For Thursday, March 23, we’re going to take a detour and watch and discuss the film The Warriors (Walter Hill director, Paramount Pictures, 1979) .
To prepare, read this Village Voice feature on the film and its legacy.
Also skim the storyline from the official film website.
The film is set largely at night, in 17970s New York, and mostly on trains, so mobility and movement is a major theme, as is the noir feel, coming from the gritty, underground nature of the city at that time and the emphasis on (fictional) streetgangs.
This is a contrast to some of what we’ve read so far, as it offers a dystopian (and somewhat anarchic) view of New York as a crumbling city in crisis, which is not far off the reality of the period, as NYC was emerging from a crippling fiscal crisis.
Optional: Surf around the film website, especially list of shooting locations. Also, the plot loosely mirrors actual events, as a early 1970s gang truce in the South Bronx was precipitated by the killing of a member of the Ghetto Brothers–who then decided not to retaliate. This is also a crucial moment in the formation of hip hop, as the gangs began to channel their energy into creative output. (See Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop for a fuller account)
For more background on actual 1970s New York street gangs, Henry Chalfant’s Flyin’ Cut Sleeves is essential viewing, and includes a lot of footage used in later films. It’s on YouTube as of this writing.
The documentary From Mambo to Hip Hop focuses specifically on the early period of hip hop and evolution of Bronx street gangs. It’s also on YouTube (as of now) and embedded below.