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Blu-ray Review Escape From New York Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Todd Erwin

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Escape From New York Blu-ray Review

Escape From New York was something of a departure for John Carpenter, stepping away briefly from the horror genre that made him famous and trying his hand at science fiction (this time on a solo basis). The director also took a big chance on casting Kurt Russell against type as the anti-hero Snake Plisken, which helped launch his career as an action star in the 1980s. The result was a box office success that has developed a cult following of loyal fans.



Studio: MGM

Distributed By: Shout! Factory

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: R

Run Time: 1 Hr. 38 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

2-disc Blu-ray keepcase with outer sleeve

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), BD25 (single layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 04/21/2015

MSRP: $29.93




The Production Rating: 4/5

It is 1997. The island of Manhattan has become a maximum security prison, a roach motel for the worst offenders. Air Force One is hijacked, crash lands on the island, and the President (Donald Pleasance) has been taken hostage by The Duke (Isaac Hayes) in an attempt to mount an escape. U.S. Police Commissioner Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) offers a newly arrived prisoner, Snake Plisken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces war hero, immunity and freedom if he agrees to locate and free the President in the next 24 hours so that he does not miss a Peace Summit where he will be handing over an audio recording in the hope of ending the war. If Snake fails, he will be executed when microscopic explosives in his neck detonate after the deadline has passed. Once inside, Snake meets up with Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine), a taxi driver who takes him to Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) and Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau), the only ones who know how to get to The Duke. Brain and Snake have a history, and Brain double crosses Snake, turning him over to The Duke. While Snake fights another prisoner to the death for the amusement of The Duke and his gang, Brain and Maggie free the President and try to escape the island. The Duke soon realizes what has happened, and gives chase, with Snake close on his heels. Snake catches up with the President and delivers him (and the tape) to Hauk, but Snake ends up having the final word (or lack thereof).

Escape From New York is the movie that changed John Carpenter’s career in many ways. It introduced Carpenter's satirical take on politics (that would be developed more fully in They Live) and his love of science fiction. It also solidified his friendship with actor Kurt Russell, with whom he had just worked with on the TV biopic, Elvis, and they would go on to make The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and Escape from L.A. together. But the real credit has to go to production designer Joe Alves (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and director of photography Dean Cundey (Jurassic Park, Halloween), for being able to take a run down section of St. Louis that was marked for redevelopment and pass it off as a war-torn Manhattan. Kudos also to the visual effects team at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, led by the Skotak brothers that included James Cameron.



Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

Released previously on Blu-ray as a barebones disc by MGM, Shout! Factory this time out has pulled out all the stops with a brand new 2k transfer and bonus features (more on those later). This is likely as good as Escape From New York is going to look, with the exception of a new 4k transfer. Compressed using the AVC codec, this new release retains the film’s intended theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Colors are consistent and not overly saturated, blacks are deep and inky while whites are bright and never clip. While some images may appear overly grainy (many of the night scenes were shot with existing light), it is never intrusive and any digital cleanup was done minimally. While some may be disappointed that the Avco Embassy logo is missing, those may also be happy that the MGM logo was left off of this release.



Audio Rating: 4/5

As with most Shout! Factory releases under the Scream Factory label, there are two audio choices: a remixed 5.1 track and the original 2.0 matrixed surround track, both in DTS-HD Master Audio. Both sound great, with the 5.1 providing a slightly more spacious design with some discrete surround effects and a more pronounced lower end (thanks to the dedicated LFE channel). Dialogue is clear and mostly steered to the center channel, with the score by Carpenter and Alan Howarth (their first collaboration) and effects spread among the remaining channels.



Special Features Rating: 4/5

Most, if not all, of the special features from the 2-disc special edition MGM DVD release from 2003 have been ported over for the first time, along with a few new (and noteworthy) additions, spread over two Blu-ray discs.


Disc One:
Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell: This is the same excellent commentary from the 2-disc MGM DVD that was left off of all previous Blu-ray releases.

