ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK [1981/2015] [2 Disc Collector’s Edition] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Dark and Dangerous! Meet Snake Plissken, the world's coolest man!
1997. New York City is walled maximum security prison. Breaking out is impossible. Breaking in is insane. A thrilling landmark film that jolts along at a breakneck pace, ‘Escape From New York’ leapt to cult status with high-octane action, edge-of-your-seat suspense and the mind-blowing vision of lone warrior Snake Plissken [Kurt Russell] battling his way out of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan!
In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the US President [Donald Pleasence] crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken [Kurt Russell]. But time is short. In 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake’s mission, and his life, unless he succeeds!
Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Joe Unger (deleted scenes only), Frank Doubleday, John Strobel, Season Hubley, Ox Baker (the fighter), Debra Hill (computer voice uncredited) and Jamie Lee Curtis (narrator uncredited)
Director: John Carpenter
Producers: Debra Hill and Larry J. Franco
Screenplay: John Carpenter and Nick Castle
Composer: John Carpenter and Alan Howarth
Cinematography: Dean Cundey and Jim Lucas
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Running Time: 98 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Shout! Factory
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: MANHATTAN ISLAND is a giant island-prison inhabited by humanity's dregs, murderers, terrorists, thieves, swindlers and perverts of all persuasions, petty criminals and people who are permanently disoriented. The place is a zoo without bars, but there's no way out. The bridges have been mined and walled off. The tunnels are sealed. The once great buildings are mostly shells, but because these Manhattanites don't read much, and don't care about books one way or the other, the Public Library on 42nd Street doesn't look to be in quite the state of disrepair of the other landmarks. There are no services, no government, and no work. The place is a random trash heap. Life is a permanent scavenger hunt, a non-stop game of hide-and-seek and when you're ''it'' you're dead.
This isn't the nightmare of someone who decided to stay in town last weekend but the startlingly eerie premise of ‘Escape From New York,’ the brutal, very fine-looking suspense melodrama by director John Carpenter, the man who directed the horror-classics like ‘Halloween,’ ‘The Fog’ and the very good, small-budgeted ‘Assault on Precinct 13.’ Set in the not-too-distant future , the film works so effectively as a warped vision of ordinary urban blight that it seems to be some kind of hallucinatory nightmare scenario. It is the dark idea of John Carpenter and Nick Castle, with whom he collaborated on the screenplay, that this nation's crime rate quadruples by the late 1980's, at which time the United States Government officially takes over what's left of Manhattan and turns it into a Federal prison.
At the beginning of the film, Airforce One, is carrying the President of the United States [Donald Pleasence] to a summit meeting in Boston, is hijacked and crash-lands near the ''old'' World Trade Center, where the President is retrieved and held for ransom (amnesty for all prisoners) by Manhattan's leading citizen. This is a splendidly nervy, vicious fellow [Isaac Hayes] who calls himself The Duke of New York and who drives around the city's ruins with his entourage in a limousine fitted with crystal chandeliers on either side of the front hood.
To retrieve the President, the Federal authorities coerce a young man named Snake Plissken [Kurt Russell], who's on his way into the prison to serve a life sentence for a gold heist. Snake, we're given to understand, has been something of a national figure described as ''the hero of the Leningrad campaign'' before he went wrong. Snake is promised his freedom if he can get the President out in 24 hours and, just to make sure he doesn't lose interest in his mission, the authorities have implanted in his neck microscopic explosives that will go off at the end of the 24 hour period and can only be neutralised by doctors waiting on the outside.
Among the flotsam and low life, Snake Plissken encounters in his adventures in one of the most ominous underworlds ever seen on the screen are Brain (Harry Dean Stanton), who functions as the Duke's chief demolitions expert, Maggie [Adrienne Barbeau], the mistress of Brain, and an untypically helpful New York cab driver [Ernest Borgnine] who, typically, manages to find fuel for his car where none exists.
