The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut Blu-ray Review
PicturePresented in its original 1.85:1 aspect, this AVC MPEG-4 transfer is a revelation for those who have only seen the film on VHS or the bog-standard DVD release that came out a good while ago. The print has been thoroughly cleaned-up and is the same one that graced the recent SD edition of this Director's Cut, but now in 1080p the film looks appreciably sharper and bestows a much more apparent sense of depth and colour. Damage is virtually non-existent and grain has been all but removed - only traces of it can be seen, whereas many versions that I have seen before have been stippled with it, especially against the darker areas of the image. Which, naturally, brings me on to the black levels of this transfer. Well, refreshingly for what is now a vintage movie, blacks are strong and deep and feature hardly any fall-off to grey throughout. Shadow-play is excellent and detail within the darker portions of the picture is never squandered. With the overwhelming majority of the movie set during the night-time and outside, the image really does a fine job of maintaining good crisp definition, depth of field and accurate depiction of the lighting sources used. For instance, during the Baseball Furies chase and subsequent fight in Central Park, older versions suffered from blacks that literally ate up everything except the characters themselves, with the lights in the trees appearing terribly muted, indistinct and ill-looking. Now they shine out - softly, yes, but surely and with a realistic glow. When Swan and Snow split off to double-back on their bizarre pursuers, we can now clearly see them moving off into the shadows much further away than on original versions in which they simply vanished, and then when they reappear behind the last of the Furies there exhibit more clarity.
Detail is terrific now, as well. Check out the wonderfully clean and sharp image of Ajax - eyes shining, sweat glistening, every stitch in his Warriors' vest on show - as he awaits that phenomenally big-chinned cop. Look at the signs on the subway walls, you can now clearly read much, much more than on previous transfers, and the rubbish on street corners, rain-slicked railings and the grass and leaves in the park all have much more finite definition. The big meeting at the start features multitudes of gangs, in all colours and get-ups, and the crowd scenes are now better defined and with individuals in the background easy to pick out. The wet roads and sidewalks exhibit a realistic sheen which makes wide shots and distance shots look marvellously composed and stylish.
On the compression front, you may notice some slow-filtering of the thick red background in the DJ's studio and a smidgen of noise. But edge enhancement, motion-drag and smearing pose no problems. So, for a gritty and dark film from 1979, this transfer of The Warriors is a real treat.
SoundRemixed into DD 5.1, The Warriors packs a little bit more oomph than ever before and benefits from multi-channel openness with a spatially wider front and more dynamism offered to the action sequences. It is no match for more recent movies that were designed with surround sound in mind, obviously, but the new mix doesn't sound bogus or irritatingly out of place, or synch, with the original onscreen action. Of course, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that the rears sit most of the film out with nothing to do. But there is still some sense of ambience thrown out from them to add to the atmosphere.
The score now sounds alive and vibrant, as opposed to the low-level mush that once adorned the film, with de Vorzon's cues for The Fight (with The Punks), the Baseball Furies Chase and the ominous, sliding synths of the main title theme reaching out from the speakers with much more presence than before. Sadly, dialogue can still be slightly swamped by the effects or the score or lost just in the track as it has always been prone to be, but nowhere nearly as bad as before.
The comic-frame scene-changes feature nice stereo pans and there is some extra swoosh! to the baseball bats swinging across the image to listen out for. Otherwise, the main additions are to be found with clearer presentations of Luther's bottle-clacking taunts and the grim sounds of the Riffs' chains and weaponry as they close in for the kill. So, it may not be the most engrossing of soundtracks, nor perhaps that deserving of rears and a sub - even the car blowing up barely registers - but the new mix definitely enhances the film. So, that's a guarded thumbs-up from me.
ExtrasOk, so there's no commentary from Hill, or the stars - which really would have been the ace up its sleeve - but we do get a four-part retrospective charting the production and impact of the film, its original theatrical trailer (in 1080p, no less) and a new introduction to this Ultimate Director's Cut.
