Escape From New York

Starring: Donald Pleasence and Kurt Russell
Momentum Pictures
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 17 October 2005

Snake Plisskin ("I thought you were dead!") is an ex-Special Forces war hero who is currently serving life imprisonment in a maximum security penitentiary for robbing the Federal Reserve Depository. He is offered a complete pardon in exchange for rescuing the President from New York, where his plane has crashed. New York is a walled-off prison where gangs and hardened criminals have made their own hierarchy. To ensure his co-operation Plisskin is injected with two minute capsules; if he doesn't return with the President within 22 hours the capsules will dissolve setting off fatal heat-sensing charges. The President's location tracker proves to be a false lead, and Plisskin eventually discovers via a character called "Brain" that the man has been taken by the Duke of New York, a powerful and ruthless gang leader. But Snake can be pretty ruthless himself, let down by the government he fought for he cares about nothing but his own welfare...

As a bonafide long-time admirer of John Carpenter's work this release would have to be an uncaring straightforward video transfer for me not to rave about this excellent film. Thankfully, it's better than that.

Snake Plisskin is a great character, an anti-hero who sneers at the establishment and whose quiet tones are reminiscent of Clint Eastwood. The plot, settings and lighting are near faultless, and it's amazing we have so many big names (Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Harry Dean Stanton and of course Kurt Russell) in a movie budget of only $5 million.

I could wax lyrical for pages about this film and other Carpenter greats, but this review is supposed to be about the DVD release. There's some good extras, including: two commentaries (Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actor Kurt Russell, and the other is Producer Debra Hill and Production Designer Joe Alves). Carpenter himself is always interesting, entertaining and brutally honest, whereas Russell obviously enjoyed himself immensely, citing Snake Plisskin as his favourite acting part. There's the deleted scene which was to form the original opening of the film. It's the robbery itself, and although it's an exciting piece it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the story. A couple of trailers are accompanied by Snake Bites which is a series of vignettes from throughout the film. To cap off, Return to Escape From New York is a behind the scenes featurette.

This region 2 release has opted for the single-disc (at least, I only received one check disc), whereas the region 1 version has two. I would advise any Carpenter fanatic like myself to go for the North American region one (if your player can handle it), because the open-out packaging is lovingly assembled and there are additional special features, including the first issue of John Carpenter's Snake Plisskin Chronicles Comic Book, a gallery recording the making of those chronicles, three other photo galleries, and liner notes by Carpenter. Also, although this region 2 release has audio options for Dolby Digital 5.1 and 5.1 DTS, the region 1 discs look and sound remarkably more crisp.

However, having said all that, this is a perfectly fine release for the casual buyer or those watching on a recommendation. We've already been subjected to inferior copies of Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog, so anyone who hasn't seen this cult movie yet should do so now, before the folklore is damaged by another disappointing and frankly pointless remake.

Ty Power

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