Blu-ray Movie Review
Escape From New York
from Shout! Factory
July 28, 2016
One of the best movies of the 80's, at least in my opinion, was...and still is Escape From New York. Cable was a fairly new form of entertainment in the early 80's, and HBO was one of the very popular — but expensive — commercial-free premium movie subscriptions. Being barely a teenager, I remember watching some of my first "R" movies, unchained and unrestrained, with my grandfather in his reclining chair and myself in another reclining chair. We had snacks and soda available as quick as we could eat and drink them. Life was good. Violence was awesome.
Kurt Russell was a somewhat new face to the screen, but he was rapidly becoming the badass of the 80's in the first few years of the decade. The Thing came out about year later after EFNY, and so these two movies were available on HBO's movie channel. But I cannot overstate Kurt Russell and his amazing acting career. As of the date of this review, he has been acting for 54 years. His roles have taken a wide variety of personas, but one thing he does well, is playing a true man. Whether it's a hilarious character in Used Cars to a more serious character such as the movies discussed above, to the more dramatic and personal side such as Silkwood, Kurt Russell defines the male stereotype that so many actors today can only dream of becoming.
Escape From New York was based on a premise of an exponential increase in crime in the US, and where would they theoretically be imprisoned. Taking a cue from Alcatraz, but having a wall built around the entire island of Manhattan, the prison is more like a criminal community, where survival is completely left up to those who find themselves going there. Adapt or die. The predators take advantage of the weak and only the ones with street smarts stay alive.
Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is a notorious criminal who has amazingly escaped being a permanent resident at Manhattan Island. After being recently caught in a crime (which was a bank robbery per the "Bank Robbery Scene" which was cut from the theatrical release), he is given an opportunity to get immunity from his crimes for only one small favor to his government.
Rescue the President of The United States.
Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef), who is in charge of the Manhattan facility, is rather reluctant to give Snake immunity from all of his previous crimes, but he also realizes there's nobody who would be crazy enough to want to purposely go into the hellhole, and by some amazing probability, escape out of that hellhole...with the President (Donald Pleasance). Knowing Snake and his contempt for law and order, Hauk decides to have a 24-hour micro capsule injected into Snake via his neck, and calmly explains he better stick to the plan...and get back to base in 24-hours, or he will die.
Packaging for Escape From New York (Collector's Edition) came in a VIVA Elite 2-disc Blu-ray case. Very nice. And a slipcover. Yeah, baby.
Video & Screencaps
Airforce One's Blurry Text — Not Really
I'd like to put to rest comments about the blurred text at around 10:35 in the movie where Airforce One is identified. I observed no such blur on my HDTV. HDTV owners need to check if their televisions have the typical factory default setting which deals with motion blur, making a film look like it's a television soap or a live broadcast. One of the worst "features" television manufacturers have introduced is this idiot-minded option. It not only ruins the film presentation, but also blurs particular text in movies.
Escape From New York (Collector's Edition) looks nice, and you will notice some weaknesses. Many scenes do come across as soft and out of focus. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the film itself, but the particular type of way the characters were filmed. Today, we have cameras able to track movement and stay in focus without much thought, but in the 80's, filming was a tricky process. Certain lenses can be very picky, requiring actors to be in a very small area for maximum sharpness. And considering EFNY was filmed in 35mm, the natural grain makes the not-so-focused scenes even more soft. However, Escape From New York looks pretty good, and I cannot remember a better presentation.
As a testament to the film's new and vibrant presentation, I was only 12 or 13-years old, watching this on the newly introduced premium HBO cable subscription back in the early 80's. I specifically remember this film being darkly lit, I couldn't see much, and the entire film was more soft than other movies I was watching at the time.
Audio for Escape From New York (Collector's Edition) sounds ok in 5.1, but the real treat here, is Shout! Factory adding the 2-channel audio which was supplied directly from MGM to Shout! Factory. Good news is that this is NOT a 5.1 mixdown, but has NOT been confirmed the original audio, either. Switching between the two audio tracks, I did notice differences which seem to indicate this probably is the original 2-channel audio track.
From my previous DVD collection, MGM had a tendency to have the original soundtrack as an option, along with their multi-channel mixes, so if Shout! Factory received two audio mixes, they got the original audio track which was on the MGM release (although the DVD audio track was probably compressed due to size as you're looking at around 1.57GB alone).
