As a heavy metal-loving youngster, few films were initially as appealing to me as John Carpenter’s campy, brilliant, darkly funny sci-fi/action landmark “Escape from New York.” That movie’s hero, Snake Plissken — played memorably by Kurt Russell in one of his most iconic performances — was, quite simply, the biggest badass in the galaxy. He was a punk-rock Robin Hood armed with little more than a sneer, a shotgun, and his trademark eye patch, with which he was meant to dispatch a whole metropolis’ worth of psychotic goons. In many of his subsequent parts (Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” comes to mind), we’ve seen Russell doffing his cap to the role that made him a star, and it’s not hard to see why. To a whole generation of movie-lovers, Kurt Russell simply is Snake Plissken.
Carpenter’s vividly realized, eye-popping vision of an apocalyptic New York City, reimagined as a terrifying, gigantic prison crawling with homicidal crazies, was the ultimate personification of cool to my adolescent mind. That film’s proper sequel, “Escape from L.A.,” is also fun, and even if it doesn’t quite rank up there with “Assault on Precinct 13,” “The Fog,” or the director’s masterpiece, “Halloween,” it’s certainly good stuff if you’re to go by the standards of latter-day Carpenter (“Ghosts of Mars” anyone?).
Not one to mess with a winning formula, Carpenter adhered rigidly to what worked in the original film when helming his follow-up — even going so far as to re-create some of the first film’s more thrilling sequences shot-for-shot, beat-for-beat, with a few minor modifications. In a new video comparison piece, we are invited to examine the aesthetic similarities between Carpenter’s ‘Escape’ films, right down to the symmetrically identical framing of certain key shots.
It starts, of course, with the opening credits to each film. They are identical — no frills, just white text over a black screen with the signature sounds of Carpenter’s slinky synth score teasing what’s to come. Each film’s respective introduction to its vision of the dystopian future — ‘New York’ was released in 1981 with its action set in 1997, while ‘L.A.’ dropped into multiplexes in 1996 and took place in 2013 — are also pretty much the same. A point of comparison is also drawn between one of the original film’s more memorable supporting players — that would be the great Ernest Borgnine as the cheery, good-natured Cabby, a valet of sorts who takes a liking to Snake, and the fedora-wearing, fast-talking scumbag sidekick memorably embodied by a then-mostly-unknown Steve Buscemi in the sequel. It’s a fun bit of trivia for Carpenter heads (a category in which I will happily include myself) and it almost makes you want to go back and watch both films back-to-back. In this era of overblown, CGI-enhanced Hollywood spectacle, Carpenter’s refreshingly stripped-down take on the modern action flick is a memento of a simpler time. Looking back at the “Escape” films, it’s impossible not to see the fingerprints of a real artist at work. Put simply, it’s must-see stuff for fans of the director.
Check out the video and sound off below. [via AV Club]