the 30th of john carpenter’s escape from new york


July the 10th, 1981 was the opening day for one of John Carpenter’s finest films. Escape from New York was released across the nation and I was there on opening night. Hi friends,, It’s been a while since I have been able to blog but I couldn’t miss the 30th anniversary ofย  EFNY!!! All I can say is what a awesome ride and what an incredible film. John Carpenter was on the rise and “Escape” marked his third feature release as director and also his third film in partnership with producer Debra Hill. Escape is a basically a western set in a slightly futuristic setting. 1997 to be exact and all that John loved and was inspired by from Howard Hawks and John Ford shows with a great homage on the screen. The story was written by Carpenter and his friend Nick Castle, and along with their very imaginative tale Carpenter also scored the film and his music adds a very intense mood and feel to the motion picture.ย  This has always been one of my Favorites and I find it so hard to believe that opening day was 30 years ago.. Thanks and Happy Anniversary John for sharing your great talents on the screen… You are a master at what you do and your films are so uniquely yours!!! Here is a quick synopsis of the film so if you haven’t seen it yet, stop here and put this one on the top of your list. If you have then carry on and enjoy the text and images to follow. For unknown reasons the city of New York has been turned into the main prison for the entire United States. A security fence has been constructed around Manhattan Island and is patrolled by the United States Police Force. If your sentenced to prison, once over the wall your on your own and life expectancy is rather short. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is en route to be processed when Air Force One is hijacked and crashes inside of the prison’s confines. Prison Security Chief Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) has 24 hours to get the president and a special cassette recording out before the Hartford Summit ends. A failed rescue plan leads Hauk to offer Snake Plissken full pardon if he can get in and save the president. Plisken, once a war hero takes the offer but not without a price. Hauk injects Plissken with what he says are antibiotics but in fact are tiny explosives in his artery’s that have a 24 hour limit before they go off. Once Plissken finds out about this he is far more determined to succeed at his mission. Armed with guns, throwing stars and a whole bunch of devices that would make James Bond Jealous, Snake fly’s in a glider called the gulf fire and lands on top of the world trade center and begins his search for the president ( Donald Pleasence). Along the way Snake encounters the drudgery of what New York has become and his lonely search gains ground when he meets Cabby (Ernest Borgnine) who knows where the president is, Cabby takes Snake to meet Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) and his squeeze Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau) who work for the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) who has the president and is going to use him as their ticket to freedom. A failed attempt to rescue the president by Snake puts him into the Dukes Barbaric world. Snake is forced to be sport in a gladiator style ring and fight for his life. Brain comes up with his own plan and steals the president and is later joined by snake who has escaped from the arena. This motley crew makes a break for the heavily mined 64th street bridge pursued by the Duke. After battling the mines and the loss of Brain, Maggie, and Cabby, Snake and the President make for the wall at the end of the bridge where Hauk’s men are waiting to rescue the two. A final shoot out with the Duke takes place and the President himself serves his revenge with a lethal volley of bullets from an M-16. Once over the wall Snake gets the charges burned out of his neck with only seconds to spare. As the movie comes to a close we see the president getting cleaned up for an emergency broadcast to the summit. A face to face a conversation takes place between the president and Snake and it is quickly realized that the sacrifices that Plissken and and those involved to get the president out are meaningless and quickly forgotten. The film ends with a very nice little twist and the credits roll!!!

the prison layout

the prison called New York, Matte painting

the deal is made

coming into land, a beautiful VFX shot


the Duke and his court

the President

the ring


25 Responses to “the 30th of john carpenter’s escape from new york”

  1. 1 Natalie
    July 11, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Hi John.

    I have no idea why this film isn’t on my DVD shelf yet, considering how much I love John Carpenter’s work! I shall definitely rectify that today. ๐Ÿ™‚

    This may surprise you (and everyone), bit I’m a massive fan of his Ghosts of Mars movie, and have been in touch with co-writer Larry Sulkis in relation to it. I’m working on a fan fiction piece that is actually a sequel to the movie… just for fun.

    I really love that you did concept art for Ghosts of Mars but I’ve only glimpsed two pieces on this blog (are there more on here that I can’t find?).

    I was wondering, John, if there’s a way I can purchase prints of your Ghosts of Mars artwork that you did for the film, and was wondering what more you have. (I’m flying all the way from England to New Mexico later this year to see the broken remains of the train set, so that gives you an idea how much I love this movie! I even own one of the MPF uniforms.)

    Please let me know. I’d love to have some of your work on my wall. ESPECIALLY if you have any art prints of the Trans Marineris 74 Yankee ore hauler!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    ~ Natalie.

    • 2 johneaves
      July 12, 2011 at 7:53 am

      HOW COOL!!!!! I want to come too ta see the train,,, I’ll meet you there! WE are moving and I just started to pack my office and if I haven’t packed away the Ghosts art I’ll let you know.

