Monday, April 13, 2015



Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Isaac Hayes, Donald Pleasence, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton, Lee Van Cleef, Season Hubley

In John Carpenter's Escape from New York it is established that the entire island of Manhattan has been evacuated and converted into an enormous walled prison following some sort of natural disaster. New York City has been walled-off from the rest of the world, all the waterways and bridges have been mined to prevent escape. America's criminals are incarcerated there, once you enter you do not leave ever. Inside the prison the city has become a lawless wasteland of outlaws lead by a hierarchy of criminals who rule the landscape with an iron-fist of violence. 

At the start of the movie Air Force one has been hijacked by the terrorist organization the National Liberation Front who are threatening to crash the jet and kill the president of the U.S. (Donald Pleasance). Making good on their threat a short time later the plane crashes into a skyscraper in Manhattan but the President survives after having been placed inside an escape pod. However, he falls into the hands of the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) who in turn demands that the inmates of Manhattan be allowed to leave the island within the next 24-hours or he will execute the president.  

With few options left the New York Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) offers a one-time deal to a former US Special Forces soldier turned criminal named Snake Plissken, who has just arrived at the facility for detainment following the attempted robbery of the Federal Reserve. Realizing that he's going in one way or the other Snake accepts the deal, to rescue the President and the contents of his briefcase, within the next 24-hours and receive a full pardon for his crimes. If he should fail his mission a timed explosive injected into his arteries will detonate and kill him, it seems that time is of essence. 

With that Plissken silently drops into Manhattan via a glider under the cover of darkness landing atop the world Trade Center. Afterward making his way among the labyrinth of ruins and the violent locals on his quest to rescue the President. Along the way he meets a friendly cab driver named Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) who directs him towards Harold "Brain" Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) and his busty lady friend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau) who help him navigate the city and secure the President. 

Carpenter does a great job of world building, the garbage-strewn streets and colorful locals make for a fun and violent trip for the duration of the film. When Snake isn't dealing with the subterranean flesh eaters known as the crazies who roam the streets at night he must fight an enormous brute named Slag (Ox Baker) to the death for the entertainment of the Duke of New York.

Kurt Russell is quite the badass, a minimal talker and consummate ass-kicker, playing an Eastwood-type character against the Lee Van Cleef warden. He's iconic with his camouflage pants, the eye-patch, long hair and grizzled face.  Plissken has an I don't care attitude that makes him one of the best on screen anti-heros in all of cinema in my opinion. Here he's channeling Clint Eastwood Man with No Name to near perfection, this is great stuff. He plays it so well it's hard to believe this was casting against type as for year Russell was a known Disney commodity in such films as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, but he pulls it off to perfection. 

Issac Hayes makes for a bit of an understated but menacing villain, with his crew of cronies including Brain, and a whacked-out character named Romero (Frank Doubleday) who has a crazy look about him and a strange penchant for hissing. The strange cast of characters and aesthetic definitely gives the film a vibe similar to The Warriors (1979), I see the two as kindred spirits of a sort.  John Carpenter made quite a damn fine film with this one, a nihilistic slice of cinema with a fantastic cast of characters and one legendary bad ass by way of Russell's Snake Plissken. 

Audio/Video: John Carpenter's Escape from New york arrives on Blu-ray with brand new 2K hi-def scan of the inter-positive, struck from the original negative and the results are very pleasing. This one is a tad brighter than the previous MGM Blu-ray and offers more detail overall, some of the night scenes are more accessible and you can see just what the hell is happening onscreen, the older Blu-ray and Special Edition DVD of the film were impenetrable at times and being able follow what's happening onscreen is an added bonus. Additionally there's looks to be a new color grading happening, which looks good, if occasionally markedly different from  previous interpretation, which is what color grading boils down to, unless it it supervised by the original cinematographer. 

Sharpness and fine detail have never been the bread and butter of this particular film, shot on '80s film stock and loaded with dim night scenes this one has some issues in that area but the new transfer and improved contrast go a long way towards improving the presentation. 

