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Escape from New York

Film (1981). Avco Embassy/International Film Investors/Goldcrest. Directed by John Carpenter. Produced by Larry Franco and Debra Hill. Written by Carpenter, Nick Castle. Cast includes Adrienne Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Donald Pleasence, Kurt Russell, Harry Dean Stanton and Lee Van Cleef. 99 minutes. Colour.

The idea is wonderful. In 1997 the whole of Manhattan Island (see New York) is a Prison colony, surrounded by minefields and unscalable walls and inhabited by criminal scum and crazies. In this inferno lands the US President (a creepy performance from Pleasence) after a plane crash. War hero and criminal Snake Plissken (Russell), implanted with 24-hour-fused explosives to ensure his voluntary return, is sent in to get the President out. Looking like an attempt to recapture some of the brilliance of Carpenter's first major thriller, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), the film instead loses itself in routine though colourful macho confrontations; it is a little reminiscent of the exploitation formula of the Mad Max sequence, and is not helped by Russell's inexpressive performance.

A belated sequel is Escape from LA (1996). Lockout (2012), directed by James Mather and Stephen St Leger from an "original idea" by Luc {Besson}, relocates the plot into space with insufficient further alteration – the President, for example, becomes the President's daughter – to deflect Carpenter's successful lawsuit for plagiarism. [PN/DRL]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 11:49 am on 24 September 2023.