So once again we have survived.

Young Warriors

tn_youngwarriorsbacktoschoolYOUNG WARRIORS is a crazy fuckin movie released by Cannon in 1983. The description on the back of the VHS box begins like this:

“What do you get if you cross ‘Animal House’ with ‘Death Wish’? Young Warriors– a unique combination of fraternity hijinks, high-speed action, wildly imaginative animation, and hard-drivin’ rock!”

Obviously that’s what got me to watch the movie. I couldn’t really imagine a movie that fit that description – can you? Put the tape in and it’s even more confounding because it starts with this dedication:

THIS FILM IS DEDICATED TO
KING VIDOR
WITH DEEPEST APPRECIATION
FOR HIS INVALUABLE
CREATIVE ASSISTANCE.

King Vidor started directing with THE GRAND MILITARY PARADE in 1913. He has 77 directing credits on IMDb. He did the black and white parts of THE WIZARD OF OZ. He did DUEL IN THE SUN and WAR AND PEACE. He died in 1982, so this might’ve been the last movie he gave his invaluable creative assistance to. So he gets this dedication.

Then, the opening scene. Closeups on the bodies of a man and a woman on a beach who have just come from skinny dipping, now taking part in a RAMBO-suiting-up-style sequence of putting on their graduation gowns. The man puts on some giant headphones with a built-in radio, they get on a motorcycle and drive to their graduation ceremony where they show up just in time to drive up (scaring the shit out of everybody) and grab the guy’s diploma. He pulls up to his friends and yells “We are free! WHOOO HOOOO!!!” A slow motion overhead shot shows them throwing their hats (and headphones) in the air. It freezes on their smiles, happy music playing, and says:

THESE ARE
THE GRADUATES OF MALIBU HIGH
AND THIS IS THEIR STORY…

then some ominous keyboards and militaristic drums begin as the splattery YOUNG WARRIORS logo splashes across them.

mp_youngwarriorsIt’s kinda too bad the cover gives it away, because the weirdest thing about this movie is the slide from wacky fraternity hijinks to violence and nihilism. The first part is about some dudes who live in an attic together at Pacific Coast College drinking beer, hazing new pledges, setting a herd of hogs loose at a party, etc. Then one character’s sister gets gang raped to death, they steal a bunch of weapons from the military and go around shooting criminals. At the end they all die. (SPOILER)

The main kid is Kevin (James Van Patten), who’s shown animating shirtless one morning in the frat house, which is decorated with bikini posters, a dart board, and a skeleton. There is a dispute involving a baseball bat and a clock radio. A dude says “Everyone, I’d like you to meet Ginger” and produces a naked woman in his bed. One of the other dudes is a medical student so he puts his stethoscope on her tits, says “she’s a 34 C”, chases her away naked, and they all laugh.

“How the hell is anybody supposed to get any work around this madhouse?” Kevin complains. One guy throws a beer to other guy, both of them wearing nothing but towels. So that’s the sort of vibe we got here, a bunch of dudes who get drunk and smarmily joke about getting laid and share women like they’re joints. But Kevin is emotionally troubled. As he explains to his animation professor who hates his trippy experimental piece, “Well, I guess the only thing I can really say is that I got alot of things going on inside me, and uh, it seems that the only way I can really express my true feelings is through my animation.”

“But Kevin,” the teacher says, “art is a creative endeavor, and that also has restrictions and end points and a reason to be. It’s just like life. If you haven’t got a direction you’re just playing with yourself. You have to make up your mind and take a stand.”

“But sir, I don’t know where I stand.”

The director and co-writer of the movie is Lawrence D. Foldes (DON’T GO NEAR THE PARK), and I think it’s fair to assume he was trying to take some kind of a stand with this movie. And he might not have known where to stand either. What’s interesting about the movie, even if I don’t know what it means, is the way it draws parallels between PORKY’S type horny-dude hijinks and straight up gang rape.

The first section is all about aggressive sex:  A guy goes to the library, says he’s looking for “The Joy of Sex,” ends up fucking a young librarian in the stacks while a nerd nearby says “Oh, good heavens!” The guys hit each other in the crotch, talk about “nympho nurses” and cowgirls for their party, joke about each other’s sex lives.