Walter Hill's brief introduction to the movie spells out in matter-of-fact terms why this version needed to see the light of day. Hill is a brusque man, with a frontier attitude akin to the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks and, especially, his overriding influence and idol, Sam Peckinpah. And, unlike those Hollywood heavy-hitters and studio anti-heroes, at least he is still alive to pass comment on his work. In time, I hope that he revisits all of his 80's films because there really are some classics on his CV. Films such as 48 hrs, Extreme Prejudice and, my favourite of all of his work, the seminal Southern Comfort, would all become gold if he offered his thoughts and insight into their creation.
Naturally, during the Laurent Bouzereau-produced documentary, he takes a lot of time to discuss his ideas for the film and how the studio and his producers nudged him in the more comic-book direction that he eventually took. There is talk from him and his producers Larry Gordon and Frank Marshall about the original book from Sol Yurick that inspired the movie, but the real joy is meeting some of the cast members again. Only a handful of them ever went on to do anything else notable, but it is simply great to see Michael Beck - who looks strangely like makeup-supremo Rick Baker now - James Remar, David Harris, the terrific David Patrick Kelly and the mush-lipped Deborah Van Valkenburgh fondly recalling their turf-war days. There are copious anecdotes - everybody has a good story or two to tell - and the problems of night-shooting, fight choreography and a cast that is forever running and running are all addressed. It is nice to see Walter Hill actually break into a grin from time to time and there is some teasing talk of the subplot that involved Mercy initially falling for Fox and how their onscreen chemistry just didn't spark. In fact, it becomes clear that Thomas Waites had quite a few difficulties during the production that may actually have resulted in the nasty demise of his character. It is also curious to note that, even though he did go on to other movies afterwards, he doesn't return to wax lyrical about this one. And, if look at the credits, his name is no longer amongst them.
Andrew Laszlo takes the time to discuss how he lit and lensed the film and Barry de Vorzon reminds us how his music serves to emphasize the non-stop, kinetic momentum that Hill wanted to achieve. There are even some brief shots of the conceptual artwork that went into designing the look of the various gangs. And, finally, we get to see some of the footage from the original opening, in which we meet Cleon's girlfriend (Pamela Poitier) warning her man about his impending trip to the big city. This footage apparently appears in some US TV prints of the film in its entirety, but the makers assure us that these brief daylight moments ruin the mood of the movie. Personally, I think it would have been better to see the full thing as a proper deleted scene but, at least, we get a taste of it.
This selection of featurettes - under the individual titles of The Beginning, Battleground, The Way Home and The Phenomenon - totals about an hour in all, but we don't get the luxury of a Play All option which, considering that they were culled from what was obviously the same documentary, seems a little odd to me.
Overall, this is a marvellous package. It may not look like much when taken on face value, but the 4-part making of is thorough, fact-packed and certainly covers all the bases you can think of when regarding the production of The Warriors, its notoriety and the richly deserved acclaim that makes it the cult favourite that it remains to this day.
VerdictTo my astonishment and delight, Walter Hill's early action-opus actually benefits from the little tweaks he has made to this Director's Cut, and the film not only now defies its age and era with comic-book stylings that take it into an even more heightened realm, but becomes an even greater and cannier urban fantasy. Folks, I loved this movie when I was a teen-rampager and although I've spent many years apart from it, the reunion with The Warriors has been as exciting, vibrant, fresh and outrageous as the very first time I saw it. Eminently quotable, audaciously produced and jam-packed with wild, larger-then-life characters, this is ripe for re-evaluation.
The disc has a great new transfer that presents the movie with the best image it has ever had - clean, colourful and brasher then ever before. Extras-wise, the once-great Walter Hill does a fine job of introducing his new cut and talking us through its conception, production and cult aftermath. And it is great to see the likes of James Remar, Michael Beck, David Harris and David Patrick Kelly kick back and reminisce about the time they ran wild through the streets with the pack. Excellent stuff, folks. CAN ... YOUUUUU ... DIG ... IT?
“Yeah - RIGHT!”
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.57
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