Escape From New York on PAL Laserdisc

The Dominator reviews

Escape From New York
Distributed by
Pioneer LDCE

  • PLFEB 37181
  • Cert: 15
  • Running time: 96 minutes
  • Sides: 2 (CLV)
  • Year: 1981
  • Pressing: 1998
  • Chapters: 29 (16/13)
  • Sound: Dolby Surround
  • Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Panavision)
  • Price: £19.99
  • Extras : None


      John Carpenter

    (Halloween, Escape From L.A., Dark Star)


    Debra Hill and Larry Franco


    John Carpenter and Nick Castle


    John Carpenter


    Snake Plissken: Kurt Russell (Escape From L.A., Executive Decision, Breakdown)
    Hauk: Lee Van Cleef (For A Few Dollars More, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, High Noon)
    Cabbie: Ernest Borgnine (All Quiet On The Western Front, Marty, The Vikings, The Wild Bunch, “Airwolf” (TV))
    President: Donald Pleasance (Halloween, All Quiet on The Western Front, Great Escape, Fantastic Voyage)
    The Duke: Isaac Hayes (It Could Happen To You, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, “South Park” (TV))
    Girl In Chock Full O’Nuts: Season Hubley (A Caribbean Mystery, Child In The Night, Stepfather 3)
    Brain: Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, Cool Hand Luke, Repo Man, Wild At Heart)
    Maggie: Adrienne Barbeau (The Burden Of Proof, The Fog, Target Witness)

John Carpenter’s Escape From New Yorkis the prequel to 1996’s EscapeFrom L.A., with Kurt Russell first taking on his role of SnakePlissken.

In 1988, the crime rate in the USA rises 400%. To curb the rampant violence inthe streets, the once great city of New York becomes the one maximum securityblockade in the entire country. A fifty foot containment wall is erected,completely surrounding and isolating Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterwaysare mined. The US Police Force, like an army, is encamped all around the prisonand helicopters circle overhead incessantly. There are no guards inside, onlythe prisoners, left to live on their own in a place where lawlessness reignssupreme and there is only one rule: once you get in, you don’t come out!

It’s now 1997. The plane conducting the American President to summit meeting ofworld leaders is abducted by terrorists and crash-lands in New York. Before thePolice Force can reach him, the President is taken hostage. The only way torescue him in time for the decisive conference is to have a prisoner infiltratethe dark bowels of the penal colony.

Snake Plissken is picked because he’s a tough-as-nails veteran of the SiberianFront in World War III, sentenced for robbing a bank. In exchange for hisfreedom, Snake is given 23 hours to bring back the President alive – and ifhe needs a reason not to go AWOL it’ll be the two lethal injections implantedin the arteries in his neck, set to go off if he doesn’t return home in time…

Kurt Russell equips himself perfectly as the hero with witty one-linersand a devil-may-care attitude, although he has the determination to see the jobthrough – then again, faced with the alternative…

It’s sad that three of the cast are no longer with us, namely Lee Van Cleefas Hauk, the man charged with assigning Snake the unenviable task, ErnestBorgnine as the fast-talking cabbie (a role later reworked by SteveBuscemi in the sequel) and Donald Pleasance as the President.

Elsewhere in the cast is Isaac Hayes as the evil ganglord of New Yorkknown as The Duke. These days, however, he’s taken on a role that’s just assmooth – the voice of the singing chef in Sky TV’s South Park. HarryDean Stanton has made a living out of roles in bizarre films such asRepo Man and Wild At Heart, but those who are not hitting thebig-time these days are Season Hubley and Adrienne Barbeau.

The picture quality is excellent, bringing the crisp layout of John Carpenter’svision to life much sharper than any video release could. Also, there arepresent none of the “sparklies” which dogged the release of the sequel.

The sound quality is superb too – mainly for incidental music, not least theclassic theme tune, but also atmospheric music some of which is used to pinpointkey moments and a number of directional effects including Snake’s fight in thering and his foray into Broadway with his colleagues. The whole thing comesacross very clearly, despite a couple of forgivable crackles in the soundtrackalong the way.

The disc is well-chaptered with twenty-nine covering the film, although anextra one could have been added to keep the end credits separate. But it’s ashame there are no extras as this disc faces strong competition from the NTSCSpecial Edition which contains an interview with John Carpenter as well as acommentary track.

After John Carpenter’s first film, Dark Star, shot in Academy4:3 ratio, all his films have been shot in 2.35:1 Panavision. Carpenter’s visionis such that nothing other than the original ratio will do. Anything less isnot so much a compromise as an impossibility. Put simply, this and his otherfilms cannot be viewed in anything other than their original widescreen ratio.This film has been released in a widescreen video, but for the best in pictureclarity, you owe it to yourself to buy this laserdisc.

Click on this title for a review of John Carpenter’s Halloween andJohn Carpenter’s Escape From L.A. on PAL LD,plusJohn Carpenter’s Escape From New YorkandDark Star on DVD.

Film: 4/5
Picture: 5/5
Sound: 5/5

Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 1998.

Check outPioneer‘s Web site.

[Up to the top of this page]