Reviews

Escape From New York (Special Edition)

4

One thing's certain about John Carpenter: when he's making a future vision, you can bet your cowboy hat it'll come packed with a passion for myth and movies past. In his commentary with a disarmingly giggly Kurt Russell, he describes his slow-burning 1981 film as "an odyssey", pitching Snake Plissken's journey through a then-future, 1997 Manhattan's underbelly as a classical quest narrative.

Carpenter's old-school Hollywood fixation shows in his casting of Western vet Lee Van Cleef and character actors Ernest Borgnine and Harry Dean Stanton. You can see it in the Eastwood-style anti-hero Snake too, described by Carpenter as "a total individual in a world devoid of individuality". Despite being richly referential, though, Escape just about stands on its own. Carpenter creates a dystopian Big Apple that feels startlingly lived-in. Where Escape doesn't quite cut it is in the slow-simmering whiff of diminishing returns; the journey is fine but the conclusion throwaway.

This DVD feels similarly unfinished. The Return To Escape From New York doc offers only 23 minutes of talking heads, although it squeezes out flavoursome Making Of juice. The commentary's enjoyable but seems to date from 1994, while Debra Hill and Joe Alves' talk-track is more recent but dull. Still, add the deleted bank-robbery opening to the mix and this is a corker for Carpenter completists.

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