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“ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK” (Blu-ray Review)

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Of all the releases from beloved specialty distributor Scream Factory, it’s hard to argue that there was nothing on their 2015 slate as exciting as their reissue of John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Sporting a brand new 2K transfer and a full second disc loaded with new features, Scream offered Carpenter completists the definitive ESCAPE Blu-ray, superior to previous releases in every way. Luckily, Scream has put their money where their mouth is, constructing an in-depth and gorgeous package that is guaranteed to impress even the most jaded Carpenter fanatic.

Now, of course, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is a classic of the genre as is, mixing elements of action, thriller, sci-fi, horror and adventure films with John Carpenter’s trademark sense of character and Dean Cundey’s colorful lens. Featuring unforgettable performances, an incredible score and a non-stop atmosphere of fun, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is one of the strongest films in Carpenter’s canon, and to this day remains a staple in all walks of geek culture. And while the original Blu-ray release provides a sufficient and effective release for the film, the change in technology over time has given Scream Factory the opportunity to give fans the collector’s edition they deserve.

The clear crown jewel of the disc is the film’s new 2K transfer from the interpositive, struck from the original negative; while a transfer from the original negative would have bore the greatest possible resolution, this transfer is nothing less than stunning. The final product is less grainier and more textured than the original Blu-ray release, and Dean Cundey’s cinematography looks nothing less than stunning, emphasizing his use of depth throughout the film. Furthermore, Scream brings their trademark care to the audio mix as well, creating a crisp, clear and dynamic range to the film’s soundtrack.

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Yet this writer doesn’t want to undersell just how great the special features for ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK are, even without any new additions from the horror master and/or Kurt Russell. The new interviews on the second disc are perhaps the most interesting to ESCAPE newcomers: tons of rare behind the scenes pictures and anecdotes are provided in chats with Dennis and Robert Skotak, Kim Gottlieb-Walker and even a short chat with fright filmmaker David DeCoteau. Yet perhaps the coolest feature on the second disc goes to a chat with co-composer Alan Howarth, who provides a fascinating history behind the score of the film as well as it’s journey into physical media and his current musical tours, topping off the feature with the iconic theme to the film itself. And then, there’s the amazing deleted opening sequence that pushes nearly 10 minutes of a prologue onto the film; a remastering of this footage appears in a new chat with prologue actor Joe Unger, so it’s lesser quality counterpart on the disc is perplexing despite how great the scenes are at establishing the anti-hero nature of Snake Plissken.

As for the rest of the features, they’re all still great, even if the majority are ported over from previous releases. The new commentary with Dean Cundey and Adrienne Barbeau is a refreshing addition, offering two unique perspectives on the film from the man who lens so much or it and an actress who, at the time, had been dating John Carpenter. Meanwhile, the older commentary with Carpenter and Russell is a dependable classic, which emphasizes the two’s natural chemistry and love for the property; a dynamic that is reprised in the “Return from New York” featurette. And a ported-over commentary from the late, great producer Debra Hill and production designer Joe Alves is candy for those who appreciate a great technical commentary, made even greater by Hill’s charm.

Overall, for those wary about double dipping with ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK on Blu, worry not: this release can and should serve as a proper replacement to your older disc. Not only does Scream Factory’s collector’s edition Blu serve as both as a better looking and sounding film, but a comprehensive guide to ESCAPE’s production and legacy. For collectors, there’s little doubt that this release will find their way to their shelves, but this release is worthy for any supposed Carpenter fan worth their weight in fandom.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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