I love John Carpenter movies especially the films he released in the 80’s and 90’s. There is a certain unique quality to his films that, no matter how bad they are, they quickly become guilty pleasures. One of the most iconic films of his from the early 80’s is the classic introduction of Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) in Escape from New York.
Today’s Key Movie:
With the President’s plane crashed behind enemy lines in the Maximum Security Prison Island of Manhattan, it is up to convict Snake Plissken to infiltrate the Prison to find and extract the President (Donald Pleasence) before he is lost forever.
Why this movie?
I was introduced to John Carpenter at a young age. Through the film, The Thing (also starring Kurt Russell) I discovered a love for Carpenter’s story telling and film direction that led me to hunt down more of his films over time.
Growing up, every kid wanted to be Snake Plissken. This no-nonsense, eye-patch wearing, leather jacket sporting bad ass was the epitome of cool. Sure he was a criminal but he was also a war hero and played by one of the coolest actors in Hollywood, Kurt Russell.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
This is a pretty crazy and completely unbelievable film and that is one of the reasons it works so well. Nothing about the story makes sense, from a wall being built around Manhattan Island to cars driving around with chandeliers on their hoods, but even with it’s shear insanity, this movie works. Escape from New York could have easily devolved into a mess of a film with any other director at the helm but Carpenter always seems to bring out the best in his actors and crew, ultimately creating a cult classic that somehow manages to hold up even to this day.
The story itself is like something out of a video game, with Plissken as the player character. As mentioned above, Military Veteran and Convict, Snake Plissken has been chosen to save the President by infiltrating the Maximum Security Island of Manhattan. In order to do this he must fight various gang members, face bosses like The Duke (played by Issac Hayes) and finally escape before a bomb goes off in his head. Ironically, this character has been quoted as the inspiration to an actual video game character who also goes by the name Snake.
Despite it being an inspiration for video games, interestingly enough no CG was used in the film with the filmmaker relying on practical applications instead. Since CG was rather new to film at the time, it was far to expensive for Carpenter to include so the computer screens were achieved using tape and models. The effects came across as intended and to this day still convinces people that it is indeed cg effects. This level of detail shows just how dedicated Carpenter is to his films, ensuring his place among the pantheon of gods. Additionally, Carpenter not only serves as director but also provides his own soundtrack for the film. Utilizing his trademark synth music, Carpenter captures the bleak nature of ‘futuristic’ 1997 but still keeping the iconic 80’s feel the entire time. While not his finest work, it is pretty spectacular nonetheless.
Despite the ridiculous nature of the film, everyone involved seem determined to make it work and it does in spades. In some ways this is a great representation of the absurdness of 80’s film-making but in a good way. Starring everyone from Russell himself to Issac Hayes, Lee Van Cleef, Adrienne Barbeau, Henry Dean Stanton and even Ernest Borgnine, this film is a must see for just about anyone who is into 80’s cinema. Just be warned, it does require a bit of a suspension of disbelief but that suspension is well worth it.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can get this one pretty much where movies are sold and is available on Bluray for around $15 now days. Or you can find a copy via your favorite digital distribution service. Either way, it is a blast and one that I think you might enjoy if you dig this sort of thing.
As usual, here is the trailer.
Late To The Game 10/10/2019
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