ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)




ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: THE GAME box cover artwork






KURT RUSSELL.....Snake Plissken
LEE VAN CLEEF.....Bob Hauk
ERNEST BORGNINE.....Cabbie
DONALD PLEASENCE.....The President of the United States
ISAAC HAYES.....The Duke of New York
SEASON HUBLEY.....Girl in Chock Full O'Nuts
HARRY DEAN STANTON.....Brain
ADRIENNE BARBEAU.....Maggie
TOM ATKINS.....Rehme
CHARLES CYPHERS.....Secretary of State
JOHN STROBEL.....Cronenberg
FRANK DOUBLEDAY.....Romero

Directed by JOHN CARPENTER
Written by JOHN CARPENTER and NICK CASTLE
Produced by DEBRA HILL and LARRY J. FRANCO


REVIEW BY CHRISTOPHER WEEDMAN



Hasn't everyone, at one time or another, wanted to escape the lunacy of New York City? After visiting for a few days, isn't it refreshing to get away from the blaring car horns, the exhaust fume filled air, and the massive traffic jams? I think few would answer no to these questions, unless, of course, they were from that "city that never sleeps." I guess you have to be a native to appreciate its fine qualities, which remain elusive to the rest of us. Though, the New York we have to face is a cake walk compared to the futuristic nightmare that John Carpenter has envisioned for this 1981 action thriller.

Escape From New York, after sixteen years, still remains as a top notch action thriller and one of the best films ever directed by cult filmmaker Carpenter, who is best known for the horror masterpiece Halloween. His futuristic vision takes place in 1997, which doesn't seem at all futuristic now, and the "Big Apple" has become a walled maximum security prison for the country's worst criminals. The blood thirsty criminals are allowed to roam free through the streets and do whatever they wish inside. This may sound like a very lenient prison, but it is far from it. Once you enter this impenetrable fortress, you never get out and if you try to escape, you will be shot on the spot by armed police officers standing directly outside.

Now, this is an action film, so it is only logical that some conflict is going to have to occur. The film's conflict arises when Air Force One is hijacked by revolutionaries (the leader is played by actress Nancy Stephens---the nurse in Halloween I, II, and VII), and they purposely crash the plane into a tall New York skyscraper to kill the President of the United States, who is on his way to an important summit meeting. The President (Donald Pleasence), however, escapes before impact by the means of an orange pod, and, after landing safely within the prison's walls, he is kidnapped by the inmates and their leader, the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes), and held for ransom. They only have one demand: the release and pardon of every single prisoner.

Knowing that they could never agree to the prisoners' demands, the Secretary of State (Charles Cyphers in his sixth performance for Carpenter) and the Police Commissioner (Lee Van Cleef) send a soon to be imprisoned former war hero, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), into the prison to rescue the President. They promise him a pardon for every criminal act he has ever committed in the United States. There is one major stipulation: the President has to address the summit meeting in twenty-four hours, so if Snake doesn't bring him back by the deadline, the deal is off.

Snake's journey through the wasteland of what use to be the great metropolis of New York brings him into contact with a weird array of interesting characters, which include a vicious gang warlord (Hayes), a scientist/idea's man (Stanton), a buxom bad girl (Barbeau), a former cab driver (Borgnine), and a wacked out gang henchman, who is memorably played by Frank Doubleday. These oddball characters help add a feeling of craziness to this desolate world that Carpenter has given us. Most filmmakers would play a film like Escape From New York totally straight, but Carpenter is not afraid to throw in an offbeat sense of humor to make the film as far from the mainstream as possible. The film is not typical Hollywood entertainment. It is far from it. But, it is this quality that makes Escape From New York so enjoyable.

Escape From New York is a hard film to describe. It would probably be best described as a hybrid; it is part action, science fiction, comedy, horror, suspense, and urban Western. While it may be hard to place the film securely within the confines of a single genre, one thing is for certain: this is one hell of an exciting movie. The edge-of-your-seat suspense, quirky characters, beautiful photography (by master cinematographer Dean Cundey), and thrilling synthesizer score help make this a superior piece of cinematic fare. Enjoy the ride!



Review © 1997/1998 THE MAN WITH THE HYPNOTIC EYE. All Rights Reserved.

Box cover artwork courtesy of Tom Ericksen

Box cover artwork is the property of its respective owner.

Title and logo designed by Karen Rappaport




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