Escape From New York * * * *

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Director: John Carpenter.
Screenplay: John Carpenter, Nick Castle.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, Season Hubley, Tom Atkins, John Diehl, George “Buck” Flower,

During my childhood, I enjoyed many movies from director John Carpenter but it’s been a long time since I’ve revisited any of them. If truth be told, I kind of avoided them incase they didn’t hold up on reflection and quite frankly, I didn’t want my memory of them to be tarnished. The reason I’ve revisited this one is because Eric, who runs The IPC blog asked me to collaborate on a “double-take“, where we would compare our thoughts on a specific film. I’m glad I took part as this cult classic from my younger years still holds many memorable moments.

In the year 1997, the entire city of New York has become a maximum security prison, holding all of society’s criminals. All the bridges leading into the city are cut off, a large wall is built along the shoreline and a large police force is based there to stop any attempted escapees. Things take a turn for the worse though, when the President’s (Donald Pleasance) plane is shot down and he has to eject. Unfortunately for everyone he lands in New York forcing a rescue mission. It’s here that prisoner and ex-soldier Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into the decaying city. If he manages to rescue the president then he’ll win his own life and freedom in return.

Straight from the off-set, this film sets the tone with Carpenter’s own foreboding music score, luring you into an anarchy ridden, post-apocalyptic New York. Like all of Carpenter’s works during the 70’s and 80’s, the concept is sheer brilliance. There are very few directors these days that have the vision or originality that this man had. Unfortunately, Carpenter can’t seem to hit the same heights these days but he was way ahead of his game around this time and this film stands as one of his most recognised and has a fervent cult following. Like a lot of cult movies though, it has it’s flaws; the settings are basic and it has the old flashing computers with an abundance of lightbulbs on show but it’s testament to Carpenter’s vision that his concept overrides these dated faults and the film still manages to remain suitably futuristic. Granted, in some cases it can come across as amateurish – even self-conscious – but good sci-fi primarily works on it’s idea’s and Carpenter certainly applies the idea well here. This is a film that confidently relies on it’s premise and it works an absolute treat. It is also helps that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and has it’s tongue stuck firmly in it’s cheek. That’s thanks-in-large to Kurt Russell, who delivers a string of great one-liners in a memorable and iconic central performance as Snake Plissken – one of cinema’s finest anti-heroes. Unfortunately, the film does succumb to some formulaic action material but it’s credit to Carpenter’s pacing and Russell’s wisecracks for keeping the films head above ground. Despite it’s style and substance becoming a casualty to the action, it’s still a lot of fun, regardless of it’s occasional wandering.

A great sci-fi cautionary tale that a contemporary audience can still identify with. It can also proudly take it’s place amongst the great B-movies and cult classics of our time and lasting proof, that John Carpenter was one of the finest directors working during the 1970’s & 80’s.

To read the “double-take” in full, visit Eric’s site here.

Mark Walker

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51 Responses to “Escape From New York * * * *”

  1. keith7198 Says:

    This is a good movie. Recently it just missed being in my top 5 from 1981. Isn’t it funny that the dreaded future is 1997? Gotta love it. Nice review.

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    • Cheers Keith. Yeah 1997 eh? I don’t know why filmmakers decide on dates like that, its only going to give a certain shelf-life to a film. That being said, Carpenters creativity still shines through though. A cult classic.

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      • keith7198 Says:

        Absolutely a cult classic. And yes, why not date it 2247 or something like that. Even Looper takes place in 2044 although as I mentioned in my review it doesn’t really overdo its futuristic landscape.

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      • Exactly. I think one of my personal favourites “Blade Runner” is getting close to that same problem. I think it’s set in something like 2029.
        I’ve not checked your looper review yet. I’ll get on that today Keith. I’ve a massive backlog to get through.

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  2. I have never seen this one but now I really want to. Thanks for the introduction to it.

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  3. EXCELLENT WORK HERE MARK!! Thanks for collaborating!!!

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  4. B-Movie Classic is right. 😀 Nice pick Mark. Gotta love Snake Plissken!

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    • This was part of a little collaboration that was suggested to me by Eric over at The IPC. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have watched this any time soon Fogs. I’m glad I did though, it still stands up and Plissken is a great character.

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  5. I still love this film. Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Issac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Lee Stanton and, of course, Adrienne Barbeau, what’s not to love? What a cast, what a story! Great film to feature, Mark!

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  6. ray brayne Says:

    This film keeps regenerating. This year it was “Lockout” but plenty of others before that. I guess imitation is sincere flattery!

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  7. In high school, my friend’s band wrote a song about this movie so every time I think about it I think of that song…Good times.

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  8. I haven’t watched this since it came out, but you really make me want to revisit it. Great to hear it holds up! As of me I don’t remember a thing, apart from that I liked it.

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    • It’s definitely worth a revisit Jessica. Some of it looks a little dated but ultimately it’s the premise that holds it all together. That and Russell’s cool performance.

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  9. I’ve never seen this and had no idea what it was about (was just familiar with the title). Definitely need to hunt it down.

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  10. Great review, as always, Mark 🙂

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  11. Haven’t seen it… dont hate me!! 🙂

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  12. filmfellahenry Says:

    Absolutely love this movie. With the amazing synth score, fantastic 80’s sci fi setting and good old Kurt laying down the cosh, i think its one of carpenters best. Glad to see that it still holds up on a rewatch. Nice job.