Main Audio Track
English DTS-HD Master 5.1 @ 3878 Kbps (48kHz/24-bit)
Secondary Audio Track
English DTS-HD Master 2.0 @ 2099 Kbps (48kHz/24-bit)
Extras for Escape From New York (Collector's Edition) are rather plentiful and be sure to take the time to listen to the audio commentaries. Disc Two is purely dedicated to the extras seen on previous releases, such as the MGM Special Edition. Do note, the Return To Escape From New York featurette seems to incorporate the HD scenes from the movie when referenced in a letterbox format, and the rest of the material seems to be either directly from the MPEG-2 DVD version or slightly upconverted. Not the greatest, but hey, if you unfortunately happened to sell your MGM DVDs in the past, this is a great way to bring your collection back up to spec for EFNY.
DISC ONE - FEATURE FILM
Audio commentary with Adrienne Barbeau and Director of Photography Dean Cundey
Audio commentary with Director John Carpenter and Kurt Russell
Audio commentary with Producer Debra Hill and Production Designer Joe Alves
DISC TWO - BONUS FEATURES
Return To Escape From New York (23:01) (HD/Variable)
Big Challenges in Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects of Escape From New York (14:28) (HD)
Scoring the Escape: A Discussion with composer Alan Howarth (18:57) (HD)
On The Set With John Carpenter: The Images of Escape From New York (10:51) (HD)
I Am Taylor: An interview with actor Joe Unger (8:49) (HD)
My Night on Set: An interview with filmmaker David DeCoteau (5:02) (HD)
Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence (with Commentary ON / OFF) (10:47) (1920 x 1080; cropped from MPEG-2 DVD)
Theatrical Trailer (2:46) (HD)
Photo Gallery: Behind The Scenes (12:03)
Photo Gallery: Posters & Lobby Cards (4:12)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (2.34:1)
Active Pixel Area: 1920 x 819 pixels
Inactive Pixel Area: 1920 x 261 pixels
Escape From New York (Collector's Edition) Bitrate Graph
Disc Name: ESCAPE_FROM_NEW_YORK_DISC_1
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Disc Size: 33,587,456,581 bytes (32.34 GB)
Movie Size: 33,236,662,272 (30.95 GB)
Overall Bitrate: 44.80 Mbps
Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps
Disc Name: ESCAPE_FROM_NEW_YORK_BONUS
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Disc Size: 24,597,506,855 bytes (22.91 GB)
Content Size: 24,597,506,855 (22.91 GB)
Overall Bitrate: Refer to Disc Info
Video Bitrate: Refer to Disc Info
Shout! Factory has released Escape From New York in a Collector's Edition), which is aptly categorized in what I think is the best transfer to date. For those who have wondered if they should add it to their collection, I'm giving you the thumbs-up. Don't listen to the nay-sayers. As usual, they either haven't watched the movie themselves or haven't calibrated their television properly. While I do not remember EFNY ever being as "bright" as it was originally viewed, I do not notice excessive blooming. In cases where there is a little, it's due to the very high contrast of light and dark — for example, a bright computer screen against a dark environment. For those who are seriously uberpicky...adjust your brightness a tad lower, because it's much better than cranking UP the brightness with an overly dark transfer.
Having the best image presentation I've seen, along with the original 2-channel audio soundtrack, and a large assortment of extras ported over from previous releases, not to mention a stellar cast, Escape From New York (Collector's Edition) (Blu-Ray) receives a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
No Extended Edition
Of course, I should note, while Shout! Factory has included the Bank Robbery Scene which was in the extended edition, there is no extended edition per se in this Collector's Edition. It's unfortunate, and would have been a good opportunity to branch the added scene with the theatrical cut, but I'm not shedding tears over it (more below). It appears as if the scene was more than likely not taken care of in the manner the theatrical version was, and thus, the degraded and lack of higher definition.
With that being said, I rarely comment that extra material in a movie is a bad thing, because I like to have EVERYTHING that was shot. That's just me. However, in this case, after seeing the bank robbery scene again (because it's been so long since I saw the extended edition), I can positively say the film is better overall WITHOUT the scene added. This is certainly no offense to Joe Unger as Taylor, as he did a great job in the scene. The problem is, the scene just doesn't convey enough to be a mini-prologue to the rest of the movie and Snake himself.
Escape From New York (Collector's Edition)
From: Shout! Factory
Codec / Resolution: MPEG-4 AVC / 1080p
Theatrical Release: July 10, 1981
Country Of Release: USA
This Release: April 21, 2015
Region: Region A/1
Country Of Release: USA
MPAA Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Running Time: 99 mins
Actual Running Time: 1:38:55
Number Of Discs: 2 (BD-50 + BD-25)
Digital Copy: Not Available
Current Price (USA): Check Price
Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken
Lee Van Cleef as Hauk
Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie
Donald Pleasence as The President
Isaac Hayes as The Duke
Season Hubley as Girl in Chock Full O'Nuts
Harry Dean Stanton as Brain
Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie
Tom Atkins as Rehme
Charles Cyphers as Secretary Of State
Escape From New York (Collector's Edition)
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