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Escape from New York

4K Ultra HD

Blu Ray

  • Score
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • Escape from New York" impresses with its mood and creativity; special editions add unique extras.

    Escape from New York 4K UHD Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
  • Escape from New York's latest 4K UHD release by StudioCanal and Shout Factory features detailed, atmospheric visuals with nuanced colors and textures, despite its inherently dark cinematography.

  • Audio
  • Escape from New York's audio brings to life the 1981 classic with options like 7.1 Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, maintaining crisp dialogues, rich synth scores, and immersive atmospherics, satisfying both purists and modern listeners.

  • Extra
  • Comprehensive Blu-ray sets feature insightful commentaries, making-of documentaries, and special interviews that delve into the production, special effects, and legacy of 'Escape from New York', preserving its impact and celebrating its contributors.

  • Movie
  • John Carpenter's 1981 classic, 'Escape from New York,' blends style, tension, and commentary, featuring Snake Plissken's iconic role by Kurt Russell in a dystopian adventure rich with atmosphere and critique.

    Video: 87

    The recent Ultra HD release of "Escape from New York," presented by Shout Factory, marks a significant upgrade to earlier home video versions, with its 4K restoration done by StudioCanal. This version is notably sourced from the original camera negative's 4K restoration, finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate. The presentation benefits immensely from high dynamic range grading, available in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options, which significantly enhances its mostly nocturnal visuals. This film, notoriously difficult to transfer effectively due to its predominantly dark cinematography, achieves newfound clarity without sacrificing its stylistic shadows. Dean Cundey’s skilled cinematography, combined with Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras and innovative Super High Speed lenses, is respected and preserved with this transfer, showcasing intricate detail across New York’s dystopian landscape and the variegated textures of costumes and mechanical designs.

    The clarity brought forth through this restoration highlights not only the granularity of the urban decay but also the subtleties in facial expressions and costume details, contributing to a richer narrative experience. Colors break through the omnipresent darkness with vibrancy, particularly in scenes with mood lighting and digital displays, while maintaining natural skin tones under various lighting conditions. Despite a few instances where elements like fiery explosions and headlights might appear overly intense, the overall balance between deep blacks and detailed dark scenes is admirably managed. This technical finesse lends a new dimension to viewing, significantly enhancing the film's atmospheric tension.

    However, it’s important to note that while the Dolby Vision option enhances shadow detail and maintains a consistent delineation across complex scenes, certain moments, such as the helicopter landing sequence, can still seem excessively dark. Nonetheless, these moments are few and far between, and they scarcely detract from what is arguably the best video presentation "Escape from New York" has seen on home video. The meticulous attention to preserving grain structure and ensuring stability across scenes, coupled with a judiciously used bit rate to elevate black levels, underscores a presentation that respects its source material while embracing modern restoration technology. Although some visual effects shots might not seamlessly withstand the scrutiny of increased clarity, the overall integrity of the film’s visual identity is not only maintained but revitalized.

    Audio: 88

    The audio presentation of "Escape from New York" on Blu Ray offers an auditory experience that toggles between an immersive 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix and a faithful reproduction of the original stereo experience through a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track. The 7.1 mix stands out for its comprehensive sound field, where dialogue exchanges are pronounced and the film's iconic synth score is revived with remarkable clarity. This version excels in deploying surrounds to encapsulate the musical mood effectively, while also showcasing defined atmospherics, creating an enveloping environment with precise panning, separation effects, and a finely tuned room tone. The low-end supports the action with subtlety, providing just enough rumble during explosions and intense scenes to be impactful without overwhelming.

    On the alternative audio front, the Blu Ray features a newly-restored 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio alongside additional options like English Dolby Atmos (compatible with 7.1 Dolby TrueHD) and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The inclusion of optional English SDH subtitles enhances accessibility for all viewers. Noteworthy in this release is the effort to rectify past shortcomings by offering a genuine original theatrical audio experience, alongside enriching it with an Atmos track that broadens the soundscape without detracting from its original essence. The Atmos option adds a new layer of depth, with overhead sounds for aerial moments and an amped-up low end for more substantial impact during explosive sequences.

    Dialogue clarity across all tracks impresses, capturing every nuance of performance, especially Kurt Russell's distinct tones, without losing any intensity during quieter moments which play a crucial role in setting the film's atmosphere. The score and sound effects are given ample room to thrive, filling the surrounds beautifully and ensuring every gunshot resonates. Whether choosing the original stereo for a purist experience or engaging with the immersive depth of the Atmos or 5.1 tracks, each offers a distinct yet consistently high-quality listening journey, catering to both completists and those seeking to recapture—or experience anew—the auditory essence of this cult classic.

