Plot: What’s it about?
Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) was once known as a war hero, but now he is known as the most dangerous criminal in existence. But when the heat hits the coals, this feared criminal seems to be the United States government’s best chance to recover some very vital elements. You see, since the crime rates have skyrocketed in the U.S., officials have turned New York into one large prison, where they send all the worst criminal element. This means most of them are killed by other prisoners and in short, is cheaper and more effective than traditional prison systems. This seems to work well enough, but when a freak accident happens, it seems as though no one can survive the massive prison to recover some items. The president (Donald Pleasance) was flying over the city when a terrorist attack forces him to eject, which leaves him and some important documents within the limits of this prison. And since Snake is the only man tough enough to venture into New York, they ask for his help in exchange for his freedom. But since Snake has an explosive device implanted within his body by them, it seems the choice was pretty easy to make. Can Snake overcome the dangers of New York to track down the goods and return to collect his freedom?
This is one of the coolest movies of all time, hands down. So when MGM released Escape from New York in a bare bones edition, fans were more than disappointed. After all, a laserdisc edition was issued with some extras, so why weren’t those goodies ported over? Well know fans can rejoice, as MGM has given this brand new two disc Special Edition. We have the stuff from the laserdisc, plus a few new tidbits to sweeten the deal. Even aside from the supplemental materials, this disc is a welcome release and the new anamorphic transfer is more than worth the cash. I’d love to have seen the extras ported over, but I won’t cry too much over spilt milk. This is one of my personal favorite flicks of all time and even the sequel wasn’t up to task, the shine isn’t dulled in the least on the original classic. This one is loaded with intense action, memorable characters, and some terrific catch phrases, what more can you ask for? Kurt Russell is outstanding as Snake, while the supporting cast and direction of John Carpenter are also in fine form. This new Special Edition release from MGM includes a brand new visual treatment, plus a host of supplements, so it deserves a most high recommendation.
Snake Plissken is one of the coolest characters in the history of cinema, which means Kurt Russell turns in one blockbuster performance. I think this is Russell’s best work of his career and while his reprise of the role in Escape From L.A. was a little lackluster, it was still kinda cool to see him again. Russell seems so natural and relaxed within this role, it is never a doubt that he is Snake while the film rolls. This is vital to the film of course, as Snake is the money man and central to the entire scheme of the movie. You can also see Russell in such films as Overboard, Escape From L.A., Executive Decision, Tombstone, Backdraft, The Thing, and Used Cars. But Russell is just one piece of the larger puzzle here, as the supporting cast also comes up big. Some of the performers include Donald Pleasance (Halloween), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man, The Green Mile), Isaac Hayes (Reindeer Games, Tv’s South Park), Ernest Borgnine (Baseketball, Gattaca), Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing, Back to School), and Lee Van Cleef (High Noon). The director of Escape From New York is the great John Carpenter, who also helmed such films as Halloween, The Fog, Vampires, They Live, The Thing, and Assault On Precinct 13.
Video: How does it look?
Escape from New York is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The previous release looked better than older versions, but this edition houses a brand new, high definition film transfer that is sure to send fans into orbit. The source elements still have some minor signs of age, but that is to be expected, given the film is well over two decades old. I do think this is a much cleaner print than the previous release however, as grain is less evident. The real improvements are elsewhere, such as the more slick and refined overall visual presence, which has none of the softness than was seen in prior editions. The colors still have that muted presence, as intended, while black levels are crisper and more stark than before. So this is a vast improvement over the original release, which means MGM has done its homework this time.
Audio: How does it sound?
A lot of fans bemoaned the lack of a new Dolby Digital 5.1 option on the previous, but there is no such absence this time around. I have to admit, I didn’t think the difference would be that noticeable, but this new soundtrack is terrific. Of course, the movie has a wicked musical score and it has more life and power than ever before. When The Duke’s motorcade rolls by and his theme blasts, you feel the bass and the mood is enhanced ten times over. This film also has a lot of action driven sequences, which also benefit from the added channels. So the chases seem more tense, the explosions rock harder, and the fights are that much wilder. All in all, a great remix and one that should please fans, even the purists. This release also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You can listen to two audio commentary tracks, one with star Kurt Russell and director John Carpenter, the other with producer Debra Hill and production designer Joe Alves. Of course, Russell and Carpenter provide an excellent session, one full of insights about the production, from technical information to humorous stories. The second track is also quite good, as Hill has a lot of data about the picture, while Alves recalls how the visuals were achieved. A deleted scene of a bank robbery opening can be seen here, as well as watched with optional audio comments from Carpenter and Russell. A broader look into the production can be found in Return to Escape from New York, a new featurette that is loaded down with interviews. Russell is back with several other key cast members, while Carpenter, Alves, and Hill and joined by writer Nick Castle and director of photography Dean Cundey. This release also includes a look at the Snake Plissken comic book, some still photos, and the film’s teaser & theatrical trailers.