Now Playing! ‘The Warriors’ Come Out to Alamo Drafthouse, Can You Dig It?

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The big dudes of Coney Island in Walter Hill's low-budget 1979 classic 'The Warriors.' (Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse)

The SFFILM Festival (April 4-17 at various San Francisco theaters and BAMPFA in Berkeley) corrals the spotlight and several venues this week and next with its far-flung survey of the state of the art of contemporary narratives and on-the-scene documentaries. But if it’s time-warp escapist fun you crave, dive into the late-1970s New York City cesspool of The Warriors at Alamo Drafthouse (Wednesday, April 4 at 7:45pm). Set in a near future where youth gangs rule the streets and subways in Jim Morrison-meets-greaser chic summerwear (and other “uniforms”), The Warriors sets the titular band of Coney Island outcasts on a collision course with every mob of mayhem-minded misfits.

Walter Hill’s 1979 low-budget feature opened at rundown, downtown movie palaces around Lincoln’s birthday, attracting action/exploitation fans along with anarchy-minded punks. The movie provoked a tempest-teapot furor in moribund metropolises like New York on the assumption it would incite impressionable youths into spray-painting graffiti on frigging everything and smashing their decaying city’s remaining unbroken windows. That didn’t happen, although Paramount got cold feet and yanked the movie when a couple real-life rival gangs got into it after crossing paths at theaters.

What was once controversial is now camp, and it’s easier today to see The Warriors as a flamboyant combination of classic Greek legend and quintessential American freedom quest (with a hint of West Side Story) rather than a political incitement. This would be a good time for Hill, whose 48 Hrs. stands as one of the best movies ever made in San Francisco, to receive a retrospective in the Bay Area.