Here I am. On a Sunday afternoon. Watching two versions of Escape From New York play side by side. One from my 2003 MGM DVD release and the other from the freshly pressed Scream Factory Blu-ray. It’s a tough job, but I go through this painstaking process for you.
What else is there to say about the film Escape From New York that you don’t already know? It’s an action classic. It’s an 80s classic. It was written, directed and co-scored by John Carpenter. It stars Kurt Russell, Donald Pleasence, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau and Ernest Borgnine. Oh and it takes place in New York, which in 1997 (remember, this was released in 1981) has become a maximum security prison. Carpenter envisions a dystopian world where crime has reached an all time high, so the government erects a giant wall around Manhattan Island, guards it with a police force and drops in America’s worst of the worst. The rules are simple – once you go in, you don’t come out. Most days are uneventful. Only today is not such a good day in the yard. The President “Of What” has found himself stuck inside the dangerous prison city and there is only one man to get him out – a patch wearing, surly sounding, ex-Special Forces badass named Snake Plissken. I always wondered if that was his given name. Seriously, you know what this movie is about.
Why am I explaining all this?
I’m a John Carpenter fan. By no means am I the CRAZIEST Carpenter fan, but he ranks as one of my top favorite and influential writer/directors. And I’m a big Escape From New York fan. I love this movie. I love the characters. I love the script. I love the music. I love the look. And I’ve seen it a bazillion times.
But not like this. I didn’t even need to do the side by side comparison. The moment I popped in this 2K HD scan, I knew I had never seen ESFNY this good. And you won’t have either. It no longer had that washed out haze the previous releases had. The contrast was stark. The shadows were rich and crisp. What could I say that can really sell you? I shouldn’t have to. The film sells itself. Scream Factory’s releases are consistently great. What else do you need from me here, an amputated finger?
Okay fine. How about the extras?
Scream Factory has put a lot of love into this 2 disc set. There’s a bus load of brand new content. Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who put out the wonderful photo book “On Set With John Carpenter”, has an insightful interview intercut with her pictures from the production. Sean Clark talks music with Alan Howarth, the co-composer. (Side note – why don’t they have more Sean Clark in every Blu-ray release? Not just Scream Factory, but like on a Downton Abbey or Whiplash Blu-ray? Someone make that happen.) Joe Unger, the guy who plays Snake’s bank robbing buddy Taylor, has a fun interview. His character had TWO tragic endings in this movie, he dies AND he was cut from the film. However, his deleted scene has been put on this release so you’ll get to see it. By the way, the shots from the deleted scene they use in Joe’s interview are new transfers, yet the full deleted scene is from the work print. Someone please explain.
There is also an interesting piece about how Roger Corman’s New World Pictures handled the visual effects. And lastly, genre director David DeCoteau reminisces about his time on set while working for New World as a production assistant. Of course there are trailers, photo galleries and the old featurette “Return To Escape From New York” has been ported over. The old commentaries from the DVD (and I think those come from the laserdisc) are also ported over along with a NEW one from director of photography Dean Cundey and actress Barbeau.
Bottom line, aside from a prop of Cabbie’s hat and Snake’s eye patch, this Blu-ray has plenty for the hardcore fans. Bob Hauk is about to kick your ass out of this world, unless you click that link.