At home Kevin wants to come into the bathroom while his sister Tiffany (April Dawn) is naked in there. She comes out wrapped in a towel and he pins her up against the wall to joke around with her, then acts protective of her about the guy she’s going to the prom with.

While she’s out they have their frat party. A guy gets pantsed. There are shots of shaking butts on the dance floor. The guys force a pledge to drop his pants, cut a hole in his boxers, shave his butthole, make him sit on an olive and drop it into a martini, then drink it. They tie bricks to two guy’s dicks and make them throw them out the window. You know, just boys being boys, fun kind of Abu Ghraib type stuff.

But while that’s going on Tiffany and her prom date get run off the road and attacked. Her terrifying car crash is intercut with a wacky drunken car crash on the frathouse lawn. Shots of the laughing rapists cut to party-goers cheering on the JACKASS antics.

Tiffany’s ordeal is so traumatic she reverts to a little girl, screaming “Mommy! Mommy!” over and over again. Later, when Kevin finds out his sister is dead, he reacts differently to feeling helpless. He rages at his police officer dad (Ernest Borgnine) and partner (Richard Roundtree), thinking they’re too cowardly to solve the case or something. He rages at his professor (comedian Dick Shawn in a serious role), who’s one of those ’80s movie smarmy heartless upper class liberal prick professors: “Are you implying that things like rape and murder are no longer immoral?” And before long it’s “Oh, you think I’m crazy? I’ll show you what crazy is!” and he throws a chair out the window. He even rages at his buddies, who try to be supportive about his animation project (“Well, it’s still good. It’s just… a little unusual”) and cheer him up by talking about dicks and drinking beer. But Kevin yells “Screw the whole bunch of you!” and storms off.

That goes right into one of those romantic sex scenes with tons of candles but after that he’s in a really dark place and it’s time to go track down the rapists and get revenge. They investigate the crime scene and, let me just say, movie criminals need to learn not to always carry around matchbooks with the logos of the places that they spend most of their time, or at least not to drop those matchbooks at the scenes of their crimes. That would be one way for them to get away with alot more, in my opinion. Anyway, they go to this bar and start asking around trying to find some guys driving a black van (that really narrows it down).

The investigation is going slow (no shit, the professionals haven’t found the killers yet either) so they decide they should also just go after criminals in general, and they get a bunch of guns and hand grenades. You know how it is in a movie when somebody wants to be either a vigilante or a super hero, they just go around at night and spot people openly committing crimes all over the place. So our boys find some black guys stealing the wheels off a car, etc. They get more into it, they go too far, they kill some big time drug guys in a rickety van. They dump out their huge stash of coke but steal their arsenal of guns and grenades. (This is weird because they already explained that a frat brother who’s in the military stole their weapons from a base. It seems like they could use the military base excuse or the found-in-drug-dealer’s-van excuse, but they don’t really need both in one movie.)

The characters are kind of hard to tell apart because they’re all handsome jock dudes with similar early ’80s hair. The one character that stands out is Butch, because he’s a dog that’s always wearing sunglasses, a hat and a handkerchief. It will just randomly cut to him all the time to be, you know, funny. Even after the movie has turned serious it cuts from a dramatic scene where he breaks up with his girlfriend directly to the sunglasses-dog holding a beer in his mouth.

The weirdest part tonally is when the boys go out on patrol and bring Butch with them. In context it just does not seem possible that they’re trying to make a joke out of this scene. His sister has been raped and killed, he’s lost faith in his father and the system, he’s acting out in school and broken off his relationship with his girlfriend, he’s gotten one friend killed and dragged his others into a dangerous and illegal activity, he’s zeroing in on the rapists, the keyboard music is very dark and serious, they’re in a Jeep wearing camo and holding guns… and there’s a fuckin dog wearing sunglasses in the car with them. And (SPOILER) the dog gets killed in a shootout with drug dealers, and then shit gets even more personal.

