Escape from New York

Tag line : New York City is now a maximum security prison. Breaking out is impossible. Breaking in is insane.

Escape from New YorkSet in the not-to-distant future, 1997 to be precise (remember this was filmed back in 1981), the United States now resembles an oppressive police state, and New York City's Manhattan Island has become the countries single maximum security prison.

Walled off around the shore line, with all bridges barricaded and mined, there are no guards inside. Only the prisoners and the world they've made. Rules are simple, once you go in you don't come out.

But when the presidents plane crashes inside the prison walls, the chief in command Commissioner Hauk (played by Lee Van Cleef) is forced to recruit former army veteran, turned bank robber, Snake Plisken (Kurt Russel in his first major screen role) to go in and get him out.

Having infiltrated the prison, he is aided by an old cab driver nicknamed "cabbie" (Ernest Borgnine) and a couple of acquaintances (played by Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau) who agree to help him rescue the president (Donald Pleasance) from the clutches of chief thug "The Duke" (played by soul singer Isaac Hayes) and his gang, who want to exchange him for their freedom.

This proves to be no easy task though as the decaying city is filled with tons of rampaging hoodlums lining the streets, who they have to fight their way past before they can infiltrate The Duke's hideout. To make matters worse, they only have a limited time to get him out before a vital world conference, which he was on his way to before the plane crash, packs up.

Not a horror film in the true sense of the word, but more of a dark sci-fi orientated action thriller. This has got to rank amongst my top 3 favourite John Carpenter films (the other 2 being "Halloween" and "Assault on Precinct 13"). There's some great action scenes showing Snake, Cabbie and company trying to fight their way through the hordes of gangs in the decaying city and a great chase scene near the end as they attempt to escape across one of the booby trapped bridges.

Overall, a terrific action pic that paints a very grim picture of what the future might be.

Overall marks : 8/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • This was Kurt Russel's first major motion picture in which he played the lead. As he was previously better known as being a child actor in Disney films, John Carpenter had a hard time convincing the studios he was the right man for the job.

  • The assault rifles carried by the police and prison guards were ordinary M16 rifles with the barrel grips removed.

  • The only scene actually filmed in New York was the opening shot at Liberty Island showing Tom Atkins character walking by the base of the statue and into a guard hut.

  • The tramp in the theatre basement, who was wearing the presidents tracking device, was played by George "Buck" Flower, who regularly appears in John Carpenter films (playing tramps).

  • The special effects were provided by Roger Corman's "New World Cinema" workshop, and were actually supervised by future director James Cameron.

  • The gang member Snake has to fight in the gladiator ring was played by former WWF wrestler Douglas "Ox" Baker. Apparently Ox didn't know how to play act when they started the scene, and so several shots actually show Kurt Russel taking a genuine beating.

  • The night time shots of New York, where they filmed the plane crash wreckage, was actually in St. Louis, which was chosen as a portion of the city had recently burned out and was derelict.

  • The "computerised" voice coming over the PA systems in the police compound was actually provided by Jamie Lee Curtis, who previously appeared in John Carpenters Halloween.

  • All the "computer" effects in the film were actually animated. To get the 3D computer shots for the stealth gliders navigation system they made a cardboard model of New York, which they painted black and covered the building edges with bright green tape.

  • The police officers used in the helicopter scenes where actually played by the National Guard, who used their own helicopters.

Extra Info.

Cast & Crew.

Cover Gallery.



Video Clips.
MP4 format.

Theatrical trailer. (3.93MB)

Buy Online.

Buy the UK DVD.

Buy the UK BD.

Buy it at Amazon.Com

Buy the US DVD.

Buy the US BD.

Notes on affiliate sites.


Other recommended John Carpenter films.


Reviews A-Z.

Reviews index. Home. Menu.