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  13. This movie sort of um, escaped me for some reason. I might give it a watch one of these days. I know there’s a rumor a few yrs ago that Gerry Butler was gonna star in the remake, glad it was just a rumor!!

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    • It’s Definitley worth a go Ruth, if only to realise it’s cult status. It’s funny you mention a remake, I had never heard this news but I considered mentioning it in my review that I’m surprised it hasnt been done. I’ll say something though, Butler would be entirely suited to the role.

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      • Well I think the rumor also stated that Kurt Russell hated the idea of a Scot playing his role, or something like that. It made me laugh, but at the same time I’d rather see Butler do something else, like that Burns biopic 😉

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      • What’s Russell got against the Scots? I must investigate 😉
        Yeah, Butler and THAT biopic. I really hope that happens one day.

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  14. Didn’t think it was as perfect and amazing as everybody told me about beforehand, but still a bunch of B-movie fun and action, the only way that Carpenter can do it. Loved that scene between Snake and the big-ass dude in the ring. Good review Mark.

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    • Cheers Dan. I thought this was perfect when I was younger but admittedly it has flaws now that I’m a bit more discerning 😉 however there’s no denying it’s enjoyment factor and for the most part it’s stood the test of time well.

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  15. Victor De Leon Says:

    Awesome write up, Mark! I love this film to no end. One of my favorite JC films and one of my top scores by him as well. A true 80’s classic that has held up very well and so many still hold it in high regard. Good job, man.

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    • Thank you very much Victor. Nice to see you stopping by. Yeah, I was surprised how well it stood up. I’m a big fan of Carpenter myself. I grew up with the man. My favourite of his still remains The Thing though but he’s done some outstanding stuff. I really must revisit Big Trouble In Little China and They Live as well. Thanks again man.

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        Anytime, my pleasure. You have a very cool site. The Thing is my favorite JC film and is in my Top 10 fave all time movies. They Live was just released on blu ray recently I believe. That one and Big Trouble are vintage Carpenter.

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      • You rate The Thing in your all time top ten? High praise indeed man and I can understand why. Totally agree on the others being vintage Carpenter as well. Another that I really love is Prince Of Darkness. That film totally freaked me out man.

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        POD is intense through and through. Another under-rated gem from JC that works on so many levels. That score and the dream sequences still gives me the chills. Yeah, I do rate The Thing very highly indeed. So much so that it crept up into my top 10 over the last 10 years or so.

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      • An under-rated gem indeed Victor. I couldn’t look at a mirror for ages after Prince Of Darkness. It really affected me deeply and I’m not normally scared easily. Man, all this talk of Carpenter is making me want to go through all his stuff.

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        I love revisiting JC every so often. When I do I usually hit his more obscure stuff (not that any of his films are obscure) like In The Mouth of Madness, Vampires or Assault on Precinct 13. Hell, I even like watching Village of the Damned once in a while. POD, though, had a wicked ending and I see what you mean about mirrors lol.

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      • In the Mouth of Madness is another very underrated gem of his and I also enjoyed Vampires. Assault on Precinct 13 is pure quality and like yourself Victor, I actually enjoyed Village of the Damned as well. I really takes a lot for me not to like Carpenters stuff. I just wish he could get back in the game again.

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        As do I. I hope “Darkchylde” works out for him. I suppose he is in the process of trying to get funding or a script done. Though not a complete return to form I found much to like in The Ward and I loved Cigarette Burns from the Masters of Horror series. Still the best entry to this day. Pro-Life though was not so good but oh well. Some directors are allowed a stinker here and there. 😀

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      • I haven’t seen Pro-Life or The Ward yet but I will get around to them. I think I’ve seen Cigarette Burns but can’t Remember much about it. Hadn’t heard of Darkchylde though. Nice one Victor I’ll look for some more info on that. Good man!

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        I’ll be posting some more recent info on Darkchylde soon. I believe I’ve posted something earlier on my blog. I’ll track down the post and update it then I’ll tweet it on my blog’s Twitter feed. I think Pro-Life and The Ward are available on Netflix if you have it for streaming movies. Cigarette Burns stars Udo Keir and Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead.

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      • Cigarette Burns is still a little hazy and maybe I’m getting it mixed up with the segment that Carpenter done in Bodybags. As for Darkchylde, I’ll swing by your site and see if I can find what you’ve written so far. Cheers Vic

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        I’ll have to look around and see where that post is. I’ll try to dig it up or update it! Thanks, man. 😀 Cigarette Burns was about that film reel that went missing and it supposed to drive whoever watches it mad. Udo hires Reedus to locate it. Great entry.

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      • I haven’t seen Cigarette Burns then. That doesn’t ring a bell. I’d be very interested in hearing more about Darkchylde though Vic.

        All this talk of Carpenters stuff lead me to watch Prince of Darkness again last night. Great stuff! I should have a review up in the next few days. 🙂

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      • Victor De Leon Says:

        Looking forward to it! I had my Friend, Brian review POD for me a while back. I love it. Great score and cool story. I’ll work on the Darkchylde update today, Mark! Thanks.

        Like

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