Tully High School seniors Richie, Joey and Perry run with a gang called the Wanderers in the Bronx. The time is fall 1963 but their experiences are universal: falling in love, surviving in school and defending turf against... more » rivals like the Fordham Baldies, the Del Bombers and the Ducky Boys.« less
"The Wanderers is many things...an urban gang drama, juvenile comedy, changing of the times study and more. It works on all these levels and has become a certified cult classic. At it's core, the Wanderers is about the final death of the innocence of the 1950's. The Wanderers are an Italian gang in NY, still clinging to the last vestiges of the 1950's with their matching satin jackets and grease-backed hair. Early on several members run afoul of another gang, the notorious 'Baldies'. The Wanderers find themselves trapped until a newcomer, the huge Perry saves them and is immediately welcomed into the gang by their leader Richie (Ken Wahl).
The various members of the Wanderers have problems to deal with on their own. Richie has gotten his girlfriend, Despie, pregnant, Perry's mother is an Alcoholic, Turkey wants to join the Baldies and Joey has an abusive father who thinks his son doesn't measure up. The Wanderers have a verbal war with a black gang, the Del Bombers, in school and decide to settle things with an old-fashioned rumble.
When the Wanderers cannot get any other gangs to back them up, Despies father (Dolph Sweet) a neighborhood mob boss steps in and decides to stop the rumble and have the gangs settle their differences with a football game instead...with a lot of mob money riding on the outcome. The game climaxes when the two gangs, along with the rest in attendance, must join together to fight "The Ducky Boys", a group of vicious, seemingly homosexuals, who have crashed the game with hundreds of members.
Mixed in with the drama and action is a liberal amount of juvenile buddy comedy as the Wanderers 'accidently' bumb into women on the street in order to touch their breasts. This is how the meet Nina (karen Allen) a bohemian girl who Richie becomes infatuated with. There there are drunken parties, games of strip poker, etc. In one memorable scene, the drunken Baldies join the marines.
Through all of this is the theme of the changing of the times. The doo-wop of the 1950's is now being replaced by folk music. A poignant scene has Richie following Nina until she enters a club where (in sound anyway) Bob Dylan is playing. Richie doesn't enter as he seems to know that it's just not his world. The film also covers the assasination of John Kennedy as the symbolic death of innocence. It is this moment the galvanizes the strained relationship between Despie and Richie.
One wishes that the Ducky Boys had been better explained. They are a creepy group of men..older than the other gangs...who never speak and were actually seen taking Holy Communion in one part where Turkey enters their turf by mistake and his killed. What were the Ducky Boys representing? It's the one mystery of the film.
The Wanderers has a fantastic soundtrack of early 1960's hits including "Soldier Boy", "Walk Like a Man", "Runaround Sue", "Shout", "Big Girls don't Cry" and of course the title track.
This is a movie that holds up still after 25 years because it works well on so many different levels. This was mostly a cast of unknowns with Karen Allen perhaps being the most notable star a year after she did 'Animal House'. An enjoyable movie from beginning to end. "
The original Boys from the Bronx........
P. Ferrigno | Melbourne, Victoria Australia | 10/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Wanderers" is a class act and a stylish movie that has a brassy toughness to it that is both infectious and moving. It was probably overshadowed on it's release by the other gang movie of 1979 "The Warriors", but "The Wanderers" easily holds an equal footing as an excellent period piece of working class lives in 1963. The film centres around the lives of a gang of young boys in the Bronx in mid 1963 coming to terms with friendships, school, girls and other gangs. Ken Wahl ( a promising actor who for some reason never quite made it to the big time !! ) plays a great lead as the smooth talking and charismatic, Richie, the leader of the Wanderers. Richie is struggling to maintain his gangs strength and position in the local neighbourhood as well as juggling his many relationships with different girlfriends. He meets a young and attractive Karen Allen whilst out on the streets with his buddies, and from there another relationship develops. Allen plays her role with style, and even though Allen is not a great beauty, she has that unmistakable feminine charm, especially when that wonderful smile lights up her face. What makes the movie all the more interesting is the way it goes behind the scenes into the home lives and the hopes, fears and dreams of some of the gang members. We see Joey's artistic talents put down by his fearsome, aggressive father...we see Turkey struggle with his own identity within the different gangs...and we see Richie forced to take responsibility for his actions near the film's conclusion. Backing the movie up, is a dynamite soundtrack containing some top numbers including "Stand by Me", "Runaraound Sue", "Soldier Boy" & of course "The Wanderer" !!A movie that has charm & talent, and stands up to repeated viewings with ease...if you haven't seen it already....catch up with "The Wanderers" soon !!"