  2. 3 the bluesman
    July 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

    John, Great post! I watehd this dozens of time on cinemax when I was in high school. I too need toget it on DVD.

  3. July 12, 2011 at 6:16 am

    I think this was one of the first Carpenter films that I saw.
    It blow me away and loved every moment of it.
    I never seen the squel expect bit and peace. Though I keep meaning to.

  4. 7 JNG
    July 12, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Just went on Netflix and watched this. Looks amazing considering the modest budget.

    “DUKE OF NEW YORK! A #1!”

    • 8 johneaves
      July 12, 2011 at 7:59 am

      I watched it on the anniversary and saw something I never saw before,, Carpenter always said this was a western, and he proved it with one line of dialog,
      Harry Dean Stanton (Brain) is on the roof of the trade center and their are a bunch of hoods pushing the glider off the roof and Dean screams, GD Red skins!!! and sure enough all the bad guys on the roof are wearing feathers and American Indian garb, HAAAA! I laughed so hard

  5. July 12, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Wow, can’t believe THIRTY years has passed!! This was one of those films where a certain James Cameron was evolving his VFX artist skills. I believe that he worked on several matte paintings and worked on models for the film. Also this was one of the first films to use a new Kodak filmstock designed to work better with night and lowlight photography.

    While I haven’t read it, I heard that the novelization of this film provided some interesting backstory info on American society at the time.

    • 10 johneaves
      July 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm

      Yeah the cover all of that really well on the DVD commentary!!! and I agree hard to believe it is 30,,
      Carpenter’s The Ward is about to come out n can’t wait to see it

  6. 11 Richard Knapp
    July 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Hi John:
    This one is definitely one of my favorites. I heard a story that the flight control computer graphics, when Snake is flying in to the city, where done using reflective tape! Thanks for posting the pictures.

    Hope all is well with you and the family.


    • 12 johneaves
      July 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      All true!!! When I started at Apogee in 85 we had a project where we had to do the same thing… we tapped the edges of boxes and set them out in a city type fashion and on film looked exactly like computer graphics

  7. July 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I love this movie. Watch it all the time and I’m even warming up to Escape From L.A. The commentary on the DVD is one of my favorites.

    • 15 johneaves
      July 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

      Those commentaries with Carpenter n Russell are the best,,,, The one they did for the Thing is just as good!!!

      • July 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm

        Don’t forget the one for Big Trouble In little China. They spend most of that just talking to each other and I think they even apologise at the end for not talking enough about the move. ๐Ÿ˜€ All of his commentaries are really good and informative. He just knows so much. He needs to teach a class.

      • 17 johneaves
        July 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

        Your right!!! I forgot about that one!!!!, For Ghosts of mars John And Natasha just basically chat n flirt, HAAA! lots of good times

  8. 18 doubleofive
    July 14, 2011 at 5:11 am

    I watched this a couple years ago, it was really enjoyable! Then I watched Escape from LA shortly afterwards and got confused as to which movie was which! LOL

  9. July 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

    One of the most awesome movies ever made. Proof you don’t need $100 million budget and 100 minutes of CGI to make great films. Snake Plissken was the original bad ass anti-hero and could own Rambo in a heart beat.

    The sequel was just a cash-in rehash of the original.

  10. July 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks for the memories, John! Had this movie on VHS, Laser Disc, DVD……(hoping to stop at DVD but “Blu-Ray” is becoming a standard!)…..I was a young buck at the time and no one got it when I wore “street clothes” in the fashion of Snake Plisskon….Well I did deviate, I wore knee high black mocassins instead of the futuristic looking motor cycle boots! Boy those were the days!

  11. 21 Charles Tam
    July 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Hi John,
    Thanks for your post. Would you be covering the second movie “Escape from LA”?

  12. 22 the bluesman
    July 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    John, I got amrried in 1997, and we couldnt afford to go anyhwere to fancy so we went to St. Louis. Alot of Escape was filmed there and the arena fight was filmed in the Grand Hall of Union station, which in 1981 was pretty run down.

  13. 24 Jay
    July 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Another opportunity for me to reiterate my love for Adrienne Barbeau ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. 25 scott
    August 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I was staff carpenter for Filmex (Los Angeles Film Exibition) and remember this film very well.
    We showed it as a sneak preview at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd.
    Carpenter was still editing the film so we installed extra projectors to handle the different types of sound recording and film he gave us to show. There was a 35mm full coat track, optical track and magnetic striped film that if played correctly would never get noticed as anything other than a regular print of the film.

    It took 3 days to lug projectors and extra sound equipment up to the booth (no elevator) and install them, but the payoff was getting to sit behind Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau, and other cast members.

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July 2011

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