Escape from New York (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) was once known as a war hero, but now he is known as the most dangerous criminal in existence. But when the heat hits the coals, this feared criminal seems to be the United States government’s best chance to recover some very vital elements. You see, since the crime rates have skyrocketed in the U.S., officials have turned New York into one large prison, where they send all the worst criminal element. This means most of them are killed by other prisoners and in short, is cheaper and more effective than traditional prison systems. This seems to work well enough, but when a freak accident happens, it seems as though no one can survive the massive prison to recover some items. The president (Donald Pleasance) was flying over the city when a terrorist attack forces him to eject, which leaves him and some important documents within the limits of this prison. And since Snake is the only man tough enough to venture into New York, they ask for his help in exchange for his freedom. But since Snake has an explosive device implanted within his body by them, it seems the choice was pretty easy to make. Can Snake overcome the dangers of New York to track down the goods and return to collect his freedom?

This is one of the coolest movies of all time, hands down. So when MGM released Escape from New York in a bare bones edition, fans were more than disappointed. After all, a laserdisc edition was issued with some extras, so why weren’t those goodies ported over? Well know fans can rejoice, as MGM has given this brand new two disc Special Edition. We have the stuff from the laserdisc, plus a few new tidbits to sweeten the deal. Even aside from the supplemental materials, this disc is a welcome release and the new anamorphic transfer is more than worth the cash. I’d love to have seen the extras ported over, but I won’t cry too much over spilt milk. This is one of my personal favorite flicks of all time and even the sequel wasn’t up to task, the shine isn’t dulled in the least on the original classic. This one is loaded with intense action, memorable characters, and some terrific catch phrases, what more can you ask for? Kurt Russell is outstanding as Snake, while the supporting cast and direction of John Carpenter are also in fine form. This new Special Edition release from MGM includes a brand new visual treatment, plus a host of supplements, so it deserves a most high recommendation.

Snake Plissken is one of the coolest characters in the history of cinema, which means Kurt Russell turns in one blockbuster performance. I think this is Russell’s best work of his career and while his reprise of the role in Escape From L.A. was a little lackluster, it was still kinda cool to see him again. Russell seems so natural and relaxed within this role, it is never a doubt that he is Snake while the film rolls. This is vital to the film of course, as Snake is the money man and central to the entire scheme of the movie. You can also see Russell in such films as Overboard, Escape From L.A., Executive Decision, Tombstone, Backdraft, The Thing, and Used Cars. But Russell is just one piece of the larger puzzle here, as the supporting cast also comes up big. Some of the performers include Donald Pleasance (Halloween), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man, The Green Mile), Isaac Hayes (Reindeer Games, Tv’s South Park), Ernest Borgnine (Baseketball, Gattaca), Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing, Back to School), and Lee Van Cleef (High Noon). The director of Escape From New York is the great John Carpenter, who also helmed such films as Halloween, The Fog, Vampires, They Live, The Thing, and Assault On Precinct 13.

Video: How does it look?

It’s been nearly thirty years since Snake and company have first graced the screen and having said that I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I popped this Blu-ray in. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised as this 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer seems to have been given a dusting off and they’ve done some work on a few of the trouble areas as well. This is a very dark movie both in tone and in the physical way it’s presented. Black levels are above average with some scenes still showing the tiniest bit of artifacting, though contrast remains strong throughout. Flesh tones are a bit on the saturated side with everyone looking a bit pink, but by and large they’re somewhat normal all things considering. Detail has been improved from the standard DVD transfer, too. Fans of this film will no doubt be impressed by the number of visual improvements that have been made.

Audio: How does it sound?

A few years back, MGM released this with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and with this Blu-ray release, they’ve upped the ante a bit more. We have a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack this time around that gives the movie a level of depth that I wouldn’t have thought possible. Granted, the age of the movie does limit what the soundtrack is capable of, but sonics are improved, dialogue feels a bit more clean and steady and surrounds are used with a lot more ferocity than I seem to remember. Add it all up and it equals a very nice, pleasing mix. This is a testament to Blu-ray and these new soundtracks are breathing new life into these old classics.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unfortunately, “Escape from New York” on Blu-ray is just that – only the movie. All of the special features from the previous DVD have, well, escaped this Blu-ray disc. So if you just want this for the movie, you’re in luck otherwise you’ll be disappointed as this is the movie and only the movie.

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