The Warriors (1979) Classic Movie Review 62

The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors (1979)

This is what we fought all night to get back to?

This is the final of the series about people trying to go somewhere or get somethings done and there are obstacles in the way which includes – The Train (1964), The General (1926), The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), The Command (1954), and today’s episode The Warriors (1979).

Today’s movie is the classic gang adventure, The Warriors (1979). So I won’t waste any time and I’ll jump right into the cast rundown.

Michael Beck played Warrior war-chief Swan. Beck was born in Memphis in 1949. Beck went to Millsaps College in Mississippi on a football scholarship. He began acting in plays during his college years. Following college Beck was selected to attend the London’s Central School of Speech and Drama.

The Warriors (1979) Reunion

The Warriors (1979) Reunion

Beck was a very popular young actor with The Warriors (1979). However his next three movies kind of slammed the door on his acting career. He played Sonny Malone in Xanadu (1980) with Olivia-Newton John and Gene Kelly. Xanadu was universally panned. Beck even state The Warriors (1979) opened a lot of doors in film, for me, which Xanadu (1980) then closed. However at some point in the future I may make a case for how this movie was a tribute to Singing in the Rain (1952) and Cover Girl (1944) and that most people missed the point.

Beck was next in Megaforce (1982) with one of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) stars – Barry Bostwick. Again I think most people missed the point this movie which was supposed to be humorously bad. His character Dallas wore a Confederate patch to identify his nation. I mean really it was tongue in cheek. Finally he was in Triumphs of a Man Called Horse (1983) as Koda but this this movie could not overcome the age of star Richard Harris or the thin plot. Beck has continued to work in every decade, including work on television. His most recent credit was in 2015.

James Remar played Ajax, the Warrior that always wanted conflict. Remar has had an almost four decade long career consisting of work in many genres. His first movie was a prison drama – On the Yard (1978). This was followed by The Warriors (1979). Remar has been in a lot of movies that I would put in my favorite list. The First of these is Windwalker (1980) about a Cheyenne family under attack from a band of Crow. That same year The Long Riders (1980) premiered which had the Keach brothers as the James brother, the Carradine brothers as the Younger brothers, and the Quaid brothers as the Miller brothers in this Jessie James gang tale. Remar played the psychotic killers in 48 Hrs. (1982) and in The Cotton Club (1984). He played Neanderthal Creb in Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) and was the evil drug lord in Band of the Hand (1986). In Renaissance Man (1994) he played the straight man to Danny DeVito’s antics on a military base.

On cable he has been on “Sex and the City” 1998 and “Dexter” 2006. He was killed twice as two different characters in Django Unchained (2012). He continues to act and has a film coming out in 2016.

David Harris played Warrior gang member Cochise. Born in New York, I’m seeing a trend, in 1959, he is known basically for three movies. The movies are The Warriors (1979), A Soldier’s Story (1984) and Maniac (2013).

Deborah Van Valkenburgh played the role of gang girl Mercy. Born in New York, I’m seeing a trend, in 1952 this talented actress, singer, and writer now lives in LA. Her first movie was The Warriors (1979). The majority of her work has not been in film. Following The Warriors (1979) Valkenburgh was on “Too Close for Comfort”, a popular sitcom from 1980-1985. She was in the futurist Streets of Fire (1984) and did the horror thing in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects (2005). She still performs in movies, television, and other mediums.

Roger Hill played the role of Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs gang. Hill was born in New York, I’m seeing a trend, in 1948. Hill didn’t have much of career. He was on the soap opera “One Life to Live” 1968 for a while. He had two movie credits: The Education of Sonny Carson (1974) and The Warriors (1979). Hill filed a quarter-million dollar suite against the video company for using his voice and likeness in a video game based on The Warriors (1979). Hill died in 2014 of a heart attack.