    Extra: 88

    The extra presentation of the Blu-ray for "Escape from New York" is a comprehensive package that offers a deep dive into the making and impact of this cult classic. It includes three informative audio commentaries featuring key figures such as John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, and Adrienne Barbeau, among others, providing varied perspectives on the film's production and legacy. The highlight is the "Purgatory: Entering John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York'" documentary, which is a must-watch for fans, covering everything from casting to special effects, including insights on James Cameron's contributions. Other notable extras include interviews with co-composer Alan Howarth about the score, detailed explorations of the film's visual effects, and a deleted scene offering an alternate introduction to Snake Plissken. Each extra contributes to a fuller understanding of the film’s creation and its enduring appeal, making this Blu-ray a valuable addition for both new and longtime fans.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Commentary #1 with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell: Insightful discussion.
    • Commentary #2 with Debra Hill and Joe Alves: Production-focused conversation.
    • Commentary #3 with Adrienne Barbeau and Dean Cundey: A chat about the film's aesthetics.
    • Purgatory: Entering John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York': Comprehensive making-of documentary.
    • Return to 'Escape from New York': An older making-of feature.
    • Scoring the Escape: Interview with co-composer Alan Howarth.
    • Big Challenges in Little Manhattan: Exploration of special effects.
    • On Set with John Carpenter: Interview with Kim Gottlieb-Walker.
    • I Am Taylor: Interview with actor Joe Unger.
    • My Night on the Set: Interview with David DeCoteau.
    • Deleted Scene: Alternate introduction to Snake Plissken.
    • Photo Gallery #1: Behind-the-scenes snaps and film stills.
    • Photo Gallery #2: Collection of lobby cards, book covers, and poster art.
    • Trailers from Hell: Hosted by Neil Marshall.
    • Radio Spot: Focused on Isaac Hayes's character.
    • Teaser Trailer: Brief preview of the film.
    • Theatrical Trailer: Main film trailer.

    Movie: 91

    John Carpenter's transition from the horror success of 1978's Halloween to the unique cinematic experiment that is 1981's Escape from New York showcases a director unafraid to blend genres and infuse his work with deeper, albeit subtler, socio-political commentary. This film, driven by Carpenter's distinctive style, combines elements of westerns and survival thrillers to present a slow-burning adventure set in a dystopian future. With Snake Plissken, masterfully portrayed by Kurt Russell, at its center, Escape from New York crafts a narrative that is as much about an individual's endurance and antagonism as it is a critique on society, the military, and governmental structures. The character of Snake, an eyepatch-wearing nihilist, stands as one of cinema's great antiheroes, navigating a maximum-security Manhattan with a mix of skepticism and brute force.

    Within this framework, Carpenter, alongside producer Debra Hill and co-writer Nick Castle, deliberately eschews traditional action tropes, opting instead for a more immersive exploration of its setting and characters. As Snake infiltrates Manhattan to rescue President Harker (Donald Pleasence), viewers are introduced to an eclectic mix of residents—ranging from the intellectual 'Brain' (Harry Dean Stanton) and his lover Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau), to the genial Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine) and the menacing Duke (Isaac Hayes), ruler of the island. This focus on character interaction and the detailed, crumbling landscape underpins the film's tension, with Lee Van Cleef's lawman Hauk adding another layer of intrigue as he monitors Snake's perilous mission.

    Escape from New York is further elevated by its signature synth score, a collaboration between Carpenter and Alan Howarth that adds considerable atmospheric weight to the film's mood and setting. Meanwhile, Dean Cundey's daring cinematography, often shrouded in darkness and illuminated by flickering lights and fire, supports Carpenter's vision of an urban maze filled with danger and duplicity. This technical prowess, coupled with the film's underlying critiques and character studies, solidifies Escape from New York as a masterful tapestry of genre blending that remains impactful decades after its release.

    Total: 90

    Escape from New York," John Carpenter's cinematic endeavor, stands out not only for its engrossing narrative and the iconic character of Snake Plissken but also for its successful amalgamation of low-budget ingenuity and distinctive mood-setting, making it a hallmark of Carpenter's illustrious career. The film's unique blend of sarcasm, compelling characters, and a steadily building tension culminates in a memorable, if misanthropic, conclusion. It's this combination of creative storytelling and character development that underscores the movie as one of Carpenter's finest works from his impressive 1980s repertoire.

    The Blu Ray edition of "Escape from New York," while abundant in content, has notable gaps in its collection. The 2018 StudioCanal 4K Ultra HD release, commendable for its inclusion of the "Snake Plissken: Man of Honour" featurette, posters, art cards, a 48-page booklet, and crucially, the CD soundtrack featuring the original score, unfortunately lacks certain elements found in other releases. Additional materials like the 30-minute interview with John Carpenter available on some Australian and UK Blu-ray editions, and the comprehensive extras offered in the 2003 MGM Special Edition DVD, such as the theatrical trailer, "The Making of John Carpenter's Snake Plissken Chronicles" comic book gallery, and the "Snake Bites" trailer montage, highlight the variance in content across different editions. The omission of the complete soundtrack across formats remains a disappointing oversight.

    In conclusion, while "Escape from New York" remains a seminal piece in John Carpenter's catalog, the total presentation on Blu Ray is a mixed bag. The main film retains its captivating allure through its storytelling and character work; however, the assortment of extras across various editions suggests a lack of uniformity in how this cult classic is celebrated. The richness of its additional content—varying significantly across releases—underscore both a commitment to preserving Carpenter's legacy and a missed opportunity to standardize an exceptional collector’s experience.