Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Escape from New York

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Cameron Yee, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    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.
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Cameron,

     

    Thank you for the review. Great film.

     

    Does this edition have the alternate opening scene?
     
  3. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    No, the only video extra is the trailer on the accompanying DVD. Would have been nice though.
     
  4. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    Is the DVD a "flipper" or does it have both widescreen and MAR on the same side of a dual layer disc? I'm curious, because the original release was double sided.
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    It's a flipper. I thought I had included that in the review, but obviously not.
     
  6. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    Thanks. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one.
     
  7. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    So the included DVD is the original release, not the 2003 Spec Ed?
     
  8. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I don't know if it's the original release or some type of cheap re-release but it's definitely not the SE.
     
  9. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Right. The SE was two discs, with the film on one DVD and most of the features on a second. Including the entire SE in this package would have meant a 3-disc case.
     
     
  10. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    At the minimum, MGM/Fox should have included disc 1 of the SE.

     

    They must have found some of the old flippers during inventory, and thought this would be a good way to get rid of them.

     

    But, really, was disc space at such a premium that they could not include the commentary (Dolby 2.0 192kbps) on the Blu-ray?
     
  11. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Since it's a BD-50, space was probably not the issue. I suspect it was authoring costs (time being money, and all that).
     
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I have kept quiet over the past days about

    what I think about this release because I

    know many of the people over at Fox/MGM

    and I trust that when they look to put a film

    like this out on Blu-ray that they will give it

    the best treatment that they can.

     

    I don't know the history of this film as far

    as Blu-ray is concerned. Is this its first time

    on the format or is it being released a second

    time? Did they get it right the first time out?

    I ask this because it's quite obvious that

    Escape from New York is a highly popular

    catalog title. Yet, it seems the studio just

    threw this on Blu-ray with none of the extras

    that appeared on the deluxe DVD release(s).

     

    I mean...this is Blu-ray. Why would MGM

    just slap a movie on a disc and leave out all

    the great supplemental material that includes

    commentary and a deleted opening sequence?

    I would have bought this Blu-ray in a hearbeat

    if it had been done correctly. However, now I

    get the impression that either a better Blu-ray

    was previously released or the studio is hoping

    to get a double-dip out of this.
     
  13. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Hmmm I just bought the UK Blu-ray, it's still wrapped, a bargain at £10 from my local HMV. I didn't even look to see if there were any extras. Looking now I see they have included a documentary - Return to Escape from New York, a deleted scene - Snake's crime, and exclusive interview with John Carpenter plus a commentary with Carpenter and Kurt Russell. Why weren't they included on the US blu-ray? Weird.

     

    I seem to remember an isolated score on the DVD or is it Assault on Precinct 13 I'm thinking of?
     
  14. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I wish the disc had carried over the extras (it can't cost that much money to port them over) but the most important thing is the movie and that has never looked better.

     


     



    Yeah, Assault On Precinct 13 had an isolated score but not Escape From New York.
     
  15. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    The reason the extras aren't here is that Fox/MGM are smart enough to know that Carpenter fans will buy this release and the eventual re-release in a couple years that will contain the extras. Smart move for a studio. Bad for fans.

     

    If you remember, we got a crap DVD release and then an eventual Special Edition down the road even though this title was popular enough for the FIRST release to be the SE. They did think with THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and several other popular films from this era.
     
  16. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    I like EFNY enough to buy it again IF they do a proper restoration, preferably from original materials, and if they carry everything over and put in on one disc. I don't accept that this is the best this film will EVER look...the budget was low but not that low. MGM (or Fox in this case) just doesn't have an incentive to spend $$ cleaning up somebody else's movie, especially if they're near the end of their agreement with MGM.
     
  17. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    That was then, this is now. The studios could pull that scam with DVD because DVDs sold well. Smaller Blu-ray catalog titles aren't exactly making the studios get dollar signs in their eyes.

     

    That being said, if their plan is to do that, I hope they plan on having John Carpenter drop it off at my house because the 'allure' of getting all the existing features on one disc isn't even remotely enough to get me to buy it again (and I've happily bought it on laserdisc, the first DVD, the SE DVD and now the Blu-ray).
     
  18. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    That's how I feel. I had the SE, and didn't even bother to watch the extras. Now that I have the BR with picture and sound I'm satisfied with, why bother buying again?
     
  19. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    Same here. I upgrade a title from SD-DVD to BD for the upgrade in the film's a/v quality alone. Extra features will not get my money if MGM (or whoever ends up owning their catalog) releases this again as a special edition BD.
     
  20. Bleddyn Williams

    Bleddyn Williams Supporting Actor

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    Its worth noting that the menu on the blu is rather imbalanced - PLAY, SET-UP & SCENES are all to the left, leaving pretty of room for SPECIAL FEATURES to be written. Its as if they were planned, then dropped.

     

    The feature is better than before, but these half-assed packages really do seem so cheap. And if MGM is in such bad shape as people say, we might not be able to expect more for the time being.
     

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