Quantcast

Escape From L.A. – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Shout!/Scream Factory is damn close to achieving their goal of releasing every John Carpenter film under their banner on Blu-ray. With the release of Escape From L.A. – Collector’s Edition, that leaves only Dark Star, Christine, Ghosts of Mars, The Ward, and the 2 Masters Of Horror features Cigarette Burns and Pro-Life to get the treatment. Personally, I would be most tickled if they released a collection of his college short films as a release. Escape From L.A. was bound to be with Scream Factory once they started doing Paramount titles. Unfortunately, there is no John Carpenter or Kurt Russell inclusion on the new bonus features. Still, we are given plenty of new interviews and a brand new 4K transfer from the original negative. While most love the original, many are not so hot on its west coast follow up. But, maybe its time for a revisit and reassessment 24 years later. It arrives on Blu-ray May 26th, and you can pre-order a copy using the Amazon Associates link below.

Film

Snake is back! Kurt Russell rejoins filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill to do to Los Angeles what they did to the Big Apple in Escape From New York – with even more futuristic thrills and big action! Into the 9.6-quaked Los Angeles of 2013 comes Snake Plissken (Russell). His job: wade through L.A.’s ruined landmarks to retrieve a doomsday device. Don’t miss the excitement as Snake surfs Wilshire Blvd., shoots hoops at the Coliseum, dive bombs the Happy Kingdom theme park, and mixes it up with a wild assortment of friends and foes.

As 1997 approached (For real), Escape From New York was about to become the past instead of the future. So, it was time to catch up with Snake Plissken and give him a new future world to be dropped into a post-apocalyptic playground former metropolitan area. Before legacy sequels were in vogue, some sequels just tended to retread the same ground. Escape From L.A. is a lot of things. Its a sequel, a soft remake, and a bit of a reflection/parody of the original film. Essentially, it does know what we enjoyed out of the first film and realizes its a formula + character and doesn’t jump too far from it. And to its credit, you could easily watch Escape From L.A. without having seen the original film, which is pretty impressive.

John Carpenter doesn’t have any real “true” comedies in his repertoire, but Escape From L.A. might be the closest thing he has. No, this movie isn’t some slapsticky or silly thing, but Carpenter has the chops to balance the lines of suspense, pulpy action, and comedic bones. Carpenter decides to have some fun with his original film and showing some of the silliness to it and indulging in some self-parody without fear. This part, I feel, might play a bit too straight to an unassuming audience and gets lost, but its there, and its pretty charming. Carpenter also is much more familiar with the city the film is taking place in than the first and can craft some charm and poke fun at the life and times of Los Angeles in the film. It’s weirdly prophetic in many ways, and its much more detailed than he was able to do in the first film, which is why it may stick out. But the character of the city fits the tone with both films.

Kurt Russell brings his A-game, and it’s obvious he was drooling to return to the role that truly turned his choice of roles around and allowed him to have the adult part of his career. Its literally as if they shot this movie the next year for him. Surrounding him are a nice bunch of fun actors with Stacy Keach filling in the Lee Van Cleef role. Michelle Forbes proves a fun little sidekick to that. You get some 90s goodness with Steve Buscemi as a bit player. I had a crush on AJ Langer from My So Called Life back in the day, so she was a welcome fit here. Peter Fonda and Pam Grier find some fun in tough roles (Fonda being a surfer hippy instead of a biker is a fun touch). Cliff Robertson is so damn good here he’s almost genuine. It’s scary. And his president almost feels horrifyingly close to someone we are on the verge of today.

Escape From L.A. isn’t perfect, its pretty up and down and features some cringe-worthy shortcomings. The film came out in the early days of CGI, and there are plenty of times where it fails the film. But some choices, like Snake surfing, are just bad from the get-go. I was pumped back in 1996 for this in the theaters and was okay with it back then (My biggest qualm was “Why did they just do the same thing again”). The pacing is a bit up and down, feeling like it goes on a bit too long at certain points following grand sequences. However, some of my misgivings I’ve come to appreciate, and many of the ideas here are ahead of there time. The Surgeon General scene, in particular, was odd then, but people ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE THAT nowadays. L.A. pales in comparison to New York, but overall, it is still a solid B-picture and a fun enough watch and “extra” to have to the first film.

Video

For a comparison of how this release of Escape From L.A. compares to the 2010 Paramount version, CLICK HERE.

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: In the newest release for Escape From L.A., Scream Factory boasts a new 4K transfer culled from the original negative. And it looks pretty fantastic. Almost complimentary now to the restoration done on the Escape From New York release from Scream Factory. This image really helps showcase the grim world of Snake Plissken. The new transfer even improves the look of the subpar CGI work on the film as its darker looking natural helps it to fit in better (Though, it is still a bit shoddy and noticeable, but it’s BETTER shoddy and noticeable if that makes a difference). Its a crisp, sharp image with nice, attentive details and colors that can pop out and bolster the decrepit Los Angeles of 2013.

Depth:  Pretty solid, above-average depth of fieldwork here. Scale definitely comes through, with a good sense of openness in the Los Angeles exteriors and a nice pushback feeling in the sewer tunnels or underground military base facility hallways. Movements are cinematic and smooth, with no issues regarding any motion distortions.

Black Levels:  When comparing to the original release, this is a vast improvement (A bit too bright in the original release). This story is over a night, and the setting is grimy, ruinous, and not very lit. This transfer gets the shadows very well done, with detailed information still showcasing well. Darker surfaces, fabrics, and hair still have plenty of texture, pattern, and follicles that are visible. No crushing witnessed during this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction:  Not the most colorful of movies, due to its grim aesthetic, but that allows the colors that do stand out, to pop quite well. The frames feature some really nice saturation, and the natural, darker colors come on with a strong, bold presence. Some clothing articles make for standouts, but explosions, digital displays, lights, fire, and Steve Buscemi’s car are some of the things that get a bit more pizazz in the image.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones carry a more flush, full-looking natural skin appearance. It stays consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures in stubble, wrinkles, make-up lines, make-up effects, dried dirt, blood, and more come through pretty clear and plenty visible from any reasonable frame distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The audio on Escape From L.A. has moved from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD MA for this release. And it sounds pretty stellar. Its a wholly engaging and intricately woven mix. You really feel the force of this 24-year-old movie from all around the room. It’s nicely balanced with vocals, score, and effects sound full of space and free on their own.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer provides some excellent boom, even more than one might be expecting from the film. Waