Escape From New York (1981 USA)

escape_from_new_york_crimson_quill-2 In 1981 New York’s Times Square was filled with pawn shops, strip joints, peep shows, drug addicts and prostitutes. It seems worlds away from the Disney stages and suburban mall feel that has taken its place. Between 1965 and 1980, Americans watched the hearts of their largest cities degenerate into havens for the miserable, misbegotten, and mislead.

Great theaters fell into disrepair or were torn down. Unique specialty shops disappeared. The major department stores that at one time drew people from hundreds of miles away were sold off for real estate speculators. Small wonder people didn’t expect that trend to continue. Writers/Directors John Carpenter and Nick Castle wrote a pessimistic future for New York. That one day, instead of trying to fix the mess, society would throw up its hands and walk away. They’d burn their bridges behind them, wall off the place and make it a large penal colony. Carpenter and Castle couldn’t see that one factor prevented that scenario from ever taking place – Wall Street had too much invested in its infrastructure to write off leaving their investment behind – which was then and is even more today – considerable.

escapeTherefore, the premise is not only dated but implausible. “Escape from New York” actually takes place in the 1990’s and the entire island of Manhattan becomes a huge prison. Through some mishap of fate, the president’s jet Air Force One goes down and the president escapes via a special survivor’s pod that ends up inside the futuristic colony (picture New York City even more run down than it was in 1981). Enter the comic book superhero Snake Plissken, played to sneering perfection by a youthful, slim and muscular Kurt Russell: his eye patch slightly askew and a cigarette dangling from under his long semi – blonde hair. Sent in after the president with a built-in self-destruct timer, Snake must deliver the president or suffer a terminal end to his assignment.

A great supporting cast helps this low-budget sci-fi thriller such as Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, bug – eyed loony Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, and Adrienne Barbeau.  As strangely out of date as the film is in regards to predicting the future, it works as a storytelling device in creating a film that has suspense, action, drama, and some wonderful characters worth watching. “Escape from New York” eventually achieved cult status in the sci-fi “con” world, and if you can forget the opening premise, is entertaining fare for those who love dark comic book anti-heroes like Snake Plissken. Russell so impressed audiences at the time that he could never completely shake the persona he had created.

The dialogue is hilarious – Bob Hauk: “Plisken! What are you doing in there?” Snake:”Playing with myself!…I’m going in.” Bob Hauk: “I’m ready to kick you’re ass out of this world, Plissken” Snake: “I don’t give a fuck about your war – or your president.” Bob Hauk:”That’s not funny, Plissken.” Snake: “Listen to me, Hauk. The President is dead, you got that? Somebody’s had him for dinner!” Bob Hauk:”Plissken, if you get back in that glider and fly back here without the tape or the President, I’ll shoot you down myself! You try to climb out, I’ll burn you off the wall!” That was some bromance between Lee Van Cleef and Kurt Russell.

Adrienne Barbeau (14)How do I justify this photo? Easy. That’s Adrienne Barbeau, who plays Maggie. She is Brains’ (Harry Dean Stanton) “squeeze”  in Escape From New York. She was also the director’s wife. Just imagine their after work conversations around the dinner table.



  1. Pretty crazy movie, but still fun all the same. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

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