Onto audio options we have a choice of DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 and both are satisfying experiences, the 2.0 will be closer to the theatrical experience but the 5.1 is pretty great with a nice dynamic range and a sense of depth that doesn't feel forced, both option make the most of the score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.

Scream Factory have ported over nearly all the bonus content from the previous MGM DVD except for one trailers, a montage, and the Making of John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken Chronicles and the accompanying comic book, so you might want to at least keep that comic book if you are trading-up. Carried over from the DVD are  the Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell and the Audio  Commentary With Producer Debra Hill And Production Designer Joe Alves. If you have never listened to the original original commentary with Russell/Carpenter you are missing out, they have a great camaraderie and it makes for a fantastic commentary track, the same can be said of their commentaries for Big Trouble in Little China and The Things, three of the most enjoyable commentaries ever recorded in my opinion. Also carried over are a Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence, the Return To Escape From New York Featurette, Theatrical Trailers and an array of Photo Galleries. 

Being a Scream Factory Collector's Edition there are loads of new extras to enjoy, beginning with a brand new commentary from actress Adrienne Barbeau and cinematographer Dean Cundey moderated by Sean Clark, offering some interesting anecdotes about the making of the film, not anywhere near the level of geek-gasm as the Carpenter/Russell track but still a good listen. 

Then onto five new featurettes produced fr this release, beginning with  Big Challenges In Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (14 Mins) featuring interview with Dennis and Robert Kotak who speak about creating the miniature in camera effects used on the film, the glider scene, working with James Cameron on Corman productions Battle Beyond the Stars and Galaxy of Terror before collaborating on Escape from New York. Scoring The Escape: A Discussion With Composer Alan Howarth (19 Mins) is conducted by Sean Clark with the composer relaying how he came to collaborate with Carpenter, how their collaborations worked in the studio and he even sits down at the synthesizer and plays a few clips of the score. Howarth and Clark also discuss various releases of the soundtrack including the original LP, expanded score CD and the more recent Death Waltz LP.

On Set With John Carpenter: The Images Of Escape from New York with Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker (11 Mins) is an interview with the on-set photographer who shares numerous behind-the-scenes pics while discussing her role as film historians on Carpenter sets. Lots of great shot including one of Avatar director James Cameron painting a glass matte painting used in the film. 

I Am Taylor: An Interview With Actor Joe Unger (9 Mins) who was cut from the film when the original opening bank robbery scene was cut from the film, nonetheless he is here to discuss his time on the film. The last of the new extras is My Night On The Set: An Interview With Filmmaker David DeCoteau (5 Mins) HD whom relays his night on set during the making of the film when Roger Corman's team was brought onto to do some of the insert shots for the film. Lastly we have a reversible sleeve of artwork, though I prefer the original artwork featuring the decapitated statue of liberty in the background, even though it is not a scene from the film. 

Special  Features
Disc One 

- NEW 2K High Definition Scan Of The Inter-Positive, Struck From The Original Negative
- NEW Audio Commentary With Actress Adrienne Barbeau And Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
- Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
- Audio Commentary With Producer Debra Hill And Production Designer Joe Alves

Disc Two 
- NEW Big Challenges In Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (14 Mins) HD with Dennis Skotak, Robert Skotak and more
- NEW Scoring The Escape: A Discussion With Composer Alan Howarth (19 Mins) HD
- NEW On Set With John Carpenter: The Images Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK With Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker (11 Mins) HD
- NEW I Am Taylor: An Interview With Actor Joe Unger (9 Mins) HD
- NEW My Night On The Set: An Interview With Filmmaker David DeCoteau (5 Mins) HD
- Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence (11 Mins) HD
- Return To Escape From New York Featurette (23 Mins) SD
- Theatrical Trailers (3 Mins) HD
- Photo Galleries – Behind-The-Scenes (143 Images) , Posters And Lobby Cards (49 Images) 

John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981) looks great in HD and the new Scream Factory bonus features make this the most comprehensive and definitive edition to date, a winner all the way around, easily topping the MGM Blu-ray with improved brightness and contrast, you can now see what's actually happening in a few of those darker scenes that were previously murky. Escape from New York is a badass movie and now we have a proper badass Blu-ray release of it to enjoy.