Finally, ‘Escape from New York’ must rank as one of the great urban blight pictures of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It doesn't candy coat its dark speculations of a dysprosium future. ‘Escape From New York’ is an enthralling action film that combines the prison break out genre with interesting futuristic premise. Kurt Russell is superb as snarling anti-hero Snake Plissken whose rumours of demise, providing a running joke throughout the film. The opening shots of the decayed, walled in New York splendidly set the mood and gritty tone of the film.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Released previously on Blu-ray as a barebones disc by M-G-M, but Shout! Factory this time out has pulled out all the stops with a brand new 2k transfer. This is likely as good as ‘Escape From New York’ is going to look, with the exception of a future new 4k transfer, but do not hold your breath. This new release retains the film’s intended theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Colours are consistent and not overly saturated, blacks are deep and inky while whites are bright and never clip. While some images may appear overly grainy (many of the night scenes were shot with existing light), it is never intrusive and any digital clean-up was done minimally. While some may be disappointed that the Avco Embassy logo is missing, those may also be happy that the M-G-M logo was left off of this release.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – As with most Shout! Factory releases under the Scream Factory label, there are two audio choices: a remixed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and the original matrixed 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both sound great, but with the 5.1 soundtrack, it provides a slightly more spacious design with some discrete surround effects. Dialogue is clear and mostly steered to the centre channel, with the brilliant score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth (their first collaboration) and effects spread among the remaining channels are brilliant.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
NEW 2K High Definition scan of the inter-positive, struck from the original negative.
NEW Audio Commentary: Commentary with Actress Adrienne Barbeau and Directory of Photography Dean Cundey: Before we get down to the interesting audio commentary, Sean Clark introduces the two people involved with the said cult classic film. First of all they are asked when was the last time you have viewed they both viewed the film, Dean Cundey reckons it was about five years ago, whereas Adrienne Barbeau says it was about seven or eight years ago at a Film Festival, at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. One interesting fact we hear is that the woman’s voice at the start of the film was Jamie Lee Curtis, which sadly as you will see in the Cast List above was uncredited. Adrienne Barbeau was very taken by Donald Pleasence, as he was very funny to work with, as Adrienne first heard his voice while in her dressing room in the theatre where she was working on “Fiddler On The Roof” and he was in the theatre next door. We also find out that Kurt Russell was not the first choice of the film executives, but with John Carpenter’s insistence, especially standing his ground, got to get Kurt Russell, and of course won his endeavour. One interesting information we hear about is when we first meet the character of Adrienne Barbeau, you see a strange item in her hair, well it is in fact a chicken breast bone, also the oil derelict in the library was just made out of wood and very realistic it gave the impression of pumping oil out of the ground. Near the end of the film where Donald Pleasence is getting ready to broadcast his message to the world, Dean Cundey recommends people should read the novel, as it gives much better in-depth insight information about the film and the President. Although this audio commentary is interesting, it is let down by the bad sound level of the people in the studio, because in sections of the film where the background music is loud or there is the loud sound effects, sometimes you cannot hear the audio commentary properly, because I had to really crank up my amplifier to try and hear what they were saying and was very annoyed with this particular audio commentary.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Actor Kurt Russell: The first to start the audio commentary off is John Carpenter and also introduces Kurt Russell, informing us he is sitting next to him in the recording studio. Anyway John Carpenter also informs us the picture was made in 1980, and it was written in 1974 and before Ronald Reagan was the President, but Jimmy Carter was still the President. He also informs us that they had a sensational cast, especially Kurt Russell, who laughs out loud. John carpenter also mentions that both of their ex-wives are in the film and Kurt Russell remembers that they had a great deal of fond memories in making the movie. When Kurt Russell makes his debut in the film, he tells us he had to lose 20lbs and had to get into shape and John Carpenter tells us that he had faith he would do it. When Lee Van Cleef arrives in the film, which John Carpenter really praises that actor and enjoyed working with him. When we finally see the airplane flying through the air towards the Manhattan Island, and John Carpenter thought the effects were brilliant for the time, especially they were on a tight budget of over $6million, but one amazing fact is that the blonde service guy with the gun trying to get into the pilots area, is in fact Steve Ford, who is the son of the ex-President Gerald Ford. John Carpenter also talks about the fun he also had with Donald Pleasence and the pod he had to get into was homage to James Bond. When the plane crashes into the Manhattan Island, they had to use crude