The Warriors: Can You Dig the Most Dangerous Film of the Seventies?

We breakdown the famous “Can You Dig It” sequence from Walter Hill’s The Warriors.

Imagine you’re at a family gathering. Your aunts, grandparents, and even your cousins might be there. You’re catching up with some of the relatives you barely get to see anymore when out of nowhere your uncle storms in from the kitchen and belts a loud “CAN YOU DIG IT?” Well, that had to ring true for some of you thanks to the iconic status that 1979’s The Warriors directed by Walter Hill. The Warriors is a film that follows a local New York gang as they attempt to safely get from The Bronx to their home of Coney Island. Along the way they will be hunted by rival gangs who all seek to catch and dispatch The Warriors after they’re framed for murdering Cyrus, the kingpin of local crime who aims to set up a truce between all the gangs in the state.

The scene in question is one of the first scenes of the movie. It shows thousands of New York gang members meeting at night where Cyrus will propose his truce. While the scene is iconic at face value, there are all sorts of interesting facts and stories from production that make the scene seem even more impressive. Notably, the fact that the character of Cyrus (played by Roger Hill) was originally supposed to be played by a real NYC gang leader. The man even met with production multiple times prior to filming to go over lines and workshop the scene. However, when the night of shooting finally came, the gang member was nowhere to be found! This resulted in Walter Hill replacing him with a professional actor at the last minute. Probably for the best- considering how immaculate of a performance we got from Roger Hill. Additionally, you may have heard that the film was mostly shot guerilla style with the production team losing their permits to film in the city and them having to continue the shoot anyway. During this time, it’s been reported that the production received multiple death threats from local NYC gangs who were unhappy about not being involved in the movie. This resulted in production hiring “The Mongrels”, a local outfit who protected the production vans and staff during scenes shot at night (which was almost all of them).

The release of the film stirred some violence at its screenings which added a layer of controversy to this already dicey movie. In fact, if you’ve ever seen Shaq give a press conference or host a ceremony, you’ve likely heard him dish out his impression of Cyrus by asking the crowd- “CAN YOU DIG IT?!” All interesting facts but the end result is really the treat as this scene will go down as one of the most iconic scenes (and lines) committed to film. Check out more episodes of Scene Breakdown here!

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