During all this Kevin still has time for animation. They don’t show him working on it but he keeps debuting new pieces in his class. It’s weird spacescapes and killer snakes and shit. Simple but it would take a while to do, especially in those days. So I hope he got a good grade in that class, he must’ve been working his ass off.

mp_youngwarriorsBHow the fuck did this movie happen? Well, apparently it’s kind of a sequel to one from 1979 called MALIBU HIGH about a high school girl who becomes a prostitute. Foldes wrote that one and got his UCLA Low Budget Film Production teacher Irwin Berwick to direct it. When he made YOUNG WARRIORS it was originally released as THE GRADUATES OF MALIBU HIGH. There aren’t any connecting characters or anything but that high school graduation opening doesn’t seem to serve much purpose except to say “and then after Malibu High this is what those type of kids got up to.”

I went ahead and watched MALIBU HIGH to see how it compared. It’s kind of like a ’70s porn movie with the good parts cut out. This teenage girl gets dumped by her boyfriend and doesn’t get along with her mom, so she decides to ask her drug connection to pimp her out. From there she moves up to a higher class prostitute and then to a hit woman. When she leaves her first pimp she calls him and says “Hey Tony, this is Kim. Yeah, I got a message for you, pal. GET FUCKED.”

Of course, she’s not putting as much effort into her courses as she ought to so she tries to seduce her teachers.

My favorite aspect of the movie is the funky library music. There’s alot of music that comes on with hilarious timing, like the upbeat tune that that plays right after the line “And maybe daddy wouldn’t have had to kill himself because he couldn’t get it up anymore!” and the “dun dun DUHHHHN” type dramatic cue that follows her giving her ex-boyfriend a double flip-off at his locker. It also uses what we now know as The People’s Court theme during the climactic slow foot chase down some stairs to a beach.

Unfortunately MALIBU HIGH isn’t nearly as interesting or weird as YOUNG WARRIORS. But if you insist on seeing it it’s on one of those “Welcome to the Grindhouse” drive-in double feature DVDs along with one called TRIP WITH THE TEACHER.

vhs

further reading:

Janet Maslin’s forgiving New York Times review of YOUNG WARRIORS

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011 at 12:44 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

29 Responses to “Young Warriors”

  1. They’re selling the VHS on amazon, but no DVD.

    I’m on a mission now!! Gotta see this shit!!

  2. Wow, this sounds fucking crazy in the best way possible. I laughed out loud at the part about the inappropriately featured dog with sunglasses bit. It is like a bunch of frat dudes go all DEATH WISH and bring Spuds MacKenzie along for the ride, hilarious.

  3. I have it on DVD. I believe we have done business before, right, Nabrolean? Shoot me an email if you’re interested.

  4. God, I saw this film a few years back. All I remember was the haircuts and ALL of the dialogue being of the “Hey, whaddaya say we go out there and kill some bad guys” variety. I remember laughing a lot.

  5. “It may be cheap, but it isn’t dull.”

    Janet Maslin might as well be referring to all Cannon movies.

    Great review, Vern, except, what the fuck, you couldn’t post a picture/screengrab of Butch? Or at least a picture of Poochie as a substitute? Actually, there should have been a collage of various sunglass-&-handkerchief-wearing dogs through the years. I expect more of my visual experience when I come here. What do you think this is, GeoCities?

  6. wow, YOUNG WARRIORS sounds fucking awesome, seriously it’s like a movie I would come up with

    I need to see it…

  7. and for the record, I have actually had ideas of combining a college comedy with an action movie stewing around in my head

  8. “Pantsing”?

  9. I hate seeing that “REVIEWED FROM VHS” logo, because it means I’ve got Buckley’s chance of seeing it unless I download a pirated copy, which I don’t like doing.

  10. This movie sounds crazy, can’t believe I never heard of it before. Also, any “Band of the Hand” fans out there? I saw it on Netflix Streaming a while back and I have to say it’s a great concept (The Dirty Dozen + 21 Jump Street + Only The Strong) and I’d actually love to see it remade. I never thought I’d see a teen action movie produced by Michael Mann, starring John Cameron Mitchell(!) as the explosives expert, and a theme song by “Bob Dylan and the Heartbreakers” (Yes, Bob Dylan, not Tom Petty).

  11. I had no idea this movie existed. Now I do! And I guess since it has both Richard Roundtree and Ernest Borgnine, I kinda need to see it. Will let you know how it goes.

