John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. (1996): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

In 1996, John Carpenter essentially pulled a Sam Raimi with one of his key creations, Snake Plissken. While “Escape from New York” is a great scifi action film, Carpenter is this time given a bigger budget and decides to cover a wider field of his mythology, cramming in as much as he could with this sequel/remake. While I wouldn’t call “Escape from LA,” it manages to rise above the rest in Carpenter’s ouevre with some very good concepts, and Kurt Russell doing a bang up job, as always.

In 2013, the United States president (Cliff Robertson) is exiling all citizens who don’t conform to his hyper-conservative views to Los Angeles, which became an island after a huge earthquake. But, when the president’s daughter nabs the detonator to her dad’s apocalyptic weapon and sneaks into L.A. to be with the rebel leader she loves, the government taps commando-turned-crook Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to retrieve the young woman. And, if he doesn’t succeed quickly, he’ll be executed.

Kurt Russell doesn’t seem to have aged much at all with his reprising of the character of Snake Plissken. This quality gives Snake this otherworldly gravitas like the Man with No Name, except he seems so much fitter to take on any challenge in his older state. He still has an eye patch and is a world class Special Forces agent, but he is forced in to helping the president, or else. Carpenter maintains a lot of the aesthetic and unique vision of the future with “Escape from LA,” but his bigger budget allows him to go a bit more off the rails thematically. These twists are sometimes hit and sometimes miss, all things considered. Carpenter pits Snake against some unusual obstacles that are glorious in their silliness.

Whether it’s a free throw contest where he has to make five baskets on opposing sides of the court on a ten second shot clock lest he’s shot dead, or riding a massive wave alongside Peer Fonda as righteous surfer Pipeline, “Escape from LA” at least tries for new and inventive. I don’t know if we’ll ever get a third “Escape from…” movie from Carpenter, but at least we got a glimpse in to an entertaining and exciting cinematic post-apocalypse.

The new Blu from Shout includes “Beverly Hills Workshed” a nine minutes audio interview with the always entertaining Bruce Campbell, who was cast in “Escape from L.A.” without meeting John Carpenter, but hired due to his “Evil Dead” past. He portraying the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, and covered underneath layers of Rick Baker’s make up. “Part of the Family” is a twenty six minutes sit down with Peter Jason, who discusses parts of his extensive career including landing time on “The Red Skelton Show,” and his small part in “Rio Lobo” which started his career. “A Little Bit Offbeat” is an eight minutes talk about John Carpenter with actor Stacy Keach, who met the filmmaker through his wife, Sandy, in the 1970s. Carpenter and Keach eventually worked together on “Body Bags,” leading to a job offer for “Escape from L.A.”

Memories of Carpenter and producer Debra Hill are shared, and love is offered to star Kurt Russell. “Miss a Shot, You Get Shot” is a fourteen minutes conversation with Georges Corraface, with the actor examining his early start as an international actor, his casting in “Christopher Columbus: The Discovery,” where the young performer was handed the lead role due to his ability to fit in Timothy Dalton’s wardrobe, taking over for the departing star. The interviewee explores the creation of his character and the legacy of the film, and why audiences love Snake Plissken. The eighteen minutes “One Eye is Better Than None” is a career overview with makeup artist James McPherson, who tracks his initial Rhode Island production achievements, including work on a Sunkist commercial, studying with Rick Baker and his achievements, and trying to get his attention as an up-and-comer in the business.

He also discusses observing Carpenter at work. “The Renderman” is a nineteen minutes interview with CG supervisor David Jones, who details his work early in the computer age, and getting his first look at technology with the Apple II computer. He recalls his time with Carpenter on “Escape from L.A.,” but what’s interesting is that Jones “taking responsibility” for “subpar” visual effects, pointing out his youthful ambition on the surf sequence and the submarine journey. He admits the team took on more than they could handle, but he remains proud of the movie, sharing release memories and charting the growth of visual effects. He also speaks very highly of Russell, who was involved in post-production duties. There’s a Still Gallery that includes film stills, publicity shots, BTS snaps, special effects photos, poster art, lobby cards, and press kit pages. There are four original T.V. Spots, and finally the original exciting Theatrical Trailer