Escape from New York Release Date: Available now Studio: MGM Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray "ECO-BOX" Year: 1981 Rating: R Running Time: 1:39:00 MSRP: $24.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1 Standard definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 2.0, French 5.1 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, Spanish N/A The Feature: 4/5 To cope with the late-1980's 400% increase in crime, the United States has turned Manhattan Island into a national penal colony, guarded by a military force stationed at Liberty Island and surrounded on all sides by a containing wall. While en route to a summit meeting with China and the Soviet Union, the President's plane is hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the heart of the prison. Though the President (Donald Pleasance) survives, he is taken hostage by the island's reigning inmate, the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes), to leverage the entire prison population's freedom. The President's only hope is a new arrival - Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former special forces soldier who tried to rob the Federal Reserve. Warden Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) offers Plissken a full pardon for the rescue of the President and the retrieval of an audio recording that is the key to negotiating world peace. With only 22 hours to get the job done, Plissken's work is cut out for him, but a last-minute maneuver by Hauk turns the mission unexpectedly personal. Going into the heart of the New York prison isn't about saving the President's life anymore, it's about Plissken saving his own. Though set in a year that has long since come and gone, John Carpenter's "Escape from New York" remains an effective, action-driven, dystopian fantasy. Given that description, its most surprising quality is its pacing - noticeably measured compared to any similar film that would be made today, but all the better for it. The film presents the world within an abandoned and crumbling New York gradually, oddity by oddity, and makes the laughable premise of an entire city converted to a prison seem plausible by the end. The only noticeable problem in the execution comes from the limited budget, namely for extras, the dearth of which makes the city streets noticeably unpopulated with criminals despite suggestions to the contrary. The modern remake (which appears stuck in development) would undoubtedly remedy this problem, but would likely take away the primary quality that makes the original stand out. With an amped up momentum to appeal to today's audiences, the escape may be more exciting but definitely not as interesting. Video Quality: 4/5 The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Blacks are deep and stable for the most part, but tend to look gray and murky during effects shots, affecting overall contrast. Though I assume this is inherent to the source, it's also fortunate such shots are relatively few. Dark scenes (of which there are many) and wide shots also tend to look a little hazy or indistinct. Sometimes this appears like a limitation of the lenses used at the time, but at others I'm not so sure. Overall sharpness, however, can be quite good, with respectable amounts of detail and visible grain structure. Haloing along high contrast edges appears on occasion, but generally signs of digital enhancement measures seems minimal and transparent. Given the age of the film, the picture is also incredibly clean and free of physical damage. Audio Quality: 3.5/5 With the opening credits, listeners will be immediately impressed by the breadth and immersive balance of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundstage. That level of engagement isn't sustained, however, the surround channels taking a comparatively subdued role for the rest of the film. In general though the track has very good dynamic range and clarity, particularly with vocals, and features some decent ambient and localized effects. Bass response is lacking in the gunfire sound effects and LFE is non-existent, but the synthesizer-based score provides some good moments that reveal the lower registers of the track. Special Features: 1.5/5 Unfortunately the package of extras is very spartan. Those who purchased the 2003 special edition will want to hold on to it for the commentaries and documentaries included on that release. Trailer (2:16, SD): Located on the accompanying DVD. DVD: Flipper disc includes two formats of the standard definition version of the feature. Enhanced-for-widescreen is on one side and full screen on the other. Recap The Feature: 4/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Special Features: 1.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5 MGM turns in a respectable audio and video presentation for John Carpenter's well-paced, dystopian action film. The special features are meager, however, making the purchase of the Blu-ray edition solely about the quality of the presentation. Fortunately it has enough strong points that given the right price point, fans and casual collectors alike should be satisfied with the purchase.