  12. Hell yeah, I’m a BAND OF THE HAND fan.

    Fishburne’s elbow gets Seagaled, Fishburne’s haircut is a proto-Blade, John Cameron Mitchell is a killer, James Remar is a racist, dude hands teenagers a bunch of guns and trains them to become a weapons assault squad in his backyard in Miami, and the kids employ the little known tactic of nullifying a drug lord’s compound’s attack dogs by bringing with them a dog in heat.

    I wish the action were crisper, but I don’t yearn for a remake.

  13. Neal: I knew a few hardcore Dylan fans in the 1980s. We generally agreed that the BAND OF THE HAND song was one of his better songs amid some truly dire records, not as good as “Brownsville Girl” but way better than anything on those awful EMPIRE BURLESQUE and DYLAN & THE DEAD records. Then we listened to the lyrics of “Band of the Hand”, which I assume are just a gloss of the film’s plot. We were so put off by Dylan’s advocacy of vigilante justice that it kind of soured our appreciation of the music. This was a pretty sensitive peacenik faction of the Dylan fanbase, a faction that liked to pretend the fire and brimstone of SAVED never happened. It was a strange time just before Public Enemy came along to blow our minds. Protest songs were being handled by the descendants of Cat Stevens, like Natalie Merchant and Tracy Chapman.

    Listen to me Mr. Pusherman
    This might be your last night in a bed so soft
    There are pimps on the make, politicians on the take
    You can’t pay us off

    We’re gonna blow up your home of Voodoo
    And watch it burn without any regret
    We got the power, we’re the new government
    You just don’t know it yet

    The sentiment in the song isn’t really any less cruel than that expressed in “Masters of War,” yet the “Band of the Hand” lyrics are so specific that they kind of conjure a stalker vibe. Apparently Stevie Nicks is in there somewhere doing background vocals.

    Dylan did a few collaboratins with Petty and his Heartbreakers in the ’80s: “Jammin’ Me,” “Got My Mind Made Up.” None of it is particularly memorable.

  14. The opening music sequence in BotH is quite good, depicting an ’80s-y colorful but serious, violent mood & landscape which “Hell Time” scores bizarrely but perfectly.

  15. So I’ve had YOUNG WARRIORS for several months but finally got around to watching it last night. (I’m a movie hoarder. Something you should know about me.) I don’t know, I think it might be some kind of masterpiece. I can’t think of any other vigilante movie that makes me say, “You know, maybe the cops are right and you guys should just stay home and let them handle it.” It makes vigilantism look really, really stupid. Even DEATH SENTENCE lets Bacon’s revenge be badass and satisfying, even if the price he paid for it was way too high. The dude in YW is just a psycho, and his friends are idiot meatheads who don’t even understand what’s going on. They just go along with it like it’s a fraternity prank. The DEATH WISH movies definitely agree with Bronson’s actions, even when they pay lip service to the other side of the argument, but this movie is just completely not on these assholes’ side at all. You know how they say it’s impossible to make an anti-war movie because war is inherently awesome? I would have said the same thing about vigilante movies until I saw this one.

    However, the dog was not actually wearing his sunglasses when he went out on the patrol with the boys. I feel ripped off. WORST. MOVIE. EVER.

  16. Can one of you analog motherfuckers give us a screengrab of Butch?

  17. I can’t do it right now because I’m at work, but you should probably know that Butch is some kind of poodle.

  18. Majestyk, what do you think it’s trying to say by drawing parallels between the gang rape and the sexual harassment that goes on in the lives of frat boys? There’s too much of it not to be intentional.

  19. I think it’s saying that this type of macho jock behavior, treating women as objects to be conquered and then discarded, this peer pressure that causes otherwise bright young men to do things they would never do on their own, is the same sort of impulse that leads groups of men to engage in gang rape. You get a group of dudes together, showing off for each other, egging each other on, and they’re capable of acts that their individual consciences would not allow. I think your Abu Ghraib joke was pretty spot on, but the movie’s touchstone is the American soldiers’ atrocities in Vietnam. There’s that part where the girlfriend of the first dead fratboy says that he only took part in the vigilante activities because he didn’t want the others to call him a pussy. I think the movie would have been even more interesting if we’d found out that the villains were just another group of fratboys who’d gone too far. Instead they’re a bunch of cartoon scumbags who like to shoot down police helicopters for fun. It’s hard to make the case that any of them might be decent people when removed from the group dynamic since they all have about as much personality as the gangbangers in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

    It’s still a pretty bold move, though, sneaking a link between frat boys and rape into a movie ostensibly aimed at the young male demographic. Why don’t more people know about this movie?

