Friday, March 27, 2015

Escape From New York (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

Yeah, the Duke is A#1. That’s life on a prison island… that is until ol’ Snake comes along and battle for the top spot. I first saw Escape From New York in 2002, well after the 1997 year in which it was set. I knew what Manhattan had become; a consumer tourist trap with Broadway everything and corporate sponsorship, but in the time of John Carpenter, in 1981, the future of New York was mega-bleak. Giuliani came in a cleaned up the streets, deleted the character of the city and made it safe for at least a short time, but that doesn't mean that we’re out of the woods just yet. The future is coming. There’s always a new 1997. There’s always a New York to escape from. The first time I enjoyed Escape From New York I did so as a late movie, head full of tranqs and buried up to my neck in blankets waiting to see who would make it off the island. Would it be my beloved Donald acting as an American president with a secret mixtape of espionage? Would it be Dean Profitt, post-adventure mini-golf? Would it be Billie? You can call her that because everyone else does. Maybe Airwolf? Man this movie has a great cast, and this is a great release. It’s a pleasure to enjoy it with all the trimmings from Scream Factory.

With the post-apocalypse on high gear for every would-be filmmaker out there, it’s nice to remember when a story could carry an action movie and when the camerawork wasn’t so shaky. Most of you have seen and enjoyed Escape From New York by now, and those of you who have not might find it a bit dated no matter how timeless it feels. The effects are less than CG and have a truly fantastical feel with models, paintings and clever camera tricks making up the bulk of the future island prison. There are bits of animation that take the place of high cost effects that are infinitely more effective than the video game look of most modern movies. You can feel the dirt of New York because New York was dirty even if the thing wasn’t shot in New York.  The people look like residents of future-Tromaville in New Jersey or perhaps the trappings of The Warriors (Bronx or otherwise). There’s almost early signs of steampunk and Mad Max (with more tech and more civilization). The world of New York circa 1997 is a trend setter and a morbid prediction in the Dickens sense of unchanged action leading to dire consequence for the people of 1981.

This time around I enjoyed the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell commentary track because my associates at the Dead Air podcast told me that it would be one of the best ways to watch a JC/KR movie. They were right. Having since memorized bits of dialogue from repetitive watching, the commentary gave me a look at how an independent feature was made in the late 70’s. It showed you what dedication a filmmaker had to his movie and how the battle of studio vs. artist was just shaping up and would seem to cripple John Carpenter in later years. You can’t cage the great JC; you’ll only make him smoke more cigarettes. Let’s run through the features from Scream Factory. Note that you get an entire extras disc! One Blu-ray. One disc of extras. Original artwork on the slipcover and the reverse is the more traditional artwork.

NEW 2K High Definition Scan Of The Inter-Positive, Struck From The Original Negative

This thing looks beautiful. It’s a sexy transfer. Clean. Nice contrast and full of detail. No heavy-handed DNR and the color looks appropriate though I haven’t seen this film projected.

NEW Audio Commentary With Actress Adrienne Barbeau And Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
Audio Commentary With Producer Debra Hill And Production Designer Joe Alves

You get three commentaries to choose from! I have to check out the most recent one with Barbeau and our man Cundey, but the JC/Russell one from the previous release is chock full of all the info you could want. Make sure to enjoy Debra Hill. She’s a Horror/Sci-Fi treasure.

NEW Big Challenges In Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK

This shows you how to make movies without relying on computers for EVERYTHING. What gives Escape From New York and films of this age their iconic, unperfect look? This featurette shows you. Very cool stuff. Keep your eyes our for Mr. James Cameron with the paintbrush.

NEW Scoring The Escape: A Discussion With Composer Alan Howarth

I’m a score junkie which means listening to Alan Howarth talk about how the sound palette was created for an iconic picture is like bathing in Cadbury Crème Eggs. Howarth is always a pleasure to listen to as he is knowledgeable and a good story teller. Soundtrack enthusiasts (ie my dorky brethren) enjoy this treat.

NEW On Set With John Carpenter: The Images Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK With Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker

Kim Gottlieber-Walker just made me realize that I have been taking for granted the on-set photographer and the importance thereof. I can safely say I didn’t fully appreciate how filmmaking has changed, how the “cameras are everywhere” has changed how actors related to the director and how their performance suffers from over-photographing. Lesson learned. Thanks Kim.

NEW I Am Taylor: An Interview With Actor Joe Unger

His scene may have been cut from the movie, but he’s making it to the extras disc for the Scream Factory release. There’s a new interview with Actor Joe Unger.

NEW My Night On The Set: An Interview With Filmmaker David DeCoteau

DeCoteau has made some pretty crazy dark fantasy pictures over the years. He’s the subject of the new interview on the Escape From New York disc which is an interesting perspective.

Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence
This is a must watch for the casual fan who thinks they’ve seen everything. This isn’t new material by any stretch, but it’s damn cool. Includes a commentary track.

Return To Escape From New York Featurette

Theatrical Trailers – obligatory. Don’t put out a digital disc without this.

Photo Galleries – Behind-The-Scenes, Posters And Lobby Cards – obligatory, enjoy.

This is hefty package from Scream Factory with some updated extras, great cover art (or the original art if you’re a purist) that looks fantastic. It’s Escape From New York. It’s John Carpenter. It’s Kurt Russell. It’s Scream Factory. When you put these things together you get something special. Something that feels like a refreshing post-apocalypse even though this movie is over 30 years old. Scream Factory does such a nice job with all their Carpenter releases and this is no exception. Duke. Snake. We’re the guys with the Blu-ray.

You can order the Scream Factory Blu-ray, Collector’s Edition now. Available April 21st:

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the US president (Donald Pleasence) crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken (Russell). But time is short. In 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake's mission – and his life – unless he succeeds!

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