Wanderers, The: 25th Anniversary Edition (1979)

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Released 13-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Philip Kaufman (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 116:49 (Case: 114)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Philip Kaufman

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Ken Wahl
John Friedrich
Karen Allen
Toni Kalem
Alan Rosenberg
Jim Youngs
Tony Ganios
Linda Manz
William Andrews
Erland van Lidth
Val Avery
Dolph Sweet
Michael Wright
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Wanderers is somewhat of a cult favourite. It holds a place in the hearts of many people (particularly Americans) who grew up in the early sixties. At the simplest level it is a coming-of-age tale, set in the Bronx of 1963.

    The plot is uncomplicated. Four teenagers are reaching the cusp of manhood. School will soon be over and they will have to make their own way in the world. In the meantime, the lives of Joey (John Friedrich), Turkey (Alan Rosenberg) and ringleader Richie (Ken Wahl) revolve around their membership of a neighbourhood gang known as The Wanderers. The Bronx is populated by a seemingly endless number of such gangs, usually created around ethnic lines. We have the primo Italian crew (the eponymous Wanderers), a number of black gangs spearheaded by the glamorous Del Bombers, the fabulous kung-fu masters the Wongs, the Jewish Pharaohs and the appropriately named Baldies. The most mysterious of all the gangs are The Duckie Boys - a strangely silent, diffuse group with no recognisable traits other than a tendency to carry knives and a sociopathic leaning towards unprovoked violence.

    Turkey is tiring of his membership of the Wanderers and indeed has had his head shaved so that he can try and join the bloated, leather-jacketed (possibly neo-Nazi?) Fordham Baldies. When he and Joey fall foul of the Baldies - after all, Joey does tell the leader Terror (Erland van Lidth) that they look like a bunch of pricks with ears - they find themselves cornered and defenceless. Fortunately, a towering new kid named Perry (Tony Ganios) arrives in the nick of time and saves Joey from a severe beating. Before too long, Perry becomes the newest member of the gang.

    When their high school teacher starts a discussion on race, the animosity between the black students and the Italians boils over into a furious row. The only way to settle their differences must be - you guessed it - a rumble. The Wanderers soon realise that they are going to be hopelessly outnumbered, and seek the support of various other gangs including the ninja-like Wongs, and even the Baldies. When they draw a blank, help arrives in the form of the local "goodfellas", the Galasso brothers. They do a deal with the local black businessmen, and the rumble is translated into a football game instead. Before the game gets underway, there will be plenty of opportunity for the guys to party, fall in love, fall out of friendship and fall foul of the Duckie Boys...

    The one facet of this movie which I have yet to really fathom is the behaviour of the Duckie Boys. I suspect that they stand as a metaphor for something or other, but I'm not entirely sure just what. Possibly they represent "the outside world" - the life outside of the local neighbourhoods, and the impending threat of adulthood. They are almost surreal in their depiction, never speaking a word, always aggressive and threatening without provocation. When the Wanderers stumble into the Duckie Boys' neighbourhood, it is always shrouded with smoke or fog. The way ahead is never clear and the endless hordes of amorphous Duckie Boys attack without requiring any real reason. The pitched battle with the Duckie Boys is clearly symbolic - the sheer scale of the fight at the football game and the dreamlike way in which it is resolved cannot be intended as a literal telling of events. Maybe someone out there knows the truth - but I think my theory holds some water at least!

    In this 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, the film has finally been given a decent anamorphic transfer and includes an audio commentary track. For those who have seen the film before, this will be a welcome improvement. I can recommend this DVD to fans of the movie - for those who have not yet seen the film, I can recommend a rental if you enjoyed the likes of Rumble Fish or West Side Story - this is a lighter take on the gang tales of the former, without the overt campness of the latter. Overall this is quite a funny and sometimes touching period piece.

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Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer is pretty decent for a film which is twenty-five years old, but it is not without its flaws.

    The movie is presented in an anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which is slightly wider than the 1.66:1 original aspect ratio.

    The image is disappointingly soft for much of the film - particularly in middle and long distance shots. Close-ups are generally fine, but the image softness is mildly distracting at times, with quite a loss of detail and definition apparent. It is generally reasonable from the perspective of excessive grain however.

    Black levels are reasonably deep and solid, with no significant issues with low level noise. Shadow detail is however rather limited, with some of the (plentiful) darker scenes becoming fairly impenetrable due to the lack of detail on offer. Colours vary a little, and in general look somewhat muted. There are instances where the palette is a little more lively however, and overall I found the lack of colour bleeding and period feel quite satisfactory. Skin tones are a little too warm to be considered realistic.

    There are no significant problems with MPEG compression artefacts. I found no distracting instances of aliasing on my progressive scan system. There is some noticeable edge enhancement present (for example around dark jeans) from time to time but this was never significant enough to become a distraction.

    There are some minor film artefacts present, but overall the print is acceptably clean.

    There are, sadly, no subtitles on offer.

    The disc is in a single sided and single layered (DVD 5) format, so there is no layer change present.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is reasonable but still feels rather low fidelity.

    The sole audio track is provided as a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix encoded at a healthy 448 kbps. There are no major defects in the way of pops or dropouts but there is some minor hiss present in the background occasionally. Whilst it is adequate, it does feel somewhat tinny.

    The dialogue is generally clear enough, but the thick accents and sometimes muttered delivery may mean you miss the occasional word. This is not a significant problem however. The main audio track has no significant problems with audio sync, but the same cannot be said for the commentary track (see the extras section).

    The music is a major part of the film experience. The score consists of numerous contemporary pop songs and is highly evocative of the period. The music editing is attributed to Susan Crutcher and she has assembled a range of fitting and highly enjoyable tunes to complement the story. Walk Like A Man, Sherry Baby, Tequila and of course The Wanderer make appearances amongst several other fun tracks.

    The two main front speakers do all the work. There is fairly minor spread across the main speakers and little in the way of real stereo separation or panning for instance. Even with Pro Logic II enabled there is no major activity from the surround speakers. To be honest, it sounds better with Pro Logic disabled.

    The subwoofer is, of course, unused for LFE, but depending on your bass management set-up, if you enable Pro Logic II you may find it supports the musical numbers on occasion. It is of no real relevance however.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are minimal extra features.


    The main menu is a 16x9 enhanced static picture of the main protagonists. It is accompanied by a loop of period music. It provides the opportunity of playing the film, selecting one of twenty chapter stops, or enjoying the following extra features:

Audio Commentary

    Philip Kaufman (director and co-writer) provides a reasonably interesting commentary track, which contains quite a few silent passages. Unfortunately, the audio sync for the main soundtrack is badly affected by the placement of the commentary with a consistent offset of a second or two, which makes it annoying to watch the film with the commentary playing. Nevertheless, this will be a pleasing addition for serious fans of the film.


    Running for 2:40 and presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track encoded at 224 kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The current Region 1 release of this movie appears to be essentially the same as our own, although it is stated to have an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Buy whichever is cheaper.


    The Wanderers: 25th Anniversary Limited Edition is a nice coming of age flick set in the Bronx of 1963. The Wanderers are a bunch of Italian school kids, pitting their wits against a host of other gangs - the Baldies, the Wongs, the Del Bombers and the sociopathic Duckie Boys. With teenage sex, underage drinking, the lost art of "elbow-titting" and a funky period soundtrack this is a funny and kitsch look at the youth of the period. Recommended for fans of American Graffiti, Rumble Fish or West Side Story.

    The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 video transfer is reasonable but rather soft.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio transfer is adequate.

    Extras are limited to a trailer and an audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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