Escape from New York (1981): Yell! Magazine’s Greatest Films Series

Yell! Review:

John Carpenter and Kurt Russell have worked on many films together, including The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from L.A., the sequel to the movie we are reviewing presently. Although the box office might not reflect the success of the two, you are usually not disappointed with the collaboration.

Escape from New York is a cult favorite from the early ’80s. Russell stars as Snake Plissken, an eye-patched anti-hero who is recruited by Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) to fly into the city prison of Manhattan to rescue the president of the United States (Donald Pleasence).

Snake is given two incentives to complete the mission. First, he will be pardoned (what anti-hero is not a disgruntled criminal wrongly convicted of crimes against the state?) and second, he will live as the poison he was injected with will kill him if he doesn’t return for the antidote with the president in time for and important speech he will make.

Snake flies in on a glider landing atop of the World Trade Center. From this point on he must face cannibals and arch criminals who are bent on using the president as a means of escaping their Manhattan prison. Leading the bad guys is singing great Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. Snake takes on the Duke with the help of Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine), Brain (Harold Dean Stanton), and Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau). Will Snake be successful?

Carpenter has created a great fantasy film of the future. Why build an enumerable number of prisons when you can just put a big wall around an island and knock out the bridges (except for one, which is heavily mined and walled) and then put sentries around the wall. There is no need for guards, you just dump the criminals in and let them attempt to survive the best they can.

With a reputation for criminality worldwide, the Big Apple earned in the ’70s and early ’80s, it’s no wonder Carpenter created a film such as this. Carpenter let his imagination go wild thinking about how the city would look and how the societal structure would develop. He even goes so far as hinting at a really dark side to letting anarchy reign in a city full of deviants without turning it into a rape and snuff film.

Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
10 July 1981 (USA)
John Carpenter
Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton
Sci-Fi, Action, Crime
Official URL:

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