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Escape from New York: Collector's Edition (1981) - Blu-ray Review

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Escape from New York: Collector's Edition (1981) - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

Action.  Atmosphere.   And Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken saying things like, "Sad story.  You got a smoke?"   Do I really need to say any more?  Escape from New York, from writer/director John Carpenter, is the perfect mix of genres from a director who could do no wrong throughout the 1970s and the 1980s.  It’s a self-confessed B-movie that never trades its stylish wit for an easy target.  While starting to show its age, Escape from New York really is a fine example of exactly why the lone man on a mission trope still works.   This newly polished release on blu-ray, this time from the fine folk over at Scream Factory, makes it shine again.

Set in an imagined 1997, Manhattan is now an island-prison full of humanity’s scum.  Look at the average contents of your kitchen trashcan and, well, that’s pretty much what it looks like except populated with all sorts of thugs.  The nation’s crime rate has quadrupled and the government has pretty much given up on making sense of it.  Manhattan is, essentially, a place where no one goes into anymore … but that’s about to change. 

The President of the United States (Donald Pleasence), whose hijacked Airforce One “lands” in Manhattan, is currently being held for ransom by The Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes).  Only one man can save him.  Snake Plissken (Russell), who is on his way to a lifetime in jail for a gold heist gone wrong, is convinced by the authorities to go in after the President.  To insure both the plan and Snake’s willingness to comply with their orders, the Feds insert an explosive into his neck that will detonate in 24 hours unless he has the President returned where doctors can remove it safely outside of Manhattan.

Forget plausibility, this tightly written narrative fires on all cylinders and features memorable characters like Brain (Harry Dean Stanton), who functions as a demolitions expert, his lover Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau), and a New York cab driver (Ernest Borgnine) finds fuel where none should exist.  The fate of the United States rests on Snake’s shoulders and, yes, we buy into it. 

With solid production from Joe Alves, Escape from New York remains popcorn-munching escapism at its most celluloid.  It’s both fun and funny and, even in its weaker moments, flexes some serious guns that directors (like Robert Rodriguez) are still mimicking out of sheer respect to Carpenter.  Sure, the central premise is pretty silly and the special effects by Roger Corman’s crew aren’t quite up to par, but it absolutely works because it never tries to be more than what it is.  Carpenter, to his credit, knew exactly what he wanted and it shows.

Escape from New York, winking with every plot turn, is a film that it’s not hard to think fondly of.  The aces over at Shout Factory do a fine job with this release.

Escape from New York: Collector's Edition (1981) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
99 mins
Director
: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Cast:
Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine
Genre
: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline:
The world's greatest leader is a hostage in the most dangerous place on Earth. Now only the deadliest man alive can save him.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Call me "Snake.""
Distributor:
AVCO Embassy Pictures
Official Site: http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/pages/themovies/ny/ny.html
Release Date:
July 10, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 21, 2015
Synopsis: In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant maximum security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue.

Escape from New York: Collector's Edition (1981) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 21, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BDs)
Region Encoding: A

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The commentaries from Russell/Carpenter and Debra Hill/Joe Alves from previous releases are all present and accounted for on this release.  On top of that you’ll also get a new commentary from cinematographer Dean Cundy and actress Andrianne Barbeau filled with fresh anecdotes.

Special Features:

While there’s no new word from Carpenter on this release, Shout Factory doesn’t disappoint.  There’s an interview with actor Joe Unger (who was cut out of the movie, but still has plenty to say), an interview with on set photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker, a fantastic interview with composer Alan Howarth about his long collaboration with Carpenter, and best of all a detailed documentary dedicated specifically to the ingenious practical effects work.  Toss in the usual stills and trailers and you’ve got one of the most overflowing Scream Factory releases yet for a B-move classic that deserves the reverence.  Bow down!!!

  • Big Challenges in Little Manhattan (14 min)
  • Scoring the Escape (20 min)
  • On Set with John Carpenter: The Images of Escape from New York (11 min)
  • I Am Taylor: An Interview with Actor Joe Unger (8 min)
  • My Night on Set: An Interview with Filmmaker David DeCoteau (5 min)
  • Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence (11 min)
  • Return to Escape from New York Featurette (23 min)
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Photo Galleries: Movie Stills and Behind the Scenes Photos (12 min)
  • Photo Galleries: Posters and Lobby Cards (4 min)

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