Surreal Gangs of New York

I recently caught up with two films from 1979, both very distinctive views of the youth gangs of New York City.  First I saw “The Wanderers” again, first time in many years, after reading the original novel by Richard Price (it was his first book).  The movie is set in the early sixties in the Bronx, when the changes of the sixties were just starting to stir, and the old ways were still going pretty strong.  The main gang we follow are the Wanderers, shown above.  Some of the other gangs are far more strange, such as the Fordham Baldies, below:

The Wanderers occasionally venture outside their home turf, and it’s invariably a mysterious and threatening trip, particularly when they run into the Ducky Boys, a murderous lot.

Then I saw “The Warriors” which I had never seen.  This film was set in contemporary times, and it’s got views of the subways as I remember them from the 1970s, full of graffiti.  In the film, the Warriors hail from Coney Island at the far reaches of Brooklyn, and they venture up to the Bronx for a gathering of the gangs.  After the gathering dissolves into chaos, the Warriors have to make their way back through NYC over the course of a long night, fighting off cops and other gangs.  It’s a comic book vision deriving from classical stories of vastly outnumbered forces stuck deep in enemy territory.  One of the more surreal gangs they battle with are the Baseball Furies, below:

These views of the gangs seem to derive from the nightmares of young teens, finding the world full of menacing older kids who make everyday life a kind of dangerous jungle that must be negotiated with care.  Both films are imaginative looks at a past that seems both far away and innocent in many ways.

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