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In the nearly thirty years since it was released, John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK ($25) has achieved a well-deserved cult status. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was a rather ambitious, but gritty action tale that Carpenter successfully brought to the screen with a lot of ingenuity, a solid cast and for very little money. Back in 1981, Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK predicted that rampant crime would eventually lead to Manhattan Island being converted into the nation’s only maximum-security prison. Isolated from the rest of the country by water, a fifty-foot high wall and land mines, the former New York City has become a dangerous, lawless, self-contained hellhole - from which there is no return and no escape.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a decorated former Special Forces Lieutenant, who recently robbed the Federal Reserve Bank. As the film opens, terrorists take over Air Force One, which they then crash into Manhattan, but not before the President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) is able to launch his escape pod away from the airliner. When the United States Police Force is unable to retrieve the President from the island prison, Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) decides to try a completely different approach. With the recently captured Plissken about to be deposited on Manhattan Island for the rest of his life, Commissioner Hauk offers him a full pardon if he can rescue the President in less than twenty-four hours. Although Plissken accepts the deal, Hauk takes out a little insurance policy by implanting tiny explosives in Plissken’s carotid artery, which will kill him if he doesn’t return in the allotted time.

The character of Snake Plissken turned out to be a career-changing role for Kurt Russell, whole was able to shake off his Disney movie connection by effectively portraying Carpenter’s cynical anti-hero. Isaac Hayes also turns in a memorable performance as The Duke of New York- the New York City prison’s A-number one badass, who develops a severe facial tick every time he gets within range of Plissken. Writer/director Carpenter injects the film with a good dose of sardonic humor, in addition to keeping the action moving at a good clip and hiding the film’s budgetary limitations. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK also features fine supporting performances from Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers and Season Hubley.

MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK arrives on Blu-ray with a strong 1080p presentation that is only hampered by its original production limitations. For its time, and its shoestring budget, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was an ambitious production that John Carpenter was able to carry off thanks to the imaginative production design of Joe Alves, and the cinematography of Dean Cundey, who was able to make a whole lot of nothing look like something compelling. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is a dark movie that takes place mostly at night, under difficult lighting. The Blu-ray pulls the rabbit out of the hat, allows one to appreciate all the detail in the frame, without artificially brightening the image. Image sharpness and detail is very good, but a bit uneven due to lighting, anamorphic lenses, available film stocks and the limited depth of field that could be captured with these combined factors. Some spots in the film are softer than others, but overall, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK appears far crisper and better defined than it did in SD. Colors have good saturation and the flesh tones appear quite realistic. Blacks are on the money and the whites are crisp. Contrast is very good, but shadow detail can be a bit lacking in places. The elements from which ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK has been mastered are pretty much without flaws. There is a noticeable grain structure throughout the movie, which creates a very film like presentation.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering the film’s age and production limitations, this isn’t the most rock ‘em sock ‘em track out there. Reworking the Dolby Surround era sound into the modern lossless format works well enough, and makes for an enjoyable presentation. As with the previous DVD release, the forward soundstage does tend to dominate the sound mix, although the rear channels do supply a good deal of atmosphere and musical fill. There are occasional active sound effects, but overall, one easily recognizes the track’s age. Channel separation is pretty good across the front, which enhances both the sound effects and John Carpenter’s funky synthesizer score. Despite the lossless encode, the fidelity is still limited by the original recordings. Dialogue is crisp and fully understandable. An English Dolby Digital Surround track is also encoded onto the disc, as is a French 5.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features. There is no supplemental content, other than the DVD edition of the film on disc two, which includes a Trailer. Fans will definitely want to hold onto their Special Edition DVD for its supplemental content.

As a long time John Carpenter fan, I am rather partial to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. The Blu-ray presentation is a nice upgrade, but the lack of supplements is annoying. Recommended for the presentation only.


Escape from New York (Blu-ray/DVD Combo w/ Blu-ray Packagaing)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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