With “Escape from New York,” director John Carpenter once again evokes the western by delivering his own trademark twist of the sub-genre. Through his film he offers up a classic tale of a hero in the badlands while also introducing us to one of the most colorful figures in the Carpenter gallery: Snake Plissken. Plissken is a role only Kurt Russsell could have played, a brooding and rebellious anti hero who is also very cunning and of few words.
Though with some it may feel like a Clint Eastwood impression, Russell makes it in to a worthy and brilliant homage to the man with no name. Who knows it Snake Plissken is even his real name? We just know that Plissken is a mercenary and he’s hired to work for a government that’s less than tidy when it comes to its inner circle. With Plissken, Russell is a mixture of Rooster Cogburn, The Man with No Name, Lee Van Cleef, and Lee Marvin. He’s a swaggering and stone cold survivor of a new world, and a vicious cowboy as one should be when society has evolved as it has in Carpenter’s ouvre. Russell is a banner superhero, a mixture of Western tropes for a new age of civilization and that’s just the way Carpenter loves it.
It’s the wild west in contemporary America, much in the realm of the spiritual prequel “Assault on Precinct 13.” Now with a 400 percent increase in crime in America, New York has become a high security prison. A fifty foot wall has been built around the border of the island, allowing criminals from within to form their own civilization and world, if only they stay within the walls. The outside is patrolled heavily, keeping any and all prisoners from attempting to escape. When the president crash lands on the island with crucial state information, Snake Plissken, a former Special Forces officer is hired to go inside and rescue him, not to mention save the information. But that proves troublesome when Snake has to come across all kinds of sub-civilizations to get to the president, including The Duke, as played by Isaac Hayes.
With such a small budget, and enough ingenuity, Carpenter is able to transform New York in to a harrowing wasteland with a futuristic bent that turns it in to a jungle where only the strong survive. There’s a dense mood present where Carpenter is able to invoke a futuristic world dominated by crime where one of the biggest cities is now a war world and stomping ground for the scourge of the planet. The film is filled with strong performances from Russell, Donald Pleasance, and Lee Van Cleef, right down to Adrienne Barbeau and Isaac Hayes. Yet another of Carpenter’s films often imitated “Escape from New York” is a dazzling effort from Carpenter, and a one of a kind apocalyptic epic that has yet to be rivaled in action and storytelling quality.
There are three audio commentaries for fans. One New Audio Commentary with Actress Adrienne Barbeau and Director of Photographer Dean Cundey, an Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Actor Kurt Russell and an Audio Commentary with Producer Debra Hill and Production Designer Joe Alves. For Disco Two there’s Big Challenges in Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects of Escape from New York, a fourteen minute look at the Special Visual FX of “Escape” with interviews from the DP’s and Matte Artists.
Scoring the Escape: A Discussion with Composer Alan Howarth is a tour of Alan Howarth’s new studio with some biographical background for good measure; as well there is a look at his collaboration with Carpenter on the score for Escape from New York. On Set with John Carpenter: The Images of Escape from New York is a feature about Carpenter’s work with Still Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker. There’s the eight minute I Am Taylor: An Interview with Actor Joe Unger, the great recollection by David DeCoteau My Night on Set: An Interview with Filmmaker David DeCoteau. There’s The Original Deleted Bank Robbery Sequence which clocks in at ten minutes, the classic EPK clocking in at twenty three minutes Return to Escape from New York. Finally there’s the theatrical trailers, and four photo galleries for fans of the movie.