WARNING: This review is a bit of an aberration, it’s a bit more gonzo. It was written this way out of necessity and it is thus perhaps only suitable for those who… ‘heard he was dead.’
Escape From New York
Based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Nick Castle; Adapted by Bill Hollweg; Performed by a full cast
5 MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 15 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: BrokenSea Audio Productions
Podcast: April 2009 – March 2010
Themes: / Crime / Dystopia / Science Fiction / Alternate History / WWIII / Prison / Horror / New York /
In the year 1988 the crime rate in the United States rises 400%. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. The prison’s name: New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, Manhattan Island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners, and the worlds they have made. The year now… 1997.
In the opening crawl (detailed above) we are given a world rife with Science Fiction glory. Escape From New York has a premise full of promise. It is a story pregnant with possibilities – nearly all of which are fulfilled. Escape From New York, my friends, is both a powerful satire of our times and a powerful cinematic experience movie. Now, thanks to the creative love and attention by fans at BrokenSea Audio Productions it is a wondrous audio drama made by fans for fans.
Now hang with me on this. I hope I don’t end up seeming like a crazed french film critic, arguing for the superiority of the second Star Wars trilogy (The Phantom Menace et. al) over the original Star Wars and Empire. Take that first statistic: “the crime rate in the United States rises 400%” – how would that be possible? It certainly wouldn’t match any conventional trend or shift in population growth. Might it then be categorized under some sort of Freakonomics-style explanation? Maybe. But, I think we could argue, quite convincingly, that the only way to increase the crime rate 400% overnight would be to make a whole lot more human behaviors crimes. Disrespecting authority, sharing files with friends, or as the trailer for Escape From L.A. puts it “No talking, no smoking, no littering, no red meat, no freedom of religion. And remember all marriages must be approved by the Department of Health.” So, the world of Escape From New York is really fun. But a world is not enough. You need a plot and a set of characters. As to the latter…
The anti-hero takes many forms but I have a special fondness for Snake Plisken. As in an IMDB grendelkhan says:
“Snake Plissken is the classic anti-hero, ala Clint Eastwood’s Man-with-no-name. Plissken is an ex-soldier turned criminal, recruited/blackmailed into rescuing a hostage president from the prison of New York City. Plissken is a walking ball of anger and a survival machine.”
Indeed, a survival machine who’s been betrayed, lied to shat on by his own government – and he’s got a cool eye-patch, a reverse tramp stamp of a cobra, and a gravelly voice. He is a great character.
“But what of his motivation?” You ask.
Plisken, call him Snake, lives in a parallel universe – a USA run like a fun-house-lensed double craptoberfest of moral hypocrisy. If you’ve seen the movie Escape From New York, you’re seeing the 1980 zeitgeist of Manhattan as the epitome of ghettoic urban decay. This fear, that your neighbors are out to get you, the horror that politicians so often rely upon, works great in movies (and in the opening credits to The Equalizer). But this isn’t only a horror story. The prison genre is one of my favorites (check out Animal Factory). Like westerns, these genre stories have a certain set of conventions or constraints that make a story told within those constraints far more satisfying. But neither is Escape From New York just a prison story. For it
is also a quest story, a revenge story, an all out action adventure. There are MacGuffins galore for Plisken to chase after: First up is a world peace conference that is about to end in disaster lest a certain audio cassette is retrieved, then there’s a kidnapped President Of The United States to be rescued, and of course there’s a jet glider (don’t think too hard about that one) as their only escape, but to top it all off there’s a pair of ticking time-bombs in Snake’s body! That’s not just motivation, that’s entertainment folks!
Snake, now motivated, has enough-knock-down-drag-out adventures in the course of just less than 24 hours, so as to numb any thoughy you had about suspending any disbelief. Or as Samuel Taylor Coleridge argued: “[if a writer could infuse a] human interest and a semblance of truth [into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative].” If you look at it another way this is the original 24, but with a hard-assed biker veteran saving the USA instead of a Kiefer Sutherland. In the course of just over 2 hours Bill Hollweg and the folks at BSAP have created a faithful and loving tribute to one of 1981’s best movies.
Speaking of 1981, I look forward to hearing BSAP adapt Clash Of The Titans (1981), Excalibur (1981) and Body Heat (1981). They’re already working on a Mad Max II (1981)-inspired series.
Posted by Jesse Willis