computer animation to simulate the plane crashing, because of the budget restraints. They also had special toy helicopters that you see fly towards the Manhattan Island. Another thing John Carpenter informs us that because of a big devastating fire in St. Louis in 1997, they were able to use this for the main part of the film to look like down town New York, and it was extremely hot, with temperatures of 106 degrees Fahrenheit and was not a fun place to be in. One of Kurt Russell’s favourite scene was when he finally meets up with Isaac Hayes in his over the top car and Kurt really cracks up when viewing the film. Now where we get to the part of the film where Snake Plissken has the wrestling match with Ox Baker (the fighter), who was over seven feet tall and weighed just over 300lbs and although he was a nice guy, he took his part in the film a little too seriously. One bit of information that is mentioned, is that because the film company was independent, they did not interfere in the making of the film, but sadly John Carpenter comments that if the film was made today, it would be a totally different situation, as the film executives would have a tight rein on the director and that is why films made today are so expensive to make, and they both mention making films in the 1980s was a golden period of filmmaking, especially being a tight budget made you think more creatively and especially was a much more fun time. As we get to the end of the film, John Carpenter informs us that the bridge they wanted to shoot the film on New York was not possible, but instead found this tiny bridge in a very strange place in rural Missouri that was closed down for filming. When you see Donald Pleasence kill Isaac Hayes with the machine gun, John Carpenter informs us that Donald Pleasance was a World War 2 fighter pilot and was shot down and was imprisoned in a Japanese War Camp and was tortured, and that is why you see Donald Pleasence getting pleasure out of killing Isaac Hayes. As they both watch the film credits roll up the screen, John Carpenter still feels the film holds up for the 21st Century audience and again mentions what a great time they had doing the film. So to sum up this particular audio commentary, is that it is brilliant to listen to, as John Carpenter and Kurt Russell really work brilliantly together and gave us so much fascinating information and you will never get bored, especially the brilliant banter between the two of them and it is a must view and I give it 10 out of 10 for the quality audio commentary and is highly recommended.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Producer Debra Hill and Production Designer Joe Alves: We are informed that when they had the first film preview they didn’t have the computer animation of Manhattan Island Prison as the kids [I hate this American expression, as kids are baby goats] didn’t understand what was going on, so after the film preview they added the computer map into the start of the film. When the camera pans up the wall of the New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, they used an Alfred Hitchcock technique especially when the scene dissolves into black, so that they can go to a different location in the film, but still thinking you are in Manhattan, and of course the shot of Manhattan Island was a miniature scaled model, as was the miniature toy helicopters, but the shot of the two people in the river trying to escape on a raft, was actually shot in Long Island. When Joe Alves was in France a couple of years ago, he was told by the French Critics that they loved the film, especially when the whole budget for the special effects was $36,000 and the underground police station was filmed in the Art Center in Pasadena because it had a nice clean sterilized look to it, and was supposed to represent the United States Police Force Headquarters. The US Army Corp of Engineers was very supportive, as well as St. Louis and the US Army was actually the Missouri National Guard. We also find out that the guards with the black plastic face guards could hardly see out of them and some kept tripping up. We also find out that they use to bring in loads of 40 feet trucks with loads of junk in them and they strewn all the junk around the deserted streets and that filming was done between 6:00pm until 6:00am and all the junks had to cleared up and then redistributed again for the night shooting. But what was really appreciated was Dean Cundey’s work and was praised for the amazing impression of a desolate place. When you get to the scene of the crashed DC8 plane, which was bought for $8,000 and because they did a good job, all the drunks reported that they had seen the place actually crash to the “St. Louis” newspaper and was great publicity stunt, but Joe Alves was really scared with the plane on fire, as they had not got a permit to film that particular scene. The building you see Kurt Russell go into called “Chockfull o’ Nuts” was felt by the people in the studio as the most iconic building in its day in New York City, but was actually built in the desert in Indian Dunes and in certain shots where the windows are misted up, if they had been clear, you would of seen the desert and the cactus plants. These two people also praise Ernest Borgnine, as well as Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac Hayes. But when you see “Maggie” gets killed by Isaac Hayes ram the car into her [which was a dummy] they forgot to film her dead, so they had to go to John Carpenter’s garage to film her on the floor. So once again a very interesting audio commentary, but with this one you hear a lot of technical filmic information and is definitely worthy of a listen if you like to hear lots of film facts, especially about the different locations to give the impression you was in New York and Manhattan Island. So give it a whirl as it is well worth a listen and view.
