“Call me Snake.”
The 101 Sci-Fi Movies just brought me one of my favorite John Carpenter films, Escape From New York (though I like all of Carpenter’s and Kurt Russell’s collaborations – even some moments in Escape From L.A.).
Kurt Russell plays Snake Plissken, the coolest anti-hero ever as far as I’m concerned. A former lieutenant in the special forces, and lately a bit of a criminal, Snake has a fairly fatalistic view of the dystopian future world the film is set in, which is the far distant year of 1997.
Crime has become so rampant that they’ve created one giant super prison out of Manhattan Island. They’ve put a wall up around it, mined the bridges, waterways and tunnels, and use it as a place to put anyone they deem undesirable.
Unfortunately, Air Force One, the victim of a terrorist attack, has just crash landed on the island, and the President (Donald Pleasance) is somewhere in Manhattan.
Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) offers Snake a deal, go in and bring the president out and he gets a full pardon. Snake agrees, but to ensure he doesn’t welch on the deal, he’s injected with two mini-explosives that will detonate in less than 24 hours.
Snake arrives in the run-down city, where gangs roam the street, and everything has fallen into disrepair. He joins up with Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine,) Brain (Harry Dean Stanton),or Harold as Snake knows him, and Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau).
It seems the self-proclaimed Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) has captured the President and is going to use him as a bartering chip to get off the island. It’s up to Snake to rescue him and get him out.
It won’t be easy though, Snake has to fight i a gladiatorial match with spiked baseball bats, elude the vicious gangs, land a glider on a rooftop, race across a mined bridge and get those explosive devices removed before they go off.
Carpenter has crafted an awesome little sci-fi adventure, that exists in its own fully realized world, and Carpenter’s Plissken is completely at home in it. He takes everything that happens with an almost fatalistic stride, and a constant promise to kill anyone who wrongs him.
Helping the film along is Carpenter’s own score, created in association with Alan Howarth, and I love the opening theme. I get a big grin on my face whenever it shows up on my ipod.
Sure 1997 has come and gone, and none of the things that happened in the film ever came to pass, but that doesn’t preclude it from being a great little flick. Yes, in today’s filmmaking style the film would look and be edited completely differently, but I’m not sure it would work as well as it does.
Not to mention it wouldn’t have the appeal of the incredible cast that this one has.
Every time a convention rolls around I think I should really grow my hair out a little more and go as either Snake Plissken or Jack Burton, Russell’s character from Big Trouble In Little China, so obviously there is something in their collaborations that resonates with me.
Escape From New York is one of the first films of the 80s to predict a more depressing future for society, and while we’re not that bad yet, you could see it happening…
Have you seen it? What’s your favorite Carpenter/Russell collaboration (I know I know, tough question because they are all equally awesome, and there’s another one coming up on the list soon!!)?