innards of the New York City subway system are creepy but very effective allowing gang members to arrive from behind a video game or a tiled wall while the sounds of trains whiz past them, lights painting everything in a very stale and antiseptic hue. Color plays a huge role in the look of the movie and also allows us to differentiate between the gangs, as they all have different colors or uniforms be it the Yankees-esque Baseball Furies or the Leatherman/Village People look of The Rogues. The camera work also does a fine job of capturing the violence that inevitably erupts when the gangs collide – the thud of a baseball bat, the slash of a knife, or the sound of a bullet fired from a revolver are all brought to grim and gritty life when the time comes for the fights to blow up like they do.

    Note that this release includes, one the first disc, the original theatrical cut and, on the second disc, Walter Hill’s director’s cut, which makes some serious changes made to the film. First up is the opening sequence. While the fantastic montage of talking heads, shoulders, subway trains and maps is still intact, we don't go into it until we witness a new narrated prologue which makes the comparison to the Greek myth on which the story is based about as subtle as a brick to the face. In Hill's narration he mentions how he wanted to create a comic book like atmosphere for the movie and to that effect they've seen fit to add some comic book panel transitions to the film. This, more than the narrated prologue and the insertion of a 'sometime in the future' tag, is the most obvious change made to this cut of the film. It feels a little out of place and it makes this less the film we all know and love and more a completely different animal. The scene that this hurts the most is the scene where the Baseball Furies are first introduced. A lot of the impact and sheer coolness of this scene is sucked out by substituting a comic book panel – an unfortunate decision.

    With that out of the way, how does the movie itself hold up? Very well. Even in this rather different version it still plays out nicely. The performances are fine for what they are, the cinematography is still ahead of its time and the pacing is still tight. Cyrus and the radio DJ still have some of the best quotable lines of dialogue in movie history and the gangs all still look too cool for school. The Warriors is a lot of fun and has stood the test time better than a lot of other movies of this ilk, including many of the films that came out afterwards and ripped it off. It's a great film, one well worth revisiting and now you’ve got the choice of revisiting it in the original theatrical cut or the director’s cut. The fantastic sets and costumes are still there, and The Warriors are still the coolest gang around.

    The Warriors – UHD Review:

    Note that this review is based on test discs so we can’t comment on any packaging or inserts. Should Arrow correct this and send finished retail product, we’ll update this review accordingly.

    The HEVC encoded 2160p transfer, framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and featuring HDR10 and Dolby Vision enhancement, is taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative. Detail is really nice here and the colors look excellent. There’s more depth on the UHD than on the Blu-ray edition and the colors pop just a bit more. Texture is always impressive and skin tones look lifelike and natural throughout. There’s really no print damage to note at all, just some natural film grain, and the image shows no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    English language audio options are offered in 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono, 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Atmos.. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow and the score has good range and presence to it. There are no audible problems with any hiss or distortion to note. The audio here is just fine, with the new Atmos mix opening things up nicely, especially during the action sequences and in regards to the score placement. The director’s cut option features 24-bit DTS-HD tracks in both 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound options and optional English subtitles.

    Extras are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One –Theatrical Cut:

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary by film critic Walter Chaw, author of 'A Walter Hill Film,' who does a nice job of peeling back the layers of the film. He goes over the Coney Island and New York City locations, the use of circles and cycles in the film and how this ties into the opening shot of The Wonder Wheel, the different themes that the gangs explore and exploit, the source material and how the film changes things, the socially progressive aspects of Hill's work, thoughts on the different performances in the movie, some of the themes - racial and otherwise - that the movie deals with, the film's influence on John Wick 4, the costume work in the movie, the quality of the cinematography in the movie, the importance of Mercy's presence in the movie, the depiction of the police in the movie, how the film portrays masculinity, the film's influence on pop culture in general and lots more. This is a really good track and definitely worth listening to. Also included on the disc is a fourth audio track that offers up the film’s isolated score.

    War Stories, a new interview with director Walter Hill, runs sixteen minutes. He talks about shooting on location in New York City and Mayor Koch's defending the film, how Larry Gordon acquired the rights to Sol Yurick's novel, getting the movie produced by Paramount by convincing them it was connected to Saturday Night Fever, working fast and with a low budget, wanting to heighten the mystery and drama in the story, trying to approach the gangs in the film differently than movies had in the past, collaborating with various participants, the costumes, the film's connections to real-life incidents of violence and how he feels about the film overall.

