At the beginning of the month, AEISD Contributor Mark Searby was incredibly excited about attending a UK convention, focusing on a truly American film of its time, and one of his favourites: THE WARRIORS. Warriors Conclave – held at the Edgbaston Stadium over the weekend of the 1st & 2nd April – is one of the steadily-growing Comics Festival events to held in the UK and, as Mark reports, it was done with a lot of love…
All photos, credit: Sam Payne
Mark Searby: THE WARRIORS was a 1979 action thriller, directed by Walter Hill (48 HOURS, RED HEAT, STREETS OF FIRE), that initially received bad reviews however over the subsequent decades it has grown to become a cult movie. The film was a road trip revenge movie that followed The Warriors, a brutal New York City street gang, as they raced across the city while being pursued by other gangs after being mistaken as the killers of a powerful gang leader. It was a brutal film, shot on location on the rough streets of NYC, with the urban landscape becoming an integral character of the film of its own.
The British equivalent of a baseball bat? Rounders seems a little tame so the closest comparison is probably a cricket bat – therefore, it seemed apt that a convention dedicated to a film that is synonymous with a firm piece of swingable pine would be held at a British cricket ground!
In a UK first, the majority of the WARRIORS cast were reunited at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Cricket Stadium for a weekend of ‘Warriors Coming Out To Play-i-ay’! In attendance was Dorsey Wright (Clean), Michael Beck (Swan), Brian Tyler (Snow), Thomas Waites (Fox), Terry Michos (Vermin), David Harris (Cochise) and Konrad Sheehan (The Punks). (Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Mercy) was scheduled to appear but sadly how to drop out at the last minute due to a schedule clash.)
The gang clearly were enjoying the reunion, whatever country it was being geld in, and had a great time meeting fans in the black draped concourse of the cricket ground. Autograph prices ranged from £25-£30 with selfies happily posed for free (an increasing rarity in the highly monetized convention landscape at present).
The longest line was for Michael Beck, however it shuffled through at a steady pace, with was no security asking you to move along once you had something signed, either. For a film that is about violence, the convention was incredibly placid.
Away from the concourse area and up two levels was a gallery area, displaying artwork and memorabilia from the film; the room next door was where the Q&A panels were being hosted. At the moment of my walking in, I found Thomas Waites conducting a class on acting techniques (Waites now runs his own acting studio in New York). Towards the end, yours truly was called up to engage in mirror acting – was this payback for my tardiness? Was I any good? Who knows! Only the audience that day could say – no evidence remains, you’ll be disappointed to learn.
The panel room was in use all day with Q&A’s from the cast, with a full screening of the film afterwards, followed by the deleted scenes. There was also a WARRIORS quiz to test your knowledge and Waites had brought his guitar to sing a few songs towards the end of the day. All that was left was a number of VIP personal meet-and-greets, which had sold out weeks before the event – when else could the chance to interact with these actors in this country roll around again?
In conclusion, you have to remember that a convention solely dedicated to one film is always a tough sell, even more so for a cult film that was made nearly forty years ago. However, the draw of THE WARRIORS still continues to this day, with the generation that attended the Warriors Conclave being those who watched it during their formative years and making a lasting impact.
This audience – as with the cast of the film – may consider themselves to be a little older and perhaps a little wiser but the passion for the film has never died, and that was evident at Edgbaston over weekend. A small but incredibly smoothly run con, Boppers!