Let’s get this out of the way right away: The premise of Escape From New York is pretty ludicrous. No matter how bad things get, the chances of America converting its most valuable piece of real estate into a high-security prison—its only high-security prison—are pretty slim. On the other hand, between war and natural disaster, things have gone pretty wrong in the lead-up to the 1997 of John Carpenter’s film. Even an all-American war hero like Snake Plissken doesn’t see much of a future, so he’s turned to a life of crime that’s, in turn, landed him a sentence in the prison that used to be called The Big Apple.
Carpenter conceived of Escape From New York years earlier, after watching Death Wish and using science fiction to take its vision of urban hell into the future. He didn’t get a chance to make it, however, until after scoring a hit with Halloween. That’s just as well: Any earlier version might have forced him to work with someone other than Kurt Russell, whose performance as Plissken allowed him to break definitively with the clean-cut Disney roles of his youth.
There’s a lot to talk about with this one, and we’ll kick off that talk next week with a Keynote and Forum on Tuesday, followed by a Thursday piece from Nathan Rabin covering Carpenter’s West Coast 1996 sequel, Escape From L.A. We’ll be following it the week after with a look at Spike Lee’s great 2002 film The 25th Hour, then lightening the mood a bit in March, which will be dedicated to the history of buddy comedies.
Here’s the Escape From New York trailer to get you started:
Feb. 24: The 25th Hour
March 3: Artists & Models
March 10: The Odd Couple
March 17: 48 Hours
March 24: Midnight Run
March 31: Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion