“Escape From New York” (1981): The Island Of Lunatics

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photo source: fanpop.com

Directors: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Producers: Barry Bernardi, Debra Hill, Larry J. Franco

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s… Snake? Cruising in on a glider aircraft, a convicted robber arrives into Manhattan, NY, on what seems like an ominous night. Sent in by Hauk (starring Lee Van Cleef, from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) on behalf of the United States Government, he must overcome all odds to rescue the President of the United States. With only 24 hours to burn, there’s no time to waste. Whether he likes it or not (which he doesn’t), Snake Plissken (starring the dashing Kurt Russell) must make the deadline, or else…

The time is 1997, and the crime rate has risen 400% in the USA, causing a stir for those trying to keep the order. A simple solution was brought to solve the dilemma… Devote an island entirely to the guilty criminals of all the United States. Have police forces on all sides patrolling. Simple right? But could you imagine what that would be like? Manhattan, still intact, but scattered pieces everywhere, covered by the filth of swine and the criminally insane, while police helicopters encircle the perimeters; not a pretty picture. But given the circumstances, quite an interesting idea. I do wonder how they were able to evacuate the city though, and how long it must’ve taken. A most heinous job indeed.

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source: nerdist.com

Upon his arrival, he finds Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) who claims Snake is a dead man.  The line “I thought you were dead” used throughout the movie is likely taken from Big Jake (1971). Whenever John Wayne tells someone his name the reply is “I thought you were dead.” How did a supposed dead man get involved with the government anyway? Strange… Well, Cabbie pulls up in a cab (which would explain the name), and off they go! But not before running into a pack of rabid, carnivorous Crazies who lay hidden away in the sewers until late nightfall. Escaping to a different part of town, Cabbie takes Snake to meet Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) and his lovely squeeze, Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau). The way I see it, Brain is given that name for a reason, and sure enough he has got the goods and knowledge to be seen as a man worthy of recognition. With his new-found allies (if you can call them that), Snake continues on his mission to retrieve this important individual. But here’s the catch, everyone is always looking out for themselves…

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photo source: blogs.iu.edu

When running into a random girl, she says to him, “You’re a cop!” and he replies right back with, “I’m an asshole.” Wise words.

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photo source: fantheories.wikia.com

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and there’s no one tougher than Snake. A man of few words who doesn’t play around. I literally can see the resemblance of Metal Gear Solid to this film. The premise is the same, with missions of sneaking in and out of places, not to mention the character Snake. Same characteristics: the eyepatch, the badass appeal, the stealthy outfit complete with gadgets and weapons, and even the name to boot. However, in the Metal Gear Series, the character who has the code name Solid Snake goes by the name Iroquois Pliskin in the second Metal Gear Solid Games. Cool huh?

But you know what’s even cooler? According to the director, John Carpenter, he had a friend of a friend who knew a guy named Snake Plissken who was described as a “high school tough guy” who had a tattoo of a snake. Too perfect to pass up, especially since Carpenter is fond of heroes with snake tattoos. Turns out there’s a real Snake Plissken somewhere out there…

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photo source: bluray.highdefdigest.com
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photo source: filmonpaper.com

The one thing standing between Snake and the President though, is The Duke (played by Isaac Hayes). He’s the one who runs the hood, like a king. His right-hand man I found rather disturbing though. Much like the main character from Tomba! (a Playstation game where you throw evil pigs and climb monstrous heights to hermit wizards willing to help you, it’s more fun than it sounds trust me), minus the pink hair color. With razor-sharp teeth and spiked up hair, Romero (played by Frank Doubleday) is a ghoulish sight to endure. I think it’s the hair and the whole “wild man” look that reminds me of Tomba!. In the game, he’s cute. But Romero must’ve took a turn down Elm Street or something, because he is the stuff of nightmares.

If you love action, and a great depiction of a world full of crime, then you’re going to love this film! I found the whole premise of the film a delight, and to be honest, it’s a scary idea too. It’s a role I’m not used to seeing Kurt Russell play, but he plays the part so well that I couldn’t see anyone else doing it. I give it 9/10 stars!

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photo source: twowarpstoneptune.com

Fun Facts:

  • Though the film takes place in New York City, director John Carpenter and his crew couldn’t film some of the more ambitious sequences there, so they went looking for an alternate location, and found one in St. Louis, Missouri. A few years prior to filming, a fire destroyed parts of that city’s waterfront, leaving large areas of ruined buildings and empty streets that provided the perfect post-apocalyptic look.
  • The studio wanted a star like Tommy Lee Jones or Chuck Norris for the part, but Carpenter fought for Kurt Russell, and won.
  • Snake’s eyepatch was Kurt Russell’s idea.
  • Kurt Russell has stated on numerous occasions that Escape From New York is his favorite movie he has made and Snake Plissken is also his favorite character.
  • Director of photography Dean Cundey used a special lens – new at the time – to extract the maximum amount of light from night-time shoots.
  • A Novelization of the movie written by Mike McQuay was released in 1981 by Bantam Books. The book includes many scenes that were cut from the film as well as fleshing out a number of characters including Hauk and Snake.

 

 

 

 

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Author: Larryn LeFaye

Am a profound lover of magick, wonder, and imagination... Anything that piques my curiosity is something I strive to explore each day, one thing a day, everyday. Makes life fascinating, for there's so much to learn - and learn I shall...

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