• Wanderers, The



    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: March 28, 2017.
    Director: Philip Kaufman
    Cast: Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Linda Manz, Alan Rosenberg, Tony Ganios
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    It's The Bronx, 1963, and the street gangs of the day strut their stuff on their respective corners, toughly showcasing their colours and staking out their turf. No racial group is left behind in the era of the gang; the all-Black Del Bombers, the Asian-dominated Wongs, the Caucasian-with-some-exceptions Baldies, and the Italian collective known as The Wanderers rule the streets, occasionally straying across territorial boundaries to do battle with one another. It's during one such altercation that Wanderer Joey (John Friedrich), gang leader Richie (Ken Wahl), aspiring Baldie Turkey (Alan Rosenberg) and the rest of their buddies find themselves in a dead end of an alley, about to suffer the violent wrath of the enormous Terror (Erland Van Lidth De Jeude) and the the rest of the skinheaded Fordham Baldies.

    Fate, however, intervenes in the form of the muscular Perry (Tony Ganios), the matchstick-chewing new kid from Jersey, who packs a powerful punch and an intolerance for unfair fights. Within seconds, he's laid out 11 of the Baldies effortlessly, gaining the awe of The Wanderers, who extend an invitation to join their gang. Realizing that being in a gang...an ITALIAN gang...is a necessity of survival in the violent neighbourhood, Perry accepts, to the joy of his new neighbor Joey. The timing is great for Richie and The Wanderers, but not so much for Perry, who gets a taste of his new neighbourhood in the form of a racial confrontation with Clinton Stitch and the Black Del Bombers in History class. With a rumble planned for the coming Saturday, Richie tries desperately to rally other neighbourhood gangs to help The Wanderers in their fight, but fails. Again, fate intercedes in the form of local connected guy Chubby Galasso (Dolph Sweet)....who also happens to be the father of Richie's girlfriend, Despie....and the proposed rumble becomes a proposed football game with the Wanderers squaring off against the Del Bombers, with mob money playing heavily into the betting pool.

    With the threat of serious bodily harm out of the way for the foreseeable future, Richie and his boys are free to get up to their usual hijinks, including the game staple, "Elbow-Tit", giving each of the lads a chance to cop a free feel from the good looking ladies in the neighbourhood. But Richie's victim, Nina (Karen Allen) turns the tables on the young hood, and he falls hard for her, leading to an incredibly awkward situation with his girl, and turmoil in the gang that threatens its undoing. A run-in with the notoriously deadly Ducky Boys gang sends the shattered Wanderers further askew and casts an ominous presence over the upcoming game; "Wanderers Forever!" is their motto, but can Richie, Joey, and Perry pull things back together before it's all gone for good?

    I'll be the first to admit that I am a sucker for movies that showcase the era of the 50's and 60's, and The Wanderers hits all of the right marks. Colourful gangs with unique uniforms, rumbles, switchblades, cool cars, greasy hair, beehives, and music...it's all here, and here in abundance. While Richard Price's book, the source material of the film, contains a number of short stories, the film weaves them together and gives all of the players a heap of character. Amazingly, most of these actors were unheard of or had never acted when they were cast, and that somehow leads to them turning in some of the most convincing performances put to film. One-dimensional is not the nature of the writing here, either, and each role gives the viewer something tangible to sink their teeth into, whether it's the complexity of Richie's torn allegiances, Joey's attempt to find a meaningful relationship in lieu of loving parents, Nina's innocence and her inability to fit in with Richie's way of life, or Despie's determination to stand by her man, no matter what happens.

    The sights and sounds of the film are no less impressive than the stellar cast. First off, Chapman's cinematography and Kaufman's direction are perfectly suited and firing on all cylinders here. The interiors and exteriors featured here lend an air of authenticity, and the direction through these established set pieces keeps the action moving when it needs to, and lingers as required. In any event, the film seems to move quickly from start to finish, as the viewer takes in the Bronx, the violence, the romance, and the comedy in what can only be described as perfect. And the soundtrack; Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons, the Surfaris, and of course, Dion and the Belmonts; the music seems that it never stops, and it accentuates the film to a tee. Writing, acting, direction, music...The Wanderers is SO on from start to finish, it can certainly be forgiven for the few moments of cheese that are sprinkled here and there, and the rather open-ended moral objective...if there is one. The Wanderers is not a forgiving film. It is not American Graffiti. There are many moments that lack what we call, "Political Correctness", and part of the criticism leveled at the film is for that very reason. And it is for that very reason that The Wanderers remains relevant; in the company of similar films, it retains both honesty and sincerity.

    Wanderers Forever!

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Wanderers Theatrical Cut comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer that defied my expectations...to be honest, I'm still a little pissed about their Porky's sequels disc...which is to say that it looks absolutely stellar. Blacks are deep and noise-free, colour saturation is wonderful, and although the aesthetic employed by Kaufman and cinematographer Michael Chapman doesn't lend itself to popping colours, the dynamic range on display is breathtaking. Dirt, debris, and damage are non-existent in this version, and grain is abundant but not overbearing. This is just a fantastic job, presenting the film beautifully, with each individual greasy strand of hair and acne spot clearly visible. A long way from the Kino discs of old that exhibited next to no restoration.

