The Warriors tells the tale of how a simple misunderstanding leads to hoards of individuals attempting to murder a group innocent of these accusations… The group calls themselves The Warriors and the hoards of individuals are rival gangs throughout New York.
The film was released in 1979 to sporadic bouts of violence from rivalling gangs attending screenings. The film had very little marketing & promotional efforts due to the nature of its themes and the initial incredibly mixed critical reviews caused moviegoers to be hesitant in watching the film in theatres. Since then, The Warriors has become a cult classic and is one of my personal favorite films of all-time.
Just watch this trailer with the ominous voiceover and tell me you’re not the least bit curious about this glorious picture:
Now there are many aspects to The Warriors that I love, but I will save that for another article. This particular one will explore the sheer brilliance of its first 7 or so minutes. When I think of how a film should begin, by not giving away too much yet giving away just enough, I think of the beautifully Walter Hill-directed The Warriors.
The Sequence In Question
So What Makes This Brilliant?
Let me give a disclaimer that everything said is of my opinion and you can view this and think it is the stupidest thing you have ever seen… That is the beauty of film and why I love it: shit is all subjective, yo!
The Wonder Wheel With The Comic Caption
“Sometime in the future…” The film immediately starts to intrigue you. So this is set in a dystopian future. The mesmerizing silhouette of the Wonder Wheel brightens up the screen against that pitch black background, and the ominous music sets the tone as you see a subway train in the distance, the train essentially becoming a character itself as the film progresses… Then the gradual fade in of the opening title card pops up and you know you’re in for a treat.
The Initial Exposition And Setup Of The Film
“It’s still on and we’re goin’. Cyrus sent an emissary this afternoon to make sure. Now, Cyrus don’t want anybody packed and he don’t want anybody flexing any muscle. So, I gave him my word that the Warriors would uphold the truce… Now everybody says that Cyrus is the one and only. I think we better go have a look for ourself.”
Who’s Cyrus, String?
The introduction of Cleon, portrayed by Dorsey Wright, and the assertiveness of his delivery causes the viewer to piece together that this guy is probably a leader of some sorts for these Warrior fellows. So they are going to a place where there are going to be other people and there is a truce of some sort the Warriors are willing to uphold.
Who the fuck’s Cyrus, String?
In just under thirty seconds, the viewer is given the relevant information needed to progress the film. It is not delivered in a way that makes you roll your eyes or seems outlandish in any way. There is a sense of urgency given yet I don’t really feel like this set up is rushed. If anything, this urgency enhances the watch…
LOOK AT ME! WHO THE FUCK IS CYRUS?!
Yeah, you’re also left wondering “… who is this Cyrus and why is he so revered?”
The Traveling Montage Begins!
This is my favorite aspect to this sequence. You see shots of numerous gangs traveling to this Meeting interspersed with various members of The Warriors discussing their thoughts on the event… Which meanscharacterization, bitch!
We’re introduced to our protagonists with their initial character traits right off the bat, all set to an incredibly bad ass jamming tune.
Cowboy Man (Cowboy) Is Hesitant About The Meeting,
Other Warriors Member (Vermin) Doesn’t Give A Fuck
They’re Going In There With Nothing!
The Glorious Subway Map Shots
These occasional panning shots work to illustrate just how far the Warriors are having to travel for the Meeting. The shots are certainly lovely to look at, however they provide a real sense of uneasiness as the gang ventures further and further away from home.If something were to go wrong, how will they make their way out?
This may also be interpreted as the Warriors possibly losing confidence little by little with each new station they reach. Every gang member thrives on two things: their colors and their turf. As the train progresses through stations, the Warriors’ colors stay with them however their all-important turf is left behind, thus leaving one of the key elements to them completely barren.
We’re also introduced to many impeccably dressed and colour coordinated gangs that pique our interest immensely, some of the honourable mentions:
The Purple Suited Gang
Who Are These People?
This sequence introduces the audience to every member of the Warriors with only a few bits of dialogue and an effective amount of showing, not telling.
We see the ultimate greatness of what this Meeting means to an insane amount of people and we realize how intimidating some of these groups are. There are fucking MIMES, damn it. What are these mimes doing and how will they stack up against the gangs who are able to verbalize their commands?!
Lest We Forget, Ajax’s Prediction…
… Is Proven Incredibly Wrong
The Ultimate Significance
When I think of which movie openings draw my eye and immediately intrigue me, I think of The Warriors.
These gangs we only see for a short time are essentially taking over the New York transit system and as I mentioned, the Subway essentially becomes a character in and of itself in the film. It becomes a haven our protagonists must utilize in order to reach safety.
They’re far away from home and are entering territory with rivaling gangs. Will they make it? Will everyone manage to get along? The Warriors have a loose cannon as a part of their group, does he mess shit up for them? Why don’t they just meet up in the afternoon instead of the dead of night? Who is Cyrus?
All these questions arise by the end of the opening and what ultimately follows is an hour and a half of pure entertainment.
Now the real question that sums up the entire film… Can. You. Dig. It?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Hello handsome. You’re a good looking fellow, do you know that? People laugh at you, people hate you, but why do they hate you? Because… they are jealous. Look at that boyish face. Look at that sweet smile. Do you wanna talk about physical strength? Do you want to talk about sheer muscle? Do you want to talk about the Olympian ideal? You are a God. And listen to me, you are not evil. You… are… good.
Starring: Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein, Marty Feldman as Igor, Teri Garr as Inga and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, dir. Mel Brooks.
Gene Wilder embodied every single role he played. For me, whenever I think of him, I will forever think of the illusive Willy fucking Wonka. From being an authoritative figure, to creepy as all hell to making you want a hug from him, virtually every aspect to his performance is phenomenal. No matter how you will remember him, all I can say is thank you for sharing your talent with us.
I can’t possibly imagine what he and Richard Pryor are coming up with at the moment, but I hope they’re laughing as brightly as they made me feel whenever I watched any of their performances.
Travis Bickle: I’ll tell you why. I think you’re a lonely person. I drive by this place a lot and I see you here. I see a lot of people around you. And I see all these phones and all this stuff on your desk. It means nothing. Then when I came inside and I met you, I saw in your eyes and I saw the way you carried yourself that you’re not a happy person. And I think you need something. And if you want to call it a friend, you can call it a friend. Betsy: Are you gonna be my friend? Travis: Yeah.
Starring: Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, Cybill Shepherd as Betsy and Jodie Foster as Iris, dir. Martin Scorsese