Nation: The Flick of Violence

Nation: The Flick of Violence
A gang film called The Warriors attracts off-screen rumblesStaring from the poster, they looked like a nightmare of what might be,
that terrifying day when the street gangs take over the city, any city.
Some of them wore leather vests over bare chests. Others had on Arab
headdresses. A few, their faces painted harlequin colors, wore baseball
uniforms and carried bats. Massed as far as the eye could see, all
looked menacing, and the threat was underscored by the text above the
picture: “These are the Armies of the Night.They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could
run New York City. Tonight they're all out to get the Warriors.”That Paramount ad was chillingly effective, bringing into 670 theaters
around the country thousands of youths keen to see The Warriors—and
eager for trouble. Since the film opened on Feb. 9, three young men
have been killed by Warrior-inspired fights, and other brawls have
broken out at moviehouses in several cities. More than half a dozen
theaters have dropped the film entirely; others are hiring some muscle
of their own, which Paramount will pay for. In Washington, B.C., two
full-time guards were on duty last week at the Town Downtown and will
stay there until The Warriors finishes its run. Not since Stanley
Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange opened in 1971 has a
movie generated such anxiety about the seeming power of a film to
gang violence in those who see it.The first killing occurred on Feb. 12 at a drive-in showing the movie
in Palm Springs, Calif.During an intermission a white girl drew comment from blacks belonging
to a youth gang called the Blue Coats. Their white counterparts, the
Family, came to her rescue. In the shooting that followed, one of the
Family, Marvin Kenneth Eller, 19, was killed by a .22-cal. bullet.Another racial incident took place the following night in Oxnard, Calif,
a town of farm workers 40 miles from Los Angeles. A scuffle broke out
in a the ater lobby after the first showing of The Warriors, and
Timothy Gitchel, 18, white, was stabbed to death by a black youth.The third killing, in Boston on Feb. 15, was not a racial clash.
Returning .Tom the movie, several members of a white DorChester gang
apparently got into an argument with Marty Yakubowicz, 16. Someone
yelled, “I want you!”—a line from the script—and Yakubowicz was
attacked with a knife. He died six hours later.The Warriors' sin may lie not in its content so much as in the way it
attracts crowds like a lightning rod. It is not particularly violent,
and what violence there is is curiously abstract and unemotional. More
gore can often be seen on the television screen, and any number of
films—Marathon Man, Death Wish, just about any Peckinpah film and
certainly A Clockwork Orange—have contained far more stomach-churning
brutality. Indeed, The Warriors' director, Walter Hill, goes out of his
way to expunge any feeling of genuine menace or racial animosity. The
gang called the Warriors is integrated; there are no scenes of sexual
assault, so typical of this kind of film, and there is no attempt to
scorn or bait the white middle class.