NEW Special Feature: Big Challenges in Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK  [1080p] [16:9] [14:20] This special presentation gives you lots of the tricks of the trade in showing you how the effects were produced to create the Manhattan Island Prison. Contributors include the likes of Dennis Skotak [Director of Photography of Special VFX] and Robert Skotak [Unit Supervisor/Matte Artist] and we are informed that when ‘Escape From New York’ was about to start filming, Roger Corman had a facility for his own films, especially for ‘Battle Beyond The Stars’ and was looking at ways to pay for the rent and approached the team, as he liked the effects that was produced in his films from the Skotak brothers. But what you get to see is the images of the fantastic model of the Manhattan Island, especially as they had a big budget to make it look realistic, especially as they spent a long time building the model, as they wanted to have it to scale. But what was fantastic information is how they made the water effects round the Manhattan Island model to look realistic, they had a concrete floor painted black, especially with the rippled effects and John Carpenter was pleased by the results. As to the model glider, they had three sizes built. Another really interesting fact is that James Cameron was a talented artist and he painted the massive skyline of Manhattan on a massive clear sheet of glass. But what comes over was that the Skotak brothers really enjoyed their input into the film and is a very big favourite film of them, and also they were also very admired by John Carpenter and was a real trip for them. A definite must watch.
NEW Special Feature: Scoring the Escape: A Discussion with composer Alan Howarth  [1080p] [16:9] [18:56] Here we get an introduction from Sean Clark, who interviews Alan Howarth in his personalised new recording studio. We find out that his very first movie he worked on was ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ and came aboard as a sound designer in making the sound effects for the warp drives, and with certain collaborators eventually ended up coming aboard with ‘Escape From New York.’ Alan Howarth really loved working with John Carpenter as he was not very up on the technical sound issues and liked what Alan did and informs us that John Carpenter was great to work with. We then see Sean show Alan a rare classic Long Play Album of the soundtrack of ‘Escape From New York’ which was an afterthought, and was amazed it sold over 80,000 copies in the first 6 months of its release. Next we see Sean hand Alan the soundtrack compact disc and was able to add extra tracks and the music was remixed. Next Sean hands Alan a special “Death Waltz” Long Play Album release, but this time it has super high audio quality and they sold 1,000 copies and is no longer available. All in all this is a very interesting fascinating extra and a must watch.
NEW Special Feature: On Set with John Carpenter: The Images of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK with photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker  [1080p] [16:9] [10:50] Here we get to see Kim Gottlieb-Walker [Still Photographer for Escape From New York] being interviewed in her patio garden and talks extensively her work with John Carpenter and you get to view rare black-and-white images from the film. We get informed that the film was mainly filmed in Southern California. Another interesting fact that where you get to see the drag artists on the stage of the theatre, they were actually the crew, plus some of the other crew played the musical instruments. Kim informs us that in her day you had to be the official photographer, but today with people and their intrusive mobile phones and take too many unofficial photographs and feels this is not right. Kim has now brought out a deluxe book of all her photographs of her time with the making of ‘Escape From New York’ and is proud of what has been produced in the deluxe book. This is a very nice interview and again a definite must watch.
