The Warriors (The Ultimate Director's Cut) Blu-ray
(Walter Hill - 1979)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 22,469,203,508 bytes
Feature Size: 18,474,590,208 bytes
Video Bitrate: 23.81 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: January 24th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
/ DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
English (SDH), Spanish, French, none
• Introduction to the Director's Cut by the Director (1:13)
• Making-of Documentary (1:02:00)
• Theatrical Trailer in HD
The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut
It's hard to believe that just less than 30 years ago, this film caused such a ruckus: Communities all over the country were frightened that their streets would become the playground for gangs, and that their children would want to join in on the mayhem. Yet today, gang violence is taken almost for granted. Such was the power of The Warriors. My thought at the time was that The Warriors was a ballet on film, a not-so-comic cinematic comic book. Interestingly The Warriors debuted the same year as Superman. But I don't recall anyone making the connection. I didn't.
Just a couple of years ago, Walter Hill, the film's director, went on record as saying that his movie should have been taken for the comic book it was and not as an endorsement of gang violence: thus the "Ultimate Director's Cut" which, by editing in graphic novel transitions, all would be made right. In his Introduction to the new cut (both here on the BD release and in the 2005 DVD, Hill seems to feel he can be excused for the present re-write by confessing that he ordinarily thinks poorly of such recuts, but here he is, and here it is. Not only does this Intro appear in the Special Features section of the DVD, where it rightfully belongs, but at the head of the movie when we hit the "Play" button. And, just in case we still haven't got the message, he reprises the inspiration for the original story in the new cut with a scrolling history lesson about ancient Greek heroes. Making dead certain no one will escape his conversion to the world of PC, he provides the voiceover to what anyone with an admission ticket can read.
At the end of his Intro, he feebly states the obvious: that others may prefer the original. He also insists that this new cut represents his original intentions better. Since Hill has set the example, I feel free to say that ordinarily I am loathe to claim that I know another's true intentions better than they. But so I do here state. His original intentions were pretty well stated in his 1979 film titled The Warriors. If Hill truly believes that by slipping in literal comic book scenes to a film that was already clearly a metaphor, he needs to give up his DGA card. Hill hasn't merely altered his film's pacing, he has ruined it. The Warriors used to have transitions connecting the scenes on either side to control the pacing, to tighten it here and broaden it there. The Warriors used to have pacing. Now it has limping. The film comes to a screeching halt every time he squeezes in one of his artful graphic frames. By the way, contrary to the insert, Ajax does not say "Holy Shit!" when he sees the Furies outside the station. So in addition to altering the transitions, Hill also re-scripts the dialogue. If you were Ajax, what would you say?
The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut
The Movie : 8
From the start, I liked this movie, the original movie. It begins with a call to peace. Peace, that is, between the gangs: all the gangs across the five boroughs. Peace, so proposes the new messiah, Cyrus, would lead to power to confront the cops and take control of the streets and everything that moved on them, including organized crime. A crazed gang member, Luther (who else!) decides on his own to pop Cyrus – not for political reasons (which should have made clear right off that this film was not a social statement or an analysis) but for the sheer psychopathic fun if it. Coward that he is, he accuses The Warriors, a small gang from Coney Island. At this point we're about 15 minutes into the film. The remaining 80 minutes has our band of brothers dodging and fighting their way at night from The Bronx back to Coney, and - if they have the guts to do so, which they do - without taking off their colors. Everyone is on their trail: other gangs, Luther, the cops, and the Oracle of Oracles, the DJ.
Except for the one scene near the beginning when squads of representatives from all the gangs gather at a park to hear the message and at the end when Cyrus' Gramercy Riffs confront the Warriors, all the fight scenes are done in small groups. A smart move on Hill's part. It keeps the action clear and the fight sequences interesting and, with all the gangs in their unique costumes and makeup, easily distinguished from each other. The photography and lighting in this film is an object lesson in the art. Hill lights up the streets, parks and subways to place each fight on its own stage, with the participants bathed in the spotlight, sharp as the proverbial tack. Often, just before a fight or a flight, Hill halts the action to present his Warriors in a tableau. For some reason, I am reminded of your basic samurai film structure.
There is one memorable moment where Hill places the action on pause in order to make his one social statement. What's left of the Warriors plus a girl they pick up along the way are sitting on the subway train when two prom couples enter to take their places across from them. The looks exchanged on all parts tell the whole story: pride, fear, envy, resignation. The scene is wordless, almost without movement: magic. Hill's comic book transitions are a powerful antidote. I guess he forgot to watch his film before he tore the guts out.
Image : 9 (8~9/10)
The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.
The Blu-ray edition is an improvement over past DVD presentations. It's brighter, denser and sharper, with backgrounds coming to life as we have never seen them, lending the kind of dimensionality we have come to expect in Blu-ray. Hair, makeup and costumes – all important features of the story and characters - are now eye-poppingly crisp. This said, the original theatrical version on Paramount's now out of print anamorphic widescreen edition from 2000, is excellent for its time. The blacks are nearly as deep as on the BD – the problem is: so are most of the nearly-blacks, making it altogether too dark –as if a noir thriller, which it ain't. Even so, if you can lay your hands on a copy, you shouldn't be without it for the sake of its correct script and pacing.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio & Music : 7
While not an audio demo disc, the effects, music (usually chosen with care by our onscreen DJ) and dialogue are clear and dynamic.
Ed. Barry De Vorzon's (Dillinger, Rolling Thunder, Hard Times, Looker) score - notable is Joe Walsh performing 'In the City" - sounds only acceptable and doesn't have a lossless transfer noticeably lacking depth. Still not updated although there are some loose, modestly pleasing, separations. There are optional subtitles on Paramount's Region FREE Blu-ray disc.
Empathy : 8
The director's comic book inserts, though executed well were, for me, a serious distraction. But the beauty of the image was stunning.
Operations : 7
The menu is straightforward and easy to understand, even though it takes little advantage of the BD medium. The non-enlarging chapter thumbnails identify the scenes well enough.
Extras : 7
Though not in HD, there is an hour-long documentary (also included in the SD DVD of the "Ultimate Director's Cut") that pretty much covers background, casting and style.