Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Just whistle loud and we'll be there."

These things were just bound to be reproduced ever since the Telluride Film Festival started holding special screenings of The Wanderers many years ago.  It seems that the organizers of the fest were big fans of the film and made it a regular part of the festivities, so much so that many had their own Wanderers jackets made up.  I can't find the article right now, but I recall reading an interview where director Philip Kaufman recalled his shock at seeing a bunch of people walking around in Wanderers jackets at Telluride and turning out in big numbers to see the film.  The irony being, of course, that the film was not a box-office success during its initial run largely due to the violence that broke out at theaters in early 1979 following screenings of The Warriors and Boulevard Nights, and the skittishness these incidents provoked in exhibitors. The film's audience grew exponentially, however, through cable screenings, home video, and the rise of novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, whose first novel formed the basis of the film. 

Kaufman, perhaps around the time of the shooting of The Wanderers

On the strength of its following at Telluride, Warner Bros. was inspired to re-release the film on a test basis, in the mid-1990s, in Kaufman's adopted home base of San Francisco.  As far as I can tell, the re-release did not go beyond S.F., unfortunately.

Kaufman tells a story in print, and on his audio commentary on laserdisc and DVD, about reuniting with his Wanderers--Ken Wahl, Jim Youngs, and Tony Ganios (John Friedrich was absent)--on the streets of San Francisco, following a re-release screening.  Even then, over fifteen years after its initial release, the cast members were recognized by motorcycle riders who cheered the gang as they drove by.  I can't find that article right now either, but here is a very interesting Times article from the same period, which details the film's continuing popularity on cable.

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