Audio Commentary with Producer Debra Hill and Production Designer Joe Alves: This is the same excellent commentary from the 2-disc MGM DVD that was left off of all previous Blu-ray releases.

Audio Commentary with actress Adrienne Barbeau and Director of Photography Dean Cundey: New to this release, the two former John Carpenter collaborators fondly reflect on the making of the film, moderated by Sean Clark.

Disc Two:
Big Challenges in Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects of Escape From New York (1080p; 14:27): Dennis and Robert Skotak discuss how they created the visual effects on the movie, with a little help from some guy named James Cameron.

Scoring the Escape: A Discussion with composer Alan Howarth (1080p; 18:56): Howarth takes us on a tour of his new recording studio with Sean Clark, and discusses how the score was recorded and the lasting legacy of the film’s score.

On Set with John Carpenter: The Images of Escape From New York (1080p; 10:50): Kim Gottlieb-Walker discusses her work on the film as on-set Still Photographer.

I Am Taylor: An Interview with actor Joe Unger (1080p; 8:49): The actor discusses working on the film and his reaction to being cut from the finished product. Interestingly, clips from the deleted opening prologue appear here in near-pristine condition.

My Night On Set: An Interview with filmmaker Dean DeCoteau (1080p; 5:02): The director discusses his small contribution to the film.

Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence (480p, upconverted to 1080p; 10:46): The original first reel of the film, with optional commentary by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.

Return to Escape From New York Featurette (480i, upconverted to 1080i; 23:00): The original making of documentary from the 2003 DVD release.

Theatrical Trailers (480p, upconverted to 1080p; 2:46): The original teaser, followed by the full trailer.

Photo Galleries: Lobby cards, posters, and promotional stills from the press kit.



Overall Rating: 4/5

Fans of the film can finally rejoice and upgrade their 2003 2-disc DVD to this new 2-disc Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, which ports over most of the special features from that previous release, plus slightly improved video over the previous barebones Blu-ray releases from MGM.


Reviewed By: Todd Erwin


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Bryan Tuck

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Thanks for the review, Todd!


Unfortunately, though, the 2.0 audio track is actually a downmix of the 5.1 remix, rather than the original stereo soundtrack (which was included on the MGM Blu-ray). Kind of annoying, as there are some noticeable alterations to the remix.


Otherwise, it's a terrific disc.
 

TravisR

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Bryan Tuck said:
Unfortunately, though, the 2.0 audio track is actually a downmix of the 5.1 remix, rather than the original stereo soundtrack (which was included on the MGM Blu-ray). Kind of annoying, as there are some noticeable alterations to the remix.
Thanks for the heads up! I'll actually hang on to that disc now.
 

Powell&Pressburger

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Sad the AVCO Embassy logo is not included but it is better that the MGM be cut. I wouldn't mind the logo if we got the real one attached to the film itself. MGM had nothing to do with any of the titles they are just a distributor after all. Sad the original companies don't get credit as much anymore.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Finished watching this new Blu-ray release earlier this morning on a 118" projection screen.


Actually, the first time I have watched this film in decades. Still enjoyable, though definitely seems dated as far as effects and technology of the time is concerned.


As for the transfer? It's okay. I agree with Todd that I don't think the film could really look much better than it does. It is what it is. Don't expect anything earth-shattering as far as detail and clarity are concerned.


I am happy to finally own this copy on Blu-ray after all the multiple releases before it that I passed up on.
 

Patrick H.

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TravisR said:
Thanks for the heads up! I'll actually hang on to that disc now.

I think, as with 'Halloween', hardcore Carpenter fans are going to want both discs. Very different transfers each with pluses and minuses. Shout definitely gets the nod for the level of TLC that went into the extras, though.
 

SAhmed

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Drat - even though I said I would not buy another release of "Escape From New York" until the 4K release you guys have "twisted" my arm :) Going to use the above link now!


Regards,
 

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