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HTF HD-DVD Review: The Warriors


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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

PatWahlquist

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Posted July 04 2007 - 03:37 AM


The Warriors (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: R (violence and language)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG4-AVC
Audio: English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; French, Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
Time: 93 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date:1979
HD-DVD Release Date: July 3, 2007

Having never seen director Walter Hill’s The Warriors, I had no idea what to expect. On the surface it appeared to be a then-modern look at a rough and tumble New York street gang and it owed bigger debts of gratitude to West Side Story rather than Colors. The story (framed like a comic book) is about a Coney Island gang, The Warriors, who attend a meeting of all the gangs in New York City to bring peace and organization to their violent lives. When the leader of this meeting, Cyrus (Roger Hill) is shot and killed, a rival gang frames The Warriors for the shooting. The cops show up, the entire congregation scatters, and The Warriors soon figure out they’re being set up. They determine they need to get home to their own turf if there’s any way they’re going to survive and clear their names. The distance from the Bronx to Coney Island is great, and The Warriors encounter many other gangs who want to kill them for what they allegedly did at the meeting. The Warriors remain true to their manly code and push through the various neighborhoods, fighting along the way, hoping they can make it through the night.

As I was watching the picture, I kept asking myself, “Is this for real?” By that I mean the picture in this day comes across as campy and over the top. I readjusted my mind set and tried to put the picture in context of 1979, before gangs received federal notoriety and school kids were killed for wearing red instead of blue or claiming one area code instead of another. My gang movie experience has been the more gritty and recent Colors, [i]Boys in the Hood[/], and American Me, so this picture is a bit odd. The rival gangs all have a specific “thing” that sets them apart: there’s a mime gang, an overall wearing gang, a gang who wears baseball uniforms and paints their faces, a lesbian gang, and so on. As The Warriors moved through NYC, I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting in anticipation for the next gang, then I’d chuckle as they showed up.

But in 1979, as gender roles and racial lines were in flux, the movie makes a lot of sense in its own little world. I found it interesting that each of the gangs had various races as members; The Warriors themselves have a white guy as a leader, and various blacks and Hispanics make up the rest. Hill instead takes race out of it and focuses on the struggle of these street kids to protect what is theirs while still trying to get by. These guys (and one chick) live in a tough world where every thing is about pride, bravado, machismo and fighting; there is little time for such common things as jobs or educations, and they’re fine with that. Hill drives this point home in my favorite scene in the movie where The Warriors leader, Swan (Michael Beck) and his new girl, Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) encounter two couples of obvious prestige on the subway. In this wordless scene, the characters come face to face with what life may be like if things went the other way, and Swan and Mercy make no excuses for their place in the world. Hill’s picture does the same thing, perhaps marking a cinematic transition from the west side into the hood.

Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

The picture is framed at 1.85:1, and it is encoded in MPEG4-AVC at 1080p. The picture takes place mainly outside at night, and I will warn you in advance, this picture is dark. Thankfully, the transfer handles it very well, with the black levels remaining rock solid throughout and showing a good amount of detail. Once the picture lightens up a bit (in the interior scenes) we can clearly see how stunning this HD transfer is. Detail is exceptional showing great delineation in the small background objects. Sharpness seems to be just a little high, but that’s a very minor complaint. Colors are somewhat dingy, but it seems to be intentional as it contributes to the mood of the story. NYC shows all of its dirt and grime and it and the movie’s characters wear it proudly. Edge enhancement is minimal. I did not notice any compression artifacts or video noise, and there were only a couple minor instances of film dirt. This is another excellent video presentation from Paramount.


Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track engaged. There was not a lot of activity outside of the fronts and I barely noticed any surround activity. The fronts convey most of the information, and they make for a very convincing soundstage with good blending of the front three channels. When the music comes up, the surrounds seem to kick in for ambience. The soundtrack sounds dated and ADR is noticeable. There also seemed to be some mild lip syncing issues occasionally, and it may have just been poor looping. The soundtrack is clear and clean and free of any distortion. LFE’s were barely noticed.


Bonus Material:
With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG-2 encoding unless otherwise noted.

Introduction by Walter Hill (1:46): Hill does a brief intro to this new director’s cut, which he seems rather ambivalent about…

The Beginning (14:05): Hill, Producer Larry Gordon and other members of the cast and crew reflect on how the project got started and their thoughts on the production.

Battleground (15:23): the cast and crew discuss the logistical problems of the shoot. They focus on the meeting at the beginning of the picture, as well as stunts of it. Everyone then goes deeper into their characters motivations and themes of the plot.

The Way Home (18:06): this part continues with more stories from the production, including costuming of the Baseball Furies, the lighting, the way Hill shot the fight scenes and the way the picture was edited. They then go on to discuss the Lizzies and the cultural significance of them at the time. Other specific scenes are also discussed in more detail.

The Phenomenon (15:22): the group talks about the end of shooting and the impact of the picture once it was released. The original opening is shown and why it wasn’t used, and there is a discussion of the synthy score.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:02): in HD from a very used print.


Conclusions:
This campy, comic book classic makes its debut on the HD format with a great transfer and a nice set of extras. Hopefully, you’ll come out and playayyy with The Warriors.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted July 04 2007 - 04:52 AM

Come out and play!!!
Thanks for the review.
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Chris Gerhard

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Posted July 06 2007 - 03:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed St. Clair
Come out and play!!!
Thanks for the review.

I think you mean:

"Warriors, come out to play-e-yay"

I remember this one very well and it was quite controversial with gang members showing up at theaters and some gang violence in several cities during the theatrical run. I don't find it offensive at all and the comic book style of storytelling is perfect. I have no desire to watch it again, even in HD, but for those that haven't seen it, Pat's review is good to help you make a determination about whether you will find it worthwhile if you aren't familiar with it. This is one of those movies that has stuck with me for decades.

"Can you dig it?"

Chris

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   ppltd

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Posted July 06 2007 - 11:07 AM

Pat, thanks for taking the time to review this minor classic. This movie holds up very well for a 20 year old feature, and Paramount did a fine job putting this HD DVD release together.
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