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Film / The Wanderers

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The Wanderers is a 1979 comedy-drama film, directed by Philip Kaufman and adapted from a novel of the same name by Richard Price, that centers on the members of a Bronx youth gang in 1963, and their interactions with the other local gangs.

At school, a high school teacher accidentally sparks a race riot between the Italian gang the Wanderers and the Black gang the Del-Bombers. Looking to gather allies to their fight as the Del-Bombers have bigger numbers, The Wanderers get rejected (humiliatingly) by the Fordham Baldies and by the Chinese Wongs. But they do get a new member with the arrival of bulky Perry, a newcomer to the neighborhood who proves himself in a fight. Just as it looks bleak for the gang, the local mafia hoods led by 'Chubby' Galasso intervene and negotiate to have the rumble changed into a football game.


Features the examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Price's novel is episodic in nature. Director Philip Kaufman and his wife Rose re-wove the narrative into a more coherent plot.
  • Big Bad: The Ducky Boys. They're the one street gang willing to kill.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Richie came back to the Wanderers in time to help out with the football game, and with the fight against the Ducky Boys. While re-affirming his friendship with Joey, they still end up parting ways as Joey flees to California with Perry to escape Joey's Ax-Crazy father. Richie stays to marry his knocked-up girlfriend. And their other friend Turkey was killed by the Ducky Boys. Meanwhile The Baldies are all gone serving in Vietnam (with future drafts looming), the life of being in a street gang is getting more violent, and the feeling of New York City changing for the worse heading into The '60s and The '70s hovers over the ending.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • The Wanderers and Del-Bombers who split before the fight with the Ducky Boys.
      • Averted by members of the Wongs, who join in with the remaining Wanderers and Del-Bombers even when it wasn't their fight.
    • Terror is heavily implied to be one as well despite his body size and leadership of the Baldies. After Perry takes on and beats up several members of the Baldies, Terror backs off. The Wanderers accuse him of being a coward, but Turkey claims he’s just waiting for the right time to get back at Perry. But as we can tell, he never attempts to go after Perry and just further picks on Richie and Joey who are easy targets. So, The Wanderers claims might have some merit.
    • Even the sadistic Ducky Boys are this as seen during the climax. When the other gangs start to turn the tide against the Ducky Boys, they are visibly shocked and flee as soon as things look bad for them despite having greater numbers. They start to rip up Joey’s poster for the game just to have some measure of victory but makes them look like sore losers
  • Dueling Movies: With The Warriors, believe it or not.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Turkey is killed by the Ducky Boys before the climax. After a very brief mention by Joey in the next scene, everybody just moves on and Turkey is never mentioned again. Heck, it’s implied that Richie never found out. Even shortly after when Richie approaches a group of people morning, making us believe that he is about to discover Turkey’s body, instead the people were watching a news report on JFK’s assassination. It’s as if Turkey never existed.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Observe.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Joey’s father big time. We can already get the vibe that Joey’s father wasn’t the nicest of guys in the film from the way he treated Joey and for being such a fitness freak. But when the Ducky boys started attacking the football game, Joey’s father joined the fight and even went up to Joey first to check on him. When the fight was over, it looked like Joey was going to celebrate with his father as the two of them looked happy over the outcome; making the viewer think he won his father’s respect. Instead, his father punched Joey in the gut hard and looked happy doing so. Reminding the view that Joey’s father is still an abusive asshole, making Joey decision to runaway with Perry understandable.
  • Karma Houdini: The Fordham Baldies never really get any kind of comeuppance for their antics. The closet they get to any kind of comeuppance is being tricked into joining the Marines while drunk, but even they end up accepting it fast.
  • Loner-Turned-Friend: Perry with the whole gang, specially with Joey and Richie.
  • Precision F-Strike: Don't fuck with the Baldies/Wongs.
  • The Mafia: Richie's father-in-law.
    • The gang fight between the Wanderers and Del-Bombers get taken over by both the Italian and Black mafias and turned into a football match that the mobsters could bet over.
    • At the end of the movie, it's obvious that Richie is getting too old to be with the Wanderers and will promote upward into his father-in-law's gang.
  • The '60s: The movie takes place in 1963, as the culture of The '50s gives way to this one. Towards the end of the film, John F. Kennedy is assassinated, the Baldies all drunkenly signed up for Vietnam, and Richie watches as the proto-hippie girl he liked leaves him to go watch some new folk singer named Bob Dylan perform. The movie itself ends with Joey and Perry fleeing for California in the footsteps of Joey's favorite author Jack Kerouac.
  • Sore Loser: When the tide turns against the Ducky Boys during the football fight, they start to rip apart Joey’s poster he made for the game as they flee. Most likely to get some form of victory, but it shows how pathetic they really are.


Example of: