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Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering The Warriors: Behind the chaotic, drug-fuelled, and often terrifying making of a cult classic


...Amid the refurbished boardwalk and laughter of children, it's easy to forget that Coney Island was once a place where tourists did not venture. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, street gangs dominated this neighborhood. They ran rampant through the area's neglected housing projects, tearing along Surf and Neptune avenues toward West 8th Street. Those gangs, or gangs like them, and that incarnation of Coney Island would form the backbone of author Sol Yurick's 1965 debut novel, The Warriors, about the young members of a street gang. More than a decade after the novel's publication it would be optioned and, eventually, turned into a major motion picture of the same name.
Shot almost entirely on location in the streets, trains, and subway stations of New York, the film was released with great fanfare — and controversy — and, to this day, maintains a rabid fan base around the world. In the last decade it has enjoyed a new relevance as an oft-referenced pop-cultural touchstone with the release of various comic books, video games, and modernized action figures, thrilling old fans while picking up new ones along the way. Because while The Warriors is in many ways a fantastical journey — more spaghetti western than cinéma vérité — it nonetheless portrayed something true about Coney Island, the five boroughs, and America at that time. In the Seventies, when Coney Island's first low-income housing complex, Carey Gardens, was built, there were gangs that ruled nearly every neighborhood in New York. They were born out of the street crews and underserved ghettos of the Fifties and Sixties. During the crack epidemic of the Eighties, the gang situation would go from bad to worse, but the five boroughs were already reaching record highs in homicide rates. By the time The Warriors was in production in the summer of 1978, an atmosphere of danger hung menacingly over the city....



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