Clink, clink, clink, clink. “Warriors come out and playyyyy.”
This iconic line I will never forget from the 1979 movie “The Warriors.”
I was 15 years old when it hit theaters.
I was not able to see it during its original run as it was rated R and my parents would not take me, especially after the crazy events surrounding the screening of the movie were reported.
The local news was full of reports of violence and people being harassed by groups of youths that had seen the movie and left the theater all riled up and getting themselves into trouble.
What the hell was going on in this film? What was it all about?
The plot in a nutshell was that a prominent gang leader brings all the gangs in New York City together for a meeting in the Bronx to rally them to work together to take over the city.
During his rousing speech he is shot dead, and the Warriors are falsely blamed. The Warriors are a gang from Coney Island in Brooklyn, and now they must fight their way to their home turf as all the gangs are now out to get them.
It was not until 1980 that I finally watched the film in my living room on WHT, a rinky-dink pay-TV service that broadcast movies over UHF, a poor-man’s HBO that we had prior to our Bronx neighborhood being wired for cable.
My good friend and future AMR brother Silvio La Frossia watched the movie with me, and wow! What an impression it made on both of us! You can read his own recollections of the film over at The Mass Invasion.
The Warriors ruled. These guys were likeable, had great chemistry, were ethnically mixed, and of course, had cool leather vests as their uniform.
They were wrongfully accused of shooting Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs, and they were the underdogs, having to fight their way through all the other gangs.
Who could ask for more to identify with these characters?
Although the movie played out like a comic book and seemed so much like fantasy, it probably was not far from the truth.
There were hundreds of gangs portrayed in this film, and at that time there were probably similar numbers of real gangs in New York City.
I personally remember the Savage Skulls and the Black Spades in the neighborhoods I grew up in.
The gangs were real and caused a great deal of trouble and violence all around the city during the 1970s. My older brother was at that ripe age and he admitted to being actively recruited. Thankfully, he avoided making that commitment.
If being in a gang didn’t kill him, my Mom surely would have if he got involved in one.
The turf wars were real, but a lot of it had to do with protecting what was theirs.
The economic downturn of the ’70s had a lot to do with this. The police were non-existent and did not protect many of these neighborhoods, or maybe they were afraid to go into these areas.
The police in the movie had minimal impact on the outcome of the movie; they were faceless and ultimately inconsequential as the gangs took justice into their own hands at the end of the movie as the Warriors were exonerated and the Rogues paid for their misdeeds.
“The Warriors” was so much more than a movie; it was a history lesson that showed us what was really going on around us.
Silvio and I recognized that and to this day still hold that movie at a higher level than most movies we have seen. That movie rang true with us and continues to influence us in how we viewed the era when that movie was released.
The Warriors. The Cyclone. The Wonder Wheel. New York City icons forever.