One of the Sleeper Films of 1979
Vincent Tesi | Brick, New Jersey | 04/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For anyone that thinks that the Wanderers is just another nostalgic film about New York City street gangs in the 1950's, they are wrong. One has to carefully unravel the social undercurrents that stream below the surface of a seemingly insignificant story about a group of Bronx teenagers called the Wanderers. William Andrews is cleverly cast as the dominating Emilio; the insecure father of Wanderer member Joey. Joey is a bright, artistic teen who cannot fill the blue collar, tough guy pretense that his father hopes will keep him trapped in tenament obscurity. Middle aged Emilio hides his social inadequacies by lifting weights and entering amatuer body building contests in hopes of finally beating "the Greek", his unknown nemesis. Emilio's wife (Olympia Dukakis) can only ponder younger days while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in her housecoat. She is hopelessly content, just like many of the second generation Italian and Greek women that settled in the Bronx with their families in the 1950's. She is not happy, neither is Emilio who only finds temporary bliss when he sleeps with the alcoholic widow who lives down the hall. These are unfulfilled adults who live together, eat together, and sleep together, but cannot tear themselves away from their shallow lifestyle. The Wanderers, full of energy, youth, and bravado do; well some of them anyway. The Wanderers led by Richie (Ken Wahl) are about to cross the threshold into manhood. Highschool graduation looms near and lower class European immigrants in N.Y.C. had few career choices in the late 50's and early 60's. Most teens married early and rooted themselves in jobs provided by friends or family. Throughout the film's progression Joey and Richie slowly begin to realize their plight, while also becoming aware of a powerful unconventional cultural change that is creeping into the seemingly stable structure of post World War II America. Karen Allen in one of her better film performances represents the tide of change that is about to arrive. Nina, pretty, educated,independent, and daring is no close minded, gum snapping girl of the 50's. Nina embodies a multi-dimensional free spirit; she doesn't need a red jacket with a gang name emblazoned on the back to make her social statment. She is everything that Richie and Joey's mom will never be. When Joey falls for Nina after Richie and the gang harass her on a street corner, pathos sets in because Richie's handsome looks attracts Nina's attention. Maybe Nina feels that she can lure Richie into her bohemian lifestyle. In one of the most culturally dichotomous scenes ever captured on film, Richie with his slicked backed DA haircut and gang jacket peers through the window of a smokey coffeehouse focusing in on Nina immersed in conversation with other educated rebels. No coffeehouse dialogue is heard, none is needed, only the lyrics of Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changing" portends the future. Friendships are destroyed, group members flee, others stay trapped in the conventional lifestyle that has been planned for them. One of the most disturbing additions in the film is the inclusion of the gang the Duckie Boys. They appear in smokey, dark, slow motion frames. They never speak and their presence is mystifying. They appear, disappear, and then re-appear. Who or what do they represent? Theories abound from their symbolic representation of the impending Viet Cong menace, to the aborhant treatment of the mentally retarded. Until recently mentally handicapped people were considered outcasts of society by all races. Maybe this is why all the racially segregated gangs join together in the confrontation with the Duckie Boys. Homosexuality is treated and exposed in a bizarre way during the film. The Baldies are easily distinguished by their clean shaven domes, yet in the transitional period from the 50's to the 60's few homosexuals were ready to come out of the closet. The character Terror is the most intimidating Baldi, 300 pounds of presence who is broken down by a pint sized girl who wishes she was a boy so their relationship can be consummated. On a final note, Tony Ganios, who became famous in the role of Meat in the Porky flicks makes his film debut in the Wanderers. His character is not allowed much latitude, but his sheer presence as the tough heavy loner is memorable. LEAVE THE KID ALONE !"
Highly underated movie, a classic
G.J. Ros | California, USA | 11/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a movie that will stay in my mind at least for a long time. The rhythm, the soundtrack, the different aspects of the plot, the photography, every detail was perfect. You dont have to be a baby boomer or be from the Bronx to like this movie. Im a generation X guy, never lived in the Bronx and this has become to be one of my favorite movies. The atmosphere of the movie is a blue collar neighborhood, nothing spectacular brights there, but the mentality, romanticism and values of that time represented in this movie, made this look like this as a perfect era. It also made me understand the nostalgy of the baby boomers. The final scene, (dont read this if you havent seen the movie), where Joey and Perry left New York,in my opinion represents the exodus of the people that lived in the inner city toward the suburbs or the new promising west states. A symbol of this phenomenum was,the traumatic for many, departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers to the new great city in that time, Los Angeles. There are other parts of the movie that deserves an anthropological and sociological analysis. This film is a timeless jewel, I think I was lucky the day I saw this on cable for the first time. Before watching this, I never imagined this movie could be that great. And definitively, the box office and the critics never made justice to this film. This was the perfect closer for perhaps the greatest decade of cinema. "
This movie has heart
Timmy Blookbugbeeker | Global | 04/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this movie. It's one of the most honest ever made, even though it is a movie greatly inspired by nostalgia. It has no particular agenda or view point, just a tremendous amount of warmth.
That warmth allows it to show urban street kid violence and racism, mafia brutality, and a host of poverty related social ills in a believable way, while still keeping the viewer sympathetic to almost every character and social group involved. It does not do this by romanticising, it does this by keeping characters human.
There is one exception to this and that is the portrayal of the Ducky Boys - kids from a rival neighbourhood. In sharp contrast to the other themes of rivalry in the movie, the Ducky Boys are shown to have no humanity at all and are one dimensional villians to such an extreme that it becomes surreal. This is very deliberate. Music, lighting and camera work all add to the nightmare quality the movie takes on every time these youths make an appearance.
Many people have a problem with this and see it as unrealistic and a weakness. I do not however.
As I said the movie is very much a work of nostalgia, honest though it is. As such it has a general sense of heightened reality. The movie shows the Ducky Boys as the protagonists perceived them. The culmination of fear, ignorance and the real danger they represent makes them seem a shadowy nightmare enemy to the main characters.
I remember feeling the same way about some rival neigbourhoods during my own youth. Boys that lived close enough so that conflict would occur from time to time, but far enough away so that there was absolutely no familiarity. When you get older you realise that kids from one poor neigbourhood are pretty much like another. When you are young however, though the dangers are in fact real, your sense of those dangers can be exaggerated to the point that other neighbourhoods seem forbidden and populated by inhuman murderers.
So for me the Ducky Boys are in fact one of the strongest elements of the Wanders.