David Patrick Kelly played Luther, the leader of the Rogues gang. Kelly was born in Detroit in 1951. Graduated Cum Laude in Fine Arts from the University of Detroit. He was also a student of Marcel Marceau. Kelly’s first movie was The Warriors (1979). Kelly also played a killer named Luther in 48 Hrs. (1982) opposite James Remar. He was cast into a lot of similar roles such as Commando (1985), Wild at Heart (1990), and The Crow (1994). He is still making movies.

Lynne Thigpen played the role of the DJ. Lynne Thigpen was born in Illinois in 1948. Thigpen was active in theater through her college years. Following college she taught English but the stage bug got her and she headed to New York.

In 1971 she was cast in the theater version of Godspell, a new age gospel story. In 1973 when they made Godspell (1973) into a movie Thigpen was selected for a role. Thigpen continued singing and acting in theater through the 1970s and in 1981, she earned a Tony nomination for her work in ‘Tintypes.”

It was at this point that she made her movie into television and film. During her career she had almost 40 television and film roles. Many of her roles were supporting but her deep and unique voice brought her extra attention. She seemed to standout in minor roles.

She played the role of the gang DJ in The Warriors (1979). In this movie they only showed her lips talking into the microphone but there was no doubt who was talking.

Other movies included Tootsie (1982), Sweet Liberty (1986) as a film crew manger, Hello Again (1987), Running on Empty (1988), and in Lean on Me (1989) where she was an irate parent angling for a job.

Outside of film she was Chief on the PBS series “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” (1991) and the video game “Carmen Sandiego Great Chase Through Time” (1999). She received four Emmy nominations during this time. She also voiced Luna in Bear in the Big Blue House 1997-1999.

She was also doing recurring roles on television shows such as L.A. Law. The 1990s and early 2000s found Thigpen back in theater and making movies such as Random Hearts (1999), Bicentennial Man (1999), Shaft (2000), and her final film Anger Management (2003). Prior to the release of Anger Management (2003) Thigpen died suddenly as the result of cerebral hemorrhage. This wonderful actress was taken away too soon.

Mercedes Ruehl played the undercover Policewoman in the park. Ruehl was born in New York, I’m seeing a trend, in 1948 and started working in film in 1976. Her best known films in The Fisher King (1991), Married to the Mob (1988), Last Action Hero (1993), Lost in Yonkers (1993), and Roseanna’s Grave (1997).


This movie begins with a shot of the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. It switch to a subway train containing members of the Warriors. The plot is revealed in short conversations. They are heading to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for a giant gang meeting called by Cyrus leader of the largest gang in the city the Gramercy Riffs. There is a montage of gangs heading towards the destination. Each group is bring nine delegates and no weapons. The Warriors are a multi-racial television gang. Blacks, whites, and mixed.

The leader of the Warriors Cleon (Dorsey Wright), explains that Cyrus has called a city wide truce. Cyrus is spoken about in messianic terms like “the one and only.” The Warriors show a large range of emotions such as idol worship, curiosity, fear, and contempt.

When the Warriors get to the park there are over 100 gangs present. Wearing a silk Kung Fu outfit Cyrus (Roger Hill) comes out and delivers a great motivational speech. The essence of the speech is the gangs can be 100,000 strong if they stop fighting over their little piece of turf because there are only 20,000 cops in the city. Cyrus punctuates each point with an over the top “can you dig it?”

Police cruisers are slowly moving in to position around the park. Everyone is buying into the speech except Luther (David Patrick Kelley), president of the Rogues. Luther who I often mistake for Getty Lee of Rush has brought a gun. As Cyrus climbs the jungle gym and continues his speech Luther shoots and kills Cyrus. Since most of the crowd was watching Cyrus very few people saw what Luther did. Luther turns to see Fox (Thomas G. Waites) one of the Warriors has witnessed the assassination. Before Luther can shoot Fox the police turn on the spotlights temporarily blinding him.

Everything goes wild with people running in every direction. Cleon, a true believer goes forward to see if Cyrus was still alive. Luther starts pointing at Celon and yelling “That’s him! The guy who shot Cyrus!” Other Rogues chime in as they rush Celon. Luther is still screaming “The Warriors did it! The Warriors did it!” Cleon puts the smack down on the Rouges but when the Gramercy Riffs, who are all trained in martial art, join in and kill Cleon.