  20. When I was stationed with the Marines we would get these periodic lectures, and I am talking about Battalion sized groups of people, gathered together specifically for this lecture, that told us about how sexual molestation and rape can happen, man on man, in the military. It was a rape is wrong lecture. And fine, I think that’s a good message and all. But they always told this story, I have no idea if it is actually true or not, but it probably is, about a Marine who reported to his new command, he’s a Private and he doesn’t know anyone. His squad decides to take him out and get him drunk. Then they beat the shit out of him, then they sodomize him with broom handles.

    Every time they would tell this story, and I was with the Marines for 2 years and they’d tell it quarterly, so I heard it 8 times, I’d imagine myself in the squad, talking about the plan for the evening.
    Squad Leader: Ok guys, let’s take the new guy out and get him loaded.
    Me: Yeah, whatever.
    Squad Leader: Then let’s beat the shit out of him.
    Me: … What else could we do, I mean, instead of that?
    Squad Leader: Then we’ll rape him by shoving broom handles up his ass!
    Me: We’re not friends anymore.

    I can’t figure out the mindset behind gang rape. And I don’t know anyone who would go along with the last suggestion, and I know a TON of people who would go along with plans A and B. It just kind of mystifies me.

    All of this is in reference to the question about gang rape, though I haven’t seen the movie. It sounds like one of the greatest things ever though.

  21. Vern- Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! As the degenerate 42 yr. old I am, I thought this was some fever dream/ acid flashback. Now I remember I saw this when I managed a video store in ’89, and used to throw parties in the store after hours, hence the acid flashback reference. Thanks to you, I now know this does truly exist and I MUST see it again…y’know, for the children. Thanks again dude.

  22. Vern, TRIP WITH TEACHER is a pretty damn good rape-sploitation picture. It’s kinda’ bloodless and super low budget but it’s got a fast pace, consistent characterizations, good suspense and a fine motorcycle chase scene at the midway point.

    As an example of Drive-In exploitation fare it’s a winner.

    I also have MALIBU HIGH but have yet to check that one out.

  23. Someone needs to make a masturbation joke about BAND OF THE HAND. I’m coming up empty.

  24. How about “Well I guess we know why they have to wear a band on their hand…”?

  25. Well done, Stu.

  26. Mr. M, do you still have this on DVD? I am interested in getting my hands on a copy if possible. I would email you directly but I am not sure of the best way to do so. Thanks

  27. I do. It’s still a VHS rip but it looks pretty decent for what it is. I’ve seen worse, in any case. (Chances are you’re not looking into YOUNG WARRIORS for its sumptuous photography anyway.) I even upgraded to a disc with chapter breaks and a slick-looking custom menu screen. That’s what passes for special features in my world.

    Here’s how you can contact me: Go to any of my other comments on this page. Click on my name. It’ll bring you to my sadly neglected movie review blog (“One of the internet’s most consistent pleasures[!]”—Mr. Subtlety, 2012). Scroll down, maybe stopping to peruse a few reviews along the way (the WHITE FIRE one is a real gem in my opinion). Click on the post from December 9, 2010. You will find my email address in the first paragraph. Try to keep it to yourself. I don’t want my personal account to get bumrushed by my legions of Majestykles.

    Please disregard that list of movies I supposedly have for sale. Many of them are now available through legal means (and in much better-looking editions) so I don’t sell them anymore. Technically, I hardly sell movies at all anymore but I make exceptions for friends. Or friends of friends. Or people with money who want to give some to me.

  28. Thanks, I did check out the WHITE FIRE review and was excited to see that it is also availible streaming with Amazon Prime (get it now through Vern’s link). It is a bad VHS scan but I am excited to check it out.

  29. I for one consider myself a Majestykles and out of being blindly rejected from emailing you because my handle isn’t Charles on this here forum, Imma sign you up for so many newsletters now! I’m talking freaky porno and Drudge Report here!

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