NEW Special Feature: I Am Taylor: an interview with actor Joe Unger  [1080p] [16:9] [8:48] This is a very intimate interview with Joe Unger[Actor] who appeared in the deleted part of the film and as you will see he has not aged very well and could not believe it was the same actor. Anyway throughout the interview you get specific questions flashed up on the screen, that he was asked and they are as follows: “How did you get the part as Taylor, Snake’s sidekick, in Escape to NY?;” “What was it like working with John Carpenter;” “Describe some of your experiences working with Kurt Russell;” “What was your first impression of Russell’s character, Snake Plissken?;” “What was it like to shoot in the subway location during your scene?;” “Were you a little disappointed that the Subway Scene was cut?;” “Did anybody come up to you after the film was released and notice you were not in the film?;” “How do you feel that the film’s cult-following has embraced the deleted Subway Scene decades later?;” “From a filmmaker standpoint, do you believe that cutting the Subway Scene was a good decision;” “How do you feel that almost 35 years later, younger audiences are still watching the film, and it continues to live on?.” All in all this is a very likeable guy who gives the impression he had a brilliant time appearing in the film, despite his part was deleted and really respected Kurt Russell and John Carpenter. Despite the slight disappointment, he was very proud he participated in the film. So please give it a whirl, as you will enjoy Joe Unger telling you more intimate details that I have not been able to mention with the review of this extra.
NEW Special Feature: My Night on the Set: an interview with filmmaker David DeCoteau  [1080p] [16:9] [5:02] Here we get to see another intimate personal interview, but this time it looks like he was in some confined space, with the camera a bit too close for comfort, but despite this, we get to hear some interesting facts relating to ‘Escape From New York.’ David DeCoteau tells us he moved to Los Angeles around Christmas 1980/81 to work on Roger Corman New World Pictures, where it was situated in main street Venice in California, where he worked as a Production Assistant. Despite this is a very short interview, we hear lots of interesting information on his work with ‘Escape From New York’ and what a blast he had working on his all-time favourite film.
Special Feature: Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence  [1080i] [2.35:1] [10:46] here you can either watch it with the audio commentary or not, but I definitely recommend you watch it with the audio commentary on, as you get Kurt Russell and Alan Howarth describing in great detail with this deleted part of the film and it is a totally hilarious audio commentary, where you get Kurt Russell cannot stop laughing. Sadly the quality is of the film is of very bad quality, compared to the same sample scenes you get to see with the interview with Joe Unger.
Special Feature: Return to Escape from New York  [480i] [4:3] [23:00] Here we get an up close and personal interview with John Carpenter [Writer/Director] talking about that making of ‘Escape From New York.’ We also get contributions from Kurt Russell [Snake Plissken]; Nick Castle [Writer]; Debra Hill [Producer]; Adrienne Barbeau [Maggie]; Harry Dean Stanton [brain]; Isaac Hayes [The Duke of New York]; Joe Alves [Production Designer] and Dean Cundey [Director of Photography]. What comes out of this look back on the filming of ‘Escape From New York’ is what a great time was had by all, especially John Carpenter and Kurt Russell and admire the character “Snake Plissken” and would love to have the same devil may care attitude towards authority, also both John and Kurt was keen to have Lee Van Cleef on board with the film and was proved right, as well as having all of the other well know actors appearing in the film. By the way, we are informed that the cut up crashed plane was purchased in Tuscan, Arizona, which is known as the graveyard for airplanes and the DC8 plane they bought was cut up into three separate parts and trucked into St. Louis at around 3:00am, because of no authorisation. But the crew found it an ideal place to look like a desolate Manhattan, as otherwise there was no way it could have been filmed in a studio, which helped to keep the budget under $6million. So all in all this is quite a nice extra, so give it a whirl, as it a very interesting extra, despite its age.
NEW Special Feature: Photo Galleries: Movie Stills and Behind-the-Scenes Photos: Here you get to view 142 images and runs automatically [1080p] [12:00]
NEW Special Feature: Photo Galleries: Posters and Lobby Cards: Here you get to view 49 colour and black-and white images, especially from overseas countries and runs automatically [1080p] [4:12]
Theatrical Trailers: Trailer No.1  [1080i] [16:9]. Trailer No.2  [1080i] [16:9] [2:46].
Finally, fans of this cult classic film can finally rejoice with this NEW upgrade from the previous inferior 2003 2 x DVD disc release to this brand new spanking 2-Disc Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, which ports over most of the special features from that previous release, plus slightly improved video over the previous barebones Blu-ray releases from MGM. If you were on the fence about upgrading from the previous Blu-Ray or DVD, rest assured, you will not be wasting your money. Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of Escape from New York is the definitive version of the film to own on home video and a must for fans. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom