In the future, crime is out of control and New York City is a maximum security prison. Grabbing a bargaining chip right out of the air, convicts bring down the President’s plane in bad old Gotham. Gruff Snake Plissken, a one-eyed lone warrior new to prison life, is coerced into bringing the President, and his cargo, out of this land of undesirables.
Escape from New York is a 1981 American dystopian action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter. The film is set in the then near-future 1997 in a crime-ridden United States that has converted Manhattan Island in New York City into a maximum security prison. Ex-soldier Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is given 24 hours to find the President of the United States (Donald Pleasence), who has been captured by prisoners after the crash of Air Force One.
Carpenter wrote the film in the mid-1970s as a reaction to the Watergate scandal. After the success of Halloween, he had enough influence to begin production and filmed it mainly in St. Louis, Missouri on an estimated budget of $6 million. Debra Hill and Larry J. Franco served as the producers. The film was co-written by Nick Castle, who collaborated with Carpenter previously by portraying Michael Myers in Halloween.
Escape from New York was released in the United States on July 10, 1981. The film received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success, grossing $25,244,700 at the box office. It was nominated for four Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film and Best Direction. The film became a cult classic and was followed by a sequel, Escape from L.A.
About the Story
In 1988, following a 400% increase in crime, the United States Government has turned Manhattan into a giant maximum-security prison. A 50-foot (15 m) containment wall surrounds the island and routes out of Manhattan have been dismantled or mined, while armed helicopters patrol the rivers. In 1997, while travelling to a peace summit between the United States, China and the Soviet Union, Air Force One is hijacked by a domestic terrorist posing as a stewardess. The President is given a tracking bracelet and his briefcase (containing an audiotape describing a powerful new bomb) handcuffed to his wrist. He makes it to an escape pod, and lands in Manhattan just before Air Force One crashes, killing everyone else aboard.
United States Police officers are dispatched to rescue the President. However, Romero, the right-hand man of the Duke of New York, the top crime boss in the prison, warns them that the Duke has taken the President hostage, and that he will be killed if the police mount any further rescue attempts. Police Commissioner Bob Hauk offers a deal to “Snake” Plissken, a former Special Forces soldier convicted of attempting to rob the Federal Reserve in Denver, Colorado: if Snake rescues the President and retrieves the cassette tape, Hauk will arrange a presidential pardon. To ensure his compliance in case Snake is considering escaping to Canada, Hauk injects him with micro-explosives that will rupture Snake’s carotid arteries within 22 hours; if Snake returns with the President and the tape in time, Hauk will neutralize the explosives.
Snake is sent into Manhattan in a stealth glider, landing atop the World Trade Center. He tracks the President’s life-monitor bracelet to a vaudeville theatre, only to find it on the wrist of an insane, babbling old man. He meets “Cabbie,” who takes Snake in his armored taxi cab to Harold “Brain” Hellman, an advisor to the Duke based in the New York Public Library.
Snake and Brain have history – 4 years previously, Brain either deserted Snake during a job or was arrested before he could warn his partners, though the reality is left unclear. Brain tells Snake that the Duke plans to unify the gangs in a mass exodus across the heavily-guarded Queensboro Bridge, using the President as a human shield and a map Brain has created to avoid the land mines planted on all the remaining bridges. Snake forces Brain and his girlfriend Maggie to lead him to the Duke’s compound at Grand Central Station. He finds the President and tries to free him, but is captured by the Duke’s men. Brain claims he led Snake into a trap to save his own skin.
While Snake is forced to fight in a gladiatorial death match with Slag, a prisoner, Brain and Maggie trick Romero into letting them see the President, killing him and fleeing with the President. As Snake kills Slag, the Duke learns of Brain’s treachery and rallies his gang to chase them down. Snake, Brain, Maggie, and the President race to the World Trade Center in an attempt to use Snake’s glider to escape from New York. After a group of crazies destroy it, the group returns to the street and encounters Cabbie, who offers to take them across the bridge. When Cabbie reveals that he has the secret tape (having traded it to Romero earlier for his hat), the President demands it, but Snake keeps it.
Escape from New York (1981
Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Season Hubley, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers
Screenplay by: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Production Design by: Joe Alves
Cinematography by: Dean Cundey
Film Editing by: Todd C. Ramsay
Costume Design by: Stephen Loomis
Set Decoration by: Cloudia Rebar
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Distributed by: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Release Date: July 10, 1981