Escape from New York (1981) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Crime / Science Fiction / Thriller
MGM || R - 99 minutes - $24.99 || August 3, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-08-09

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

B L U - R A Y

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: John Carpenter
Writer(s): John Carpenter & Nick Castle (written by)
Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes

Theatrical Release Date: July 10, 1981

Supplemental Material:
  • DVD Copy

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (Dolby Surround), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

John Carpenterís Escape from New York is considered one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s with one of the most iconic characters perhaps ever created... and for some reason I never had gotten around to actually seeing the film despite owning the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD for a couple years now (more on that later). After actually seeing this for the first time, consider me on the disappointed side rather than impressed. It could be a generational thing but itís probably because Iím not used to Carpenterís style more than anything.

Anti-hero and ex-Special Forces turned outlaw Snake Plissken (KURT RUSSELL) is given a deal by a man named Hauk (LEE VAN CLEEF) Ė warden of the island of Manhattan which was turned into a massive, guardless, lawless prison after the world is ravaged by crime. Air Force One is hijacked and crashes into Manhattan and while the passengers died, the President (DONALD PLEASENCE) escapes in a pod and Hauk offers a deal that if Snake goes and recover the President and what he is carrying within 24 hours, he will receive a pardon. Oh, thereís one more thing: Hauk has also inserted a highly charged explosive into Snakeís neck and if he fails his mission, the charge will explode.

Inside Manhattan, landing on a glider plane on top of the World Trade Center tower, Snake makes his way through the chaos first running into cabbie named, well, Cabbie (ERNEST BORGNINE) and then discovering how things ran there. Brain (HARRY DEAN STANTON) knows the ins and outs of the place while The Duke (ISAAC HAYES) is in charge of everything and everybody and apparently also has the President held hostage, using him to get freedom for him and the others. Now Snake must deal with ďThe DukeĒ to find the President and get him out of Manhattan before itís too late.

First, I will say that I do agree with fans of Escape from New York that Kurt Russell turns in a great, yet understated performance. Obviously the eye patch does a lot to give the character the necessary intensity Ė not to mention a name like Snake Ė and makes you believe he is a badass not to be reckoned with but rather than being over-the-top and in your face, Russellís quiet voice distinguishes him from so other 1980s heroes or anti-heroes. So if I have any problems with the movie, it certainly is NOT because of Kurt Russell and what he does with the character.

However, for as great as the Snake character is and how iconic he is as a 1980s anti-hero, I just couldnít get into the rest of the film. The plot is pretty ordinary and the action sequences arenít anything spectacular. Even taking the thriller aspects, I was a little... well, really disappointed as it was on the dull side even when the premise on hand is actually interesting.

I know I am in the minority on this and I canít say the movie is bad at all, Escape from New York didnít do anything for me. Yes, it has a few entertaining scenes, Isaac Hayes as the primary villain is great in his limited role and of course Kurt Russell turns in a performance that is still great to this day especially when Ė given the filmís short 95-minute running time Ė he doesnít have a whole lot of time to develop the character.


So, even though there is a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD out there, MGM has chosen not to port any of them over which means you are missing two commentaries, a deleted scene, 2 featurettes, a photo gallery and more and instead you get the original flipper DVD Copy that contains the original theatrical trailer.


I was somewhat underwhelmed by this 1080p, high-def transfer for Escape from New York. Technically speaking, the picture looks OK but the detail levels are far from good and at times look really soft. I donít know if once again DNR has been used but I did notice some grain here and there so Iím not entirely certain. Now, the black levels look alright and since most of the movie takes place after dark, I guess thatís a positive. Having seen screen caps from the UK version (released by Optimum), that one obviously had its visuals majorly boosted and seeing the SD DVD version, this is certainly closer.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio meanwhile sounds good especially given the movie is now 29 years old (strange Fox didnít wait until next year and release a 30th Anniversary Edition) and the dialogue levels sounds clear enough while the action sequences donít pack very much of a punch but still provide a little depth, more so than other Blu-rays from this era.


Because the picture is merely acceptable and even with a decent audio transfer, I have a hard recommending this release for the main reason that none of the features were ported over from the Special Edition DVD and they only include the original flipper disc as this releaseís only ďfeatureĒ.