    Up next is a new roundtable discussion titled Whole Lotta Magic in which filmmakers Josh Olson (A History of Violence), Lexi Alexander (Green Street), and Robert D. Kryzkowski (The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then Bigfoot) spend eighty-four minutes talking via video conferencing about how they first came to see the movie and the impact that it had on them, what makes the film so unique and the influence that it had on them, how the film plays things completely straight and serious, the comic book feel of the film, the theme that the movie explores and, of course, Hill's direction, importance and influence.

    Battling Boundaries, a new interview with editor Billy Weber Battling Boundaries is a new interview with editor Billy Weber that runs eight minutes and covers how his career in the film industry started, landing the gig on The Warriors, working with Hill and Gordon, how he first met Hill when working on Messiah Of Evil in which Hill has a small role, why the opening of the movie was a challenge to cut, having to kill off an actor when his agent couldn't come to a deal with the studio, why Paramount pulled the movie after a few weeks and the film's enduring popularity despite this.

    Gang Style is a new interview with costume designer Bobbie Mannix running nine minutes. She talks about how her work on Xanadu and The Warriors are what she's best known for and why she's proud of her work, how she got into the business and the job on The Warriors, collaborating with Hill and Frank Marshal, what it was like on set, coming up with the designs for the movie, having to find the materials to create the outfits for the different gangs, finding versus fabricating in terms of the costume work and more.

    Armies of the Night is a featurette that offers a look at costume designs and photographs from the archive of Bobbie Mannix. This runs six minutes and basically plays out as a slide show but it's interesting to get a look at the design work that went into the movie.

    Come Out to Play is a ten minute piece that takes a look at the Coney Island locations used in the film courtesy of tour guide Adam Rinn, the Artistic Director of Coney Island USA. It gives you a pretty good idea of what Coney Island was like back in the late seventies compared to how it is now, and what has changed versus what has remained the same.

    Sound Of The Streets is a new appreciation, courtesy of film historian Neil Brand, of composer Barry De Vorzon and his work on the film. This runs twenty-five minutes and explores how De Vorzon essentially put together a complete rock band to create the soundtrack and build up the cues, the tempo of the soundtrack, the different instrumentation and rhythmic synth sounds used in the score and the impact that the score has on the finished version of the film.

    Arrow has also carried over all of the archival extras from the director’s cut release starting with The Warriors – The Beginning. At just over fifteen minutes in length, this documentary examines the journey from book to movie through interviews with the film's producer, Lawrence Gordon, and director Walter Hill. Gordon is quite interesting to listen to as he is very honest about the hesitation he felt in getting the movie bankrolled, and neither he nor Hill really knew what they were getting into with this project as they fought with Paramount over a few issues in getting it made.

    The Warriors – Battleground delves into some details about casting and about the first half of the film, mainly the scene with Cyrus and the gang rally. Some nice interview footage with Michael Beck, David Harris, David Patrick Kelly and Deborah Van Valkenburgh is in here as well as comments from Gordon and Hill. This does an interesting job of showing us how they set up the events to come in the latter half of the film and some of the changes that were made to the movie along the way. They also cover some of the details of the shooting locations and of the character of Cyrus and why he was so important in starting the movie off. This one runs just under fifteen minutes.

    The Warriors – The Way Home clocks in at a hair over eighteen minutes and it focuses in on the last half of the movie, once The Warriors are on the run. The same interviewees from Battleground are on hand here as they discuss some of the fight choreography, the finale scene, casting decisions, sets, shooting on the subway system and the various burbs of New York City and more. There's also a fair bit of attention given to the costume design used for the various gangs in the film by way of some interview footage with designer Bobby Bianco.

    The Warriors – The Phenomena runs roughly fifteen minutes. It wraps everything up nicely and again uses the same interviewees. This time out, everyone looks back on the film and gives some information on how the movie affected their lives and their careers. Many of the actors credit the film with launching their career and Hill considers it a highlight stating that he still has people come up to him on the street and tell him how much they love the movie. The explain why they feel that the film has the staying power that it does and everyone more or less waxes nostalgic on how much fun they had making it and how much they really enjoy the movie.

    Finishing up the extras is an original theatrical trailer for the feature, an image gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    Disc Two – Director’s Cut:

    The only extra on this disc is a brief one and a half minute video introduction from Walter Hill wherein he explains that had he had complete control over the film back when it was being made, this director's cut is how he would have wanted it to turn out.

    The Warriors - The Final Word:

    Arrow Video has done a really nice job bringing The Warriors to UHD, porting over everything from the previous Blu-ray release and throwing in a new commentary track as well. The presentation is solid and a nice upgrade from the 1080p edition, and the set is loaded with some strong supplements that do a great job of documenting the film's history. The movie itself remains a genuine classic.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Warriors Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 12-06-2023, 09:29 AM.
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