It's been a long day, and I have reading to do, but the OCD Gods must be appeased. Here's a Classics Corner retread from 2001 and a clip from my favorite B movie of all time.
Richard O’Leary of Brooklyn, NY writes to tell us that when he came upon Classics Corner while in Seattle last summer we made such an impression that he now seeks our advice on all things classical! “Does Xenophon fall into your bailiwick? I’m curious, because I have heard that the 70’s movie The Warriors was based on The Anabasis. I know, I know… I could just go to the bookstore or library and track something down and read. Just looking for a little guidance in this direction, if there’s any to be had.”
We at Classics Corner would like to take this opportunity to say, “Thank God for the Internet,” which allows freaks like Richard to avoid anything resembling effort by emailing freaks like us, who may or may not provide accurate information.
Having both read Xenophon’s Anabasis and seen Walter Hill’s 1979 thriller on more than one occasion, we are uniquely qualified to answer Richard’s very important question.
The Warriors concerns a Coney Island based gang who fights their way across New York after getting stranded deep in enemy turf. While under a general truce, they travel more than 100 miles to hear Cyrus, the leader of New York’s biggest gang, call for unity against the police, which the gangs collectively outnumber. Cyrus’ dream, however, is cut short when Luther, a young sociopath who looks like Roger Daltry gone to seed, shoots him in the chest and blames the Warriors. Their leader Cleon is wrongly killed by an angry mob while the Warriors narrowly escape. The truce is off, and the Warriors, now hunted by every gang in New York, confront one 70’s fashion casualty after another as they fight their way home.
As the Warriors square off with the Baseball Furies, who effectively combine KISS make-up, bad hair, and baseball uniforms to inspire sheer terror, their leader Swan delivers one of the best lines in cinematic history: “I’m gonna shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.”
While Xenophon’s Anabasis lacks the depth, realism, and artistic quality of Hill’s cult classic, it does depict 10,000 Greek mercenaries who are led deep into Persia to overthrow King Artexerxes. Their leader Cyrus dies when a lance comes in contact with his eye. When the other officers are killed at a dinner party gone bad, the now leaderless mercenaries must fight their way home. In the tradition of armies ever since, the Greeks travel to exotic new lands, meet strange new people, and kill them.
While these similarities provide The Warriors an indisputable classical pedigree, other likenesses bear mention as well. Both tales depend upon large numbers of young men with nothing better to do. Both stories also feature random acts of violence, and use the declaration of war to sanction outright theft. As one Warrior says, “Cyrus was right about one thing. It’s all out there. All we gotta figure out is how to steal it.”