THE WANDERERS - ABC Drive-In, Beacon Mall, Beltway Plaza, Embassy Circle, Fair City Mall, Herndon, K-B Rockville Drive-In Lincoln, Mount Vernon Drive-In, Palmer Drive-In, Rockville mall, Rolling Valley, Roth's Manor, Roth's Parkway, Roth's Ranch Drive-In and Waldorf.

In the junior-varsity division of sadistic films, street gangs take the part that Nazis perform in the grown-up versions.

The teenagers also wear uniforms of a sort, often of leather, and they are presumed to need no motivation to engage in constant violence. It is thought to be simply in their nature, set off by the times, which are late '50s or early '60s. In place of the quasi-historical background of World War II, there is a quasi-sociological one - a failed parent or an instant of declared loneliness justifies everything.

However, the high-school versions, of which the latest is "The Wanderers," tend not to have the courage of their nasty little convictions. Murder, in this one, is confined to the gang member nobody liked anyway. Racial antagonism is strictly surface - in the end, it's the (comparatively) clean-cut white guys, with their black and oriental allies, against the more disgusting white guys. Other specialties of junior titillation are urinating, vomiting and cussing out the teacher.

But there's something apologetic about the whole business, a whiney tone, as if the filmmakers were pleading in court that the offenders are only juveniles who never had a chance. Ken Wahl, John Friedrich and Tony Ganios, as the leading members of the Wanderers gang, are shown as emotionally hurtable (so as not to say vulnerable) sweethearts who would just as soon be playing wholesome football as rumbling. In one inexplicable scene, a fresh-faced, book-carrying girl, played by Karen Allen, falls in love at first sight with a Wanderer who grabs her breast as she walks down the street. In an even less explicable one, he is shunned by the boys for having been caught on a convertible floor with the wrong girl.

Two-timing is apparently the ultimate street crime. CAPTION: Picture, KEN WAHL TRIES TO SOOTHE HIS ANGRY GIRLFRIEND, TONI KALEM, IN A SCENE FROM "THE WANDERERS."