Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Kurt Russell” with a minor in “Computer Wireframes”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week we start our end of semester double feature off with the bad ass dystopian nightmare you can’t get enough of, Escape from New York!
In the distant future of 1997 crime is out of control and Manhattan is a walled off maximum-security prison. The government is a totalitarian distopia while the inmates fend for themselves in an anarchistic “might makes right” pseudo-society. When Air Force One is shot down and crash-lands inside the prison city, the government turns to Snake Plissken. Snake couldn’t give a damn about saving the President, but people can be persuaded to do a lot of things when they have a time bomb implanted inside of them. Snake has 22 hours to get in and get the President out. Can the deadliest man alive escape the most dangerous place on earth? Tonight Supercult has plans to Escape from New York!
“Call me Snake.”
“I heard you were dead.”
There are moments in movie history when an actor is cast in a role and the entire fandom goes, “WTF?” only to find out later that it, kind of, really, worked really well. Really. Examples include Michael Keaton as Batman, Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Toby Maguire as Spider-Man, and last but not (Ben Affleck as Batman) least, Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin, eye-patch wearing, dialog mumbling, gun shooting, butt kicking bad ass in “Escape from New York”.
Prior to this movie Russell was a former Disney child actor who had stared in “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes”, “The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit”, and “The Barefoot Executive”. He was cute, talented and above all non-threatening. He was the all American Teen. But after his ten-year contract with Disney expired in the 70’s, he ended up playing Minor League Baseball to pass the time. Eventually he got back into acting and scored a huge role as Elvis Presley in an ABC Made-for-TV Movie. This movie would change his life because it was directed by none other than Halloween creator John Carpenter and the two of them became very good buddies during the production.
Carpenter made Elvis a year after his landmark horror flick “Halloween” hit the screens. Carpenter wrote the Escape from New York in the mid-1970s as a reaction to the Watergate scandal, but but no studio wanted to make it because it was deemed to be too dark and too violent. However, after the success of Halloween, the 4th film he directed, Carpenter was suddenly bankable and was being asked to direct more scary and exciting films. Fortunately, he knew just who he wanted to star in them: Kurt “Disney Kid” Russell.
The two of them worked together on “Escape from New York”, the “The Thing”, previous Super Cult fave “Big Trouble in Little China”, and the sequel “Escape from L.A.” Initially, nobody thought Russell was the right guy for a freaking JOHN CARPENTER movie. The studio wanted proven tough guys like Charles Bronson, Tommy Lee Jones, Clint Eastwood, or Nick Nolte to play Pliskin. But…. Russel kinda… was really good… and not even ironically. He was an over-the-top anarchist anti-hero in the best way possible.
I mean, does anyone in the audience honestly think this devil-may-care, one-eyed lone warrior will actually fail?
He’s f$#*-ing Snake Plisskin.
Filmed for $6 million, the film went on to make over $25 million and become a cult classic. The film was co-written by Nick Castle who played Michael Meyers in the 1978 “Halloween”. Co-stars include Lee Van Cleef as the tough Prison warden who sends Snake on his mission, Ernest Borgnine as a wild cab driver, former TV sitcom actress and then John Carpenter’s wife Adrienne Barbeau as essentially a large pair of breasts, Isaac Hayes (Chef from South Park) as the main badie The Duke, and Donald Pleasence (fresh from Halloween) as the President.
Here’s some random trivia:
- The night street scenes were filmed in East St. Louis, which had entire neighborhoods burned out in 1976 during a massive urban fire. Russell remembers in interview that the crew didn’t have to spend time or money securing the set because the streets were always empty at night.
- Escape from New York was the first film in history to be allowed to shoot on Liberty Island at the Statue of Liberty at night.
- The wire-frame computer graphics on the display screens in the glider were not actually computer-generated, as computers capable of 3D wire-frame imaging were too expensive when the film was made. To generate the “wire-frame” images, special effects designers built a model of the city, painted it black, attached bright white tape to the model buildings in an orderly grid, and moved a camera through the model city.
- Snake Plissken’s eye patch was suggested by Kurt Russell
- A few of the matte paintings in the film were done by future mega director James Cameron.
- Metal Gear game Director Hideo Kojima has referred to this movie frequently as an influence. In “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” Snake actually uses the alias “Pliskin” to hide his real identity during the game.
- Empire magazine ranked Snake Plissken #71 in their “The 100 Greatest Movie Characters” poll.
- J. Abrams said the poster for the film was the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty head scene in Cloverfield.
With an IMDB score of 7.2 and a rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, Escape from New York is by no means a bad film. In fact, public opinion has swayed so much in favor of Escape from New York that Roger Ebert’s 2 ½ Star review of the film is now considered one of his worst reviews of all time!
Tonight we finish off our semester and start tonight’s double feature with Kurt Russel’s favorite of all his films and characters. Who can blame him? This is the role that turned him into an action star!
The Supercult show is proud to present Escape from New York!