The remaining Warriors break through a fence and end up in a cemetery. Swan (Michael Beck), who as war chief is presumed to be the best fighter is second in command of the gang. When Swan says they are going to the subway to head back to Coney Island, Ajax (James Remar) challenges Swan’s right to lead. The other gang members choose Swan and they head out trying to stick together.

They head for the subway wondering if the truce is still on, having no idea that their gang is accused of killing Cyrus. Since they are wearing their gang colors there is no way for them to blend in and they don’t have any weapons.

Masai (Edward Sewer), the new Riff leader tells his gang to get the word out that he wants the Warriors taken alive if possible. The Riffs contact an affiliate, local radio DJ (Lynne Thigpen). DJ puts out the word that all gangs should be on the lookout for the Warriors because they broke the truce. She then dedicates the song by “Nowhere To Run” by Martha and The Vandellas. While the song is playing there is a montage of gangs getting ready to go after the Warriors.

The Warriors hide below an elevated subway platform rather than being exposed on an open platform. Ajax is still belly-aching. A school bus filled with a skinhead gang, the Turnbull ACs roles down the street slowly. The Warriors sprint across the street ahead of the bus and make it on the train.

Masai of the Riffs finds out that the Turnbulls’ failed to stop the Warriors. Around the same time Luther finds out that the Riffs are trying to catch the Warriors alive. Luther is afraid the Riffs will find out that he is the shooter so his gang begins looking for the Warriors as well.

The Warriors are happy that they made the train and feel they are home free. However their joy is soon dashed when the next platform is on fire. This is obviously gang-related but the never show the arsonist.

They have to make it to the next platform on foot and this takes them through the Orphans turf. The Orphans are a low rent gang that wasn’t invited to the conclave because of their small size. The Orphans have no idea that every gang is the city is looking for the Warriors. Swan approached the leader (Paul Greco) and flatters him a little bit saying they have heard of the Orphans. The leader says that the Warriors can move through their territory in peace. However, a girl named Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) taunts the leader calling him a chicken. Embarrassed the leader tells the Warriors they have to take off their gang colors to pass through Orphan turf. Swan refuse and the Orphans fall back. As the Warriors move forward the Orphans reappear armed and ready to fight. Mercy has followed the Warriors and Ajax catches her. Before the fighting starts Snow (Brian Tyler) pulls out a Molotov cocktail and Swan throws at a car by the Orphans. Wait! Where was he carrying that? The Warriors run past the flames and the Orphans don’t pursue them. When the Warriors get to the next station Mercy is still hanging with them.

The DJ airs the news that the Orphans’ didn’t slow down the wanted gang. Luther gets news about the Warriors as well and starts to show his psycho side. The Warriors, especially Vermin (Terry Michos) are frustrated that the trains are not moving. When a single cop walks by the Warriors run dividing into three groups.

Fox and Mercy run down the platform together. A cop steps out from behind one of the pillars, and tackles Fox. As Fox and the cop struggle, Fox is tossed onto the track and killed by an incoming train. Since Mercy is running away she does not see Fox die.

Vermin, Cochise (David Harris), and Rembrandt (Marcelino Sanchez) get past the cops and board a train for Union Square, which is the designated meeting place.

Ajax, Swan, Snow, and Cowboy (Tom Mckitterick) also get away from the cops and exit the subway station. Outside they find the Baseball Furies waiting for them. The Furies wear New York Yankee uniforms and have their faces pained like KISS. They all carry baseball bats. The four Warriors in this group run into a nearby park. As the Furies chase them Swan and Snow veer out and circle around behind them. I think this is Roger Rangers rule number 17. Ajax and Cowboy stop running and the advancing Furies are hit from front and rear. Swan and Ajax are such good fighters that they disarm some of the Furies and use their bats on them. All of the Furies are left lying on the ground in agony. The DJ tells of the Furies failure and chides the gangs for their bad performance.

Vermin, Cochise and Rembrandt arrive at Union Square. On the platform they see six young women giving them the eye. Of course they also miss all the signs that the females are lesbians. The Warrior are invited to the girl’s clubhouse to party. Rembrandt, the youngest, thinks this is a bad idea. At the clubhouse they meet the leader of the Lizzies (Lisa Mauer). Cochise and Vermin start making out with a couple of the girls but Rembrandt is walking around acting creepy. On cue the door is locked and the Lizzie leader pulls out a gun and says “So you guys are the famous Warriors? The guys who shot Cyrus.” Rembrandt yells a warning and the three break through the door in a hail of gun fire. Rembrandt is cut on the arm by one of the girls. This is the first time the Warriors realized they are being hunted.

Swan and his gang continue through the park. They pass a lady (Mercedes Ruehl) sitting on a park bench. She acts like she has been shooting up. She smiles as they pass and Ajax can’t resist. He must be a Viking – no impulse control. The others try to discourage him but he won’t stop. The three leave Ajax on the bench with the women but after a bit Cowboy and Snow go back to check on Ajax. Swan continues on towards Union Station. The women on the bench is an undercover cop and she handcuffs Ajax to the bench and starts blowing a whistle. There is nothing the pair can do for him so they head towards Union Station.

Swan gets back to the train station and finds Mercy still waiting there. After a cop spots them the pair runs into a tunnel. Mercy puts the moves on Swan but he ain’t having it. Swan continues on with Mercy following. At Union Station wearing overalls and skates, the Punks gang leader is following Swan.

Snow, Cowboy, Cochise, Rembrandt, and Vermin have all reunited at Union Station. When Swan sees his gang he signals them to lead the Punks into the men’s room. The Warriors hide in the stalls and on the signal attack the Punks. They use Rembrandt’s spray paint to blind some of the Punks. Mercy joins in the fighting on the Warriors side. Swan picks up a switchblade from one of the punks.

At Riff headquarters, Masai is told that there are witness that saw Luther shoot Cyrus. The remaining six Warriors along with Mercy board the train that will take them home. On the train are a pair of promo couples. Mercy is embarrassed by her dirty face and cheap clothes. She starts touching her hair with one hand and Swan pulls it away signaling that she should respect herself.

When Swan gets off the train he say “This is what we fought all night to get back too?” He and Mercy talk about traveling to somewhere better.

As the Sun rises over the ocean the group of seven walks through the streets feeling that their journey is over. Then they see that Luther and the Rogues are following in a car. The Warriors run under a pier and gather boards, sticks, bats, and pipes for weapons. Swan has the switchblade tucked down his back.

Luther does this thing where he puts pony beer bottle on his fingers and sings “Warriors come out to play” in a high falsetto. See the Getty Lee thing. It makes everyone watching the movie want to kill Luther. IMDB says this scene was improvised by Kelly.

The two gangs face each other on the beach. Swan asks Luther why he killed Cyrus, to which the Luther replies: “No reason. I just… like doing things like that.” Swan tries to get Luther to fight him man on man but Luther knows he would be beaten. Luther takes aim at Swan with his gun but Swan throws the switchblade into Luther’s wrist causing him to drop the gun.

At this point an Army of Gramercy Riffs show up on the beach. Fearless Swan asks whether the Riffs are still looking for them. Masai replies, as he looks towards Luther and the frightened Rouges, that they have found what they’re looking for. Masai tells the Warriors that they are “good, real good.” Swan replies “the best.” The Riffs open up and make a path for the Warriors to leave. The Riffs surround Luther and the Rouges as he begs for his life. They use martial arts to kill Luther and the Rouges.

The DJ says the alert is cancelled as the six Warriors walk down the beach. Swan is holding Mercy’s hand. The DJ plays “In the City” by The Eagles. They are glad to be home and by the ocean. But will Swan and Mercy find something better or will they follow the line of the song “when your down that’s where you’ll stay?”

World-Famous Short Summary – A group of cowboys must cross Indian Territory

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Beware the moors

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