The Wanderers (1979)

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Released 16-Aug-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 112:05 (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
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown 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 based upon the novel of the same name by Richard Price, about an Italian gang of the same name who generally get into as much strife as they possibly can. It has achieved something of a cult following, and it is not too bad as far as cult films about a best-forgotten era in human history go. If you enjoy films about the different directions four lives can take over the course of time, then The Wanderers is worth checking out.

    The year is 1963, and the setting is that ever-so-wonderful part of New York known as The Bronx. The Bronx is basically America's answer to Birmingham, in that it is dark and ugly, and pictures taken there tend to reflect this (more about this in the transfer quality). The generally accepted place to be for the youths of this environment is in a gang, and for the Italian youths, the gang of choice is one called The Wanderers. The Wanderers are generally led by Richie (Ken Wahl), and it's their lot in life to generally misbehave or battle it out with rival gangs, especially The Baldies, led by the exceptionally ugly Terror (Erland van Lidth). As they blunder their way through school, it is the lot of Mister Sharp (Val Avery) to try and teach them something. Sadly, an attempt at a lesson in racial equality goes awry and disintegrates into violence after a long exchange of racist taunts, or at least I think he had other ideas in mind.

    The end result of the lack of control in the classroom is that the black youths challenge the Italian youths to a fight, one that has the Italians falling a little short where strength of numbers is concerned. Another rival gang, known only as The Wongs, make an appearance when The Wanderers start a recruitment drive to boost their strength, which makes this moment more reminiscent of a Kung Fu flick.

    Nonetheless, when the four main members of The Wanderers decide to go girl-annoying, Joey (John Friedrich) meets Nina (Karen Allen), whom he later calls and invites to a party. Meanwhile, with Peewee (Linda Manz) watching in distress, The Baldies all go and drunkenly sign up for the Marines, which isn't such a bad idea considering they already have the appropriate haircuts. Unfortunately, Turkey (Alan Rosenberg) meets with disaster when the rapid-fire changes in his allegiance catch up with him, and the party dissolves after a particularly unexciting game of strip poker. As matters go from bad to worse to the beat of what was then contemporary music, the big game that the Italians challenged the Afros to during the aforementioned classroom explosion approaches. It was actually going to be a fight at first, but the elders in the Italian community intervened, and it's as confusing to watch as it sounds.

    There's not much else I can tell you about the film that will make you decide whether or not to view it, except maybe that it is a much more fitting memorial for Erland van Lidth than his last film, The Running Man. You can see how beneath him roles like this one really were during Chapter 6, when he threatens to burst into a song several times. As period dramas go, The Wanderers is worth looking at once, but I don't think it will stand up to repeat viewings very well.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. This transfer is, thankfully, of better quality than the last widescreen transfer based around the 4:3 frame from this distributor that I viewed, although it is still not without its flaws.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp without being particularly remarkable, with some major lapses in the background focus such as at 36:22. Whether this is just bad photography or not enough bits being allocated to the frame, it's not the most encouraging effect. Thankfully, it only happens a handful of times during the film's total length. A problem with this transfer that will be harder to stomach than the others is the poor shadow detail, with a shot under a bridge that dissolves into nothing but black shapes at 36:22 being a typical example. While I can appreciate that this is an old film, it is not that old, and the fact that most of the action takes place at night in a dark, ugly city does not help matters any. There does not appear to be any low-level noise in the picture.

    The colour saturation in the overall film is generally dull, thanks in no small part to the filming locations, which I have little trouble believing actually are part of the Bronx. In some shots, skin tones appear a little too red, as if someone yanked up the saturation just a tad to compensate for the otherwise pallid look of the film. There were no instances of cross-colouration or dot crawl, however.

    MPEG artefacts were not specifically a problem for this transfer, although the aforementioned loss of definition in some backgrounds did seem to be at least partly accentuated by the compression. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor instances of aliasing, none of which were particularly distracting or annoying. Film artefacts were found in various shapes and sizes throughout the film, but they were acceptable for an unrestored telecine of a film that is twenty-two years old. If it weren't for the lack of 16x9 Enhancement and lapses in definition, this would be quite an excellent transfer. As it stands, it isn't all that bad, either.

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


    There is only one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 224 kilobits per second. Having no other options, I listened to this soundtrack, which is not a bad effort considering the vintage of the film.

    The dialogue is generally very clear and easy to understand, although the speech from Teddy Wong (Dion Albanese) in one scene almost became a little like a cliché from a Kung Fu flick. Aside from this hilarious moment, there's nothing to really worry about, and the dialogue generally is the entire focus, anyway. There are no discernable problems with audio sync.

    There is no score music as such in this film, just a long string of contemporary numbers, with one Susan Crutcher being credited with editing them together. The pieces of music from various sources that appear in the film are very appropriate, and serve to build the right sort of atmosphere, but I found myself pretty much unmoved by them in the end. The lack of music during certain scenes where people die or have other such horrible things happen to them is pretty creepy, but it makes them seem all the more real.

    The surround channels are not used by this soundtrack at all. It would have been nice if there was some extra channel separation, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this soundtrack was originally a remix from an old monaural source. The separation between the two channels in the soundtrack is enough to justify the encoding into Dolby Digital 2.0, as opposed to the 1.0 format, but that's really as much as I can say. The subwoofer, although not specifically used by this soundtrack, took some redirected signal to support the music when it was present. There was very little else in the soundtrack that would really need it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static, themed around the film, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    This Full Frame, Dolby Digital 2.0, two minute and forty second trailer begins with a Majestic Films logo. Majestic is hardly the word I would use to describe the film in question, but this trailer does a good job of selling it without giving it away.

R4 vs R1

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

    Information about this title is scarce, but it appears to be available in the UK on DVD. The UK DVD version has been released with an 18 certificate, which hopefully means the disc is uncut. As to whether it is 16x9 Enhanced, that information doesn't appear to be available as yet, either.


    The Wanderers is an entertaining little film that may warrant a second viewing if you're particularly into this sort of thing.

    The video transfer is flawed, but not fatally so.

    The audio transfer is a nice, even stereo mix.

    The extra is a theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, July 19, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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