    The Theatrical Cut is available with an Introduction, which is essentially a text crawl that talks about Kaufman's son inspiring his parents to work on the film, and Kaufman's enthusiasm over the reissue.

    Audio is handled courtesy of a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, and although it does get a little busy at time...most notably during scenes where music is playing and there's a lot of action taking place, such as the Baldies chase at the beginning...it does pretty well. At times, the age of the track shows, but it's essentially distortion-free and decently balanced with dialogue remaining clear for much of the running time. English subtitles are available as well.

    A commentary with Director Philip Kaufman is available with the theatrical cut, and while it is fairly gappy at times, he does provide a wealth of information, including the transition of the book to film, casting the roles and the different actors that were brought on board, as well as the shooting techniques he used and the aesthetic he was going for. Kaufman also touches on the lack of political correctness in the film, gang culture in the 60's, and the racism and other themes that The Wanderers attempts to address.

    The Preview Cut on Disc 2 offers a slightly longer (approximately six minutes) cut of the film, and it's amazing to see this released (at the time of this writing it has not appeared on any other version, including the German Blu-ray release that came out from Koch). Much of the extra footage is dialogue-driven, with Joey finally clearing up what those animals on the 5th floor are doing to the elevator, as well as some extra interaction between Turkey and the Ducky Boys at the church. One scene, however, changes the dynamic of two characters considerably, though I'm not inclined to give spoilers, here. It is worth noting that the Preview Cut is framed at 1.78:1, also AVC-encoded, and though it does play nicely, the restoration work done on the theatrical version has been skipped here. The picture here leans toward a red tint for most of the running time, though it's certainly not unbearable, and dirt, debris, edit marks, and other visual distractions do come up often. That being said, having watched the two versions back-to-back, the Preview Cut viewing was my preferred viewing, giving the film a bit of grit while seeing the extra scenes for the first time.

    The Preview Cut is available with a short (40 seconds) introduction by Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, and Tony Ganios.

    Audio on the Preview Cut fares about as well as the picture quality, in that it's perfectly serviceable but not without flaw. Occasional drops in quality are present, but dialogue is still clear and coherent throughout, with nothing that stands out as unacceptable. English subs are also available for this version.

    A commentary is provided by Columbia University Film Professor and author of biography, "Philip Kaufman" Annette Insdorf. This is a HUGELY informative commentary, and it is also very scholarly and extremely dry. Insdorf clearly knows the subject of the Director inside and out, and has no problem commenting on every aspect of the film, including the cast, the multiple themes that she has identified, the comparisons and contrasts between the film and book, and the use of music. I would be lying if I said I made it through much of this commentary as it is so bookish, but there is most definitely enough knowledge in here for any Wanderers trivia fan.

    Extras are spread out across the two discs. On Disc One, Back In The Bronx With Richard Price (35:18) features the author of the novel, "The Wanderers" driving around the Bronx neighbourhoods that featured in the film. Price tells a lot of stories from his youth, the idea of doing a sequel, his reaction to the film, and other topics. The Google Earth screens do a great job of showing off the different areas, but this supplement does get a little tiresome, and strange audio doubling pops up at one point.

    Wanderers Forever - Live Q&A At NYC's Film Forum (16:35) is from an event in December of 2016, and features Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganios, and Richard Price. The cast here are pretty loose with their stories, which includes Ganios talking about it being his first role, and the testing he did for it, and the reemergence of his character in Rising Son, Toni Kalem talks about having small breasts and learning the dances from the party scene, and Karen Allen talks about how much attention she gets for The Wanderers when she's in Europe.

    A Trailer for the film rounds out the extras on Disc One.

    Extras on Disc Two start off with Q&A At LA's Cinefamily (31:59) with Philip and Peter Kaufman, as well as Alan Rosenberg. Kaufman Senior talks about the idea for making the film coming from his son, Peter, and how his wife worked on the first draft of the screenplay, and his feelings that The Wanderers would be much better known if the film hadn't received poor distribution due to fears of gang violence in theatres. For much of the Q&A, which includes a heap of noise and feedback ringing, Kaufman and Rosenberg tell stories about working on the film and the Director also sheds light on getting permission from Bob Dylan to use his song and likeness.

    Audio (with accompanying pictures) of the Q&A with Philip Kaufman at NYC's Film Forum (19:46) and hosted by Bruce Goldstein is available, but covers a lot of the information already supplied, such as getting the film made, the fear of violence in the theatres, and the raunchiness of the book. This is a Skype session as well, and Kaufman's responses are subtitled for ease of understanding

    Another audio session, again a Q&A at NYC's Film Forum is available with Richard Price and hosted by Brian Rose (16:41), and again is somewhat redundant; Price nonetheless talks about his impressions of the film vs. the novel that he wrote, and also talks about why he wrote the book.

    A trailer for the Kino Lorber 2K restoration of The Wanderers is also available, as is a TV Spot.

    The Final Word:

    As a fan of The Wanderers, I could not be happier with Kino's top-notch presentation of this classic film. Both cuts of the film, a wealth of extras including two commentaries...what more could you ask for? An amazing film gets the above-and-beyond treatment.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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