Who loves a good chant?

rufio__oPtWhether it’s for comedy purposes or to build the tension in a thriller or horror, a nice memorable phrase repeated over and over has a certain unrelenting quality to it – something is going to happen and chances are it won’t be good for the person on the receiving end. Here are some of my favourites:

Warriors… come out to play!
Picture the scene in this 1979 cult classic, The Warriors: framed for the murder of Cyrus (the most powerful gang leader in New York) the Warriors battle it across the city to get back to their home turf on Coney island. Only to find their bitter rival, Luther – leader of the Rogues and the man who actually killed Cyrus – blocking their path and demanding a fight. Director Walter Hill masterfully cranks up the tension with Luther creepily tapping bottles together and chanting in a bizarre and deranged manner.

Rufio versus Pan

What’s the best way to make an entrance at the end of the ’80s/early ’90s? On a skateboard of course. Then onto a trapeze and into a backflip. Then draw a sword. Who wouldn’t want to be leader of the Lost Boys? Growing up, Spielberg’s Hook in 1991 was a treat and Rufio was super cool – every young lad wanted to be him. In these scenes Rufio makes his entrance and taunts Pan (Robin Williams), then loses to him in a battle of words; a point where Peter begins to believe and the Lost Boys switch their allegiance.

The greater good

Mmmm, a murderous cult. What we learn in this scene is that killing is ok if it’s for ‘the greater good’ and said in chanted unison. Here Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) faces off against the town’s village council in Hot Fuzz (2007), having worked out that they’d been behind a slew of killings… all in the name of ‘the greater good’. Creepy, yet brilliantly funny.

Frank the tank

‘You know it! When it hits your lips!’ When Old School was released in 2003 it was a bit of a sleeper hit. The modern brat pack of Vince Vaughn and co were just getting going, but one man stood out beyond all others. Will Ferrell aka Frank the tank. Gaining his name downing beer at a frat party. Reminds me of that alcholic’s phrase, ‘one is too many, two is not enough.’

Kali Ma

Growing up most of us remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (great title); specifically the moment Indy witnesses human sacrifice with a guy getting his heart torn out. Quite horrific to watch as a kid, but mesmerising. Here’s an idea… Chant ‘kali ma’ in a creepy way whilst moving your hand towards a friend’s chest and see if they freak out.

Give him fur black as black

Hocus Pocus in 1993 was – and still is I guess – a bit of a guilty pleasure, with Bette Midler on fine form as the head of a coven of witches (one of which included a young Sarah Jessica Parker). In this scene early in the film she turns a young chap into a black cat with a nice little, suitably witch-y chant. ‘Give him fur black as black just, like, this.’

Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice

‘Jump in the line, rock your body on time. Ok, I believe you!’ There’s so many great scenes, songs and dialogue from this film. From the possessed dinner party chanting and singing ‘Day-O’ dance to the aforementioned ‘Shake Senora’ calypso finish, it’s movie gold. Beetlejuice is also let out to play by saying his name three times. Go on, try it.

You shall not pass

Not sure if this counts as chanting, more booming. But it’s Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf against a Balrog, c’mon! I think just before his immortal line there’s a chant. I mean, I wouldn’t mess with someone that says they’re the servant of the secret fire, would you?

The Warriors: Director’s cut – can you dig it?

the warriors

Ok, it’s a film that first came out in 1979. Why on earth am I reviewing it? Well, I picked up the Director’s Cut version and had this vague, misty memory of watching parts of the original when I was a little lad. I remember Cyrus (the gang leader) and his monologue. It defines the film so it’s hard to forget. Here’s a snippet from IMDb, I couldn’t resist!

Cyrus: [yelling] Can you count, suckers? I say, the future is ours… if you can count!
[a couple of soldiers cheer for Cyrus]
Cyrus: Now, look what we have here before us. We got the Saracens sitting next to the Jones Street Boys. We’ve got the Moonrunners right by the Van Cortlandt Rangers. Nobody is wasting nobody. That… is a miracle. And miracles is the way things ought to be.
[Few more soldiers cheering for Cyrus]
Cyrus: You’re standing right now with nine delegates from 100 gangs. And there’s over a hundred more. That’s 20,000 hardcore members. Forty-thousand, counting affiliates, and twenty-thousand more, not organized, but ready to fight: 60,000 soldiers! Now, there ain’t but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it?
Gang Members: Yeah.
the warriors film 1979
Cyrus: Can you dig it?
Gang Members: Yeah!
Cyrus: Can you dig it?
Gang Members: YEAH!

So what’s it all about?
I vaguely remember the premise, a gang racing back across town to Coney Island whilst all the other gangs across the city are out to get them, falsely blaming the Warriors for the death of their city leader, Cyrus. Other than that I can’t remember much about it. So it’s pretty much with fresh, adult eyes that I viewed Walter Hill’s Director’s Cut.

It starts with an intro from Walter Hill, discussing why he is generally against Directors revisiting their past work. All the claims that they ‘didn’t have the budget/time/script they wanted’ to really tell the story as they intended he addresses. He then gives a fairly detailed explanation of why he felt he wanted to give the film more of a graphic novel aesthetic. You wonder if this is entirely true, but throughout the film it freeze frames and shots of the characters became like graphic drawings, before moving into the next scene, then morphing back into the real world again. It’s a nice touch and you feel the time was taken to make this look slick, but still fit the tone of the film.

You also get the sense that, given the popularity of films adapted from graphic novels these days, it could be argued the Director and/or Studio are trying to cash in? I don’t buy that, I think Walter Hill loved the story and characters and just wanted to present the version he originally intended. And these days, with HD TVs and Blu-ray, there hasn’t been a better time to do it.

the warriorsSpeaking of tone, it’s also worth mentioning date. This was released in 1979, yet still feels effortlessly cool and not particularly dated (other than perhaps some of the hairstyles). There isn’t too much in the way of story, yet the film has strong characters you can identify with, even their steely leader Swan.

The gangs they face as they race across town are almost comical, yet some fit into the Warriors’ world – The Orphans, Baseball Furies, Turnbull ACs, Lizzie’s, Punks, Rogues and Riffs. Check them out here, they all have their own logos and brand identity, it’s fantastic.

Anyway, as usual I’m rambling along, let’s sum up. It may be a cult film, a classic, it may be from the tail end of the 70s, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Whether you remember the original or not, it’s just a pretty cool world to embrace.

The question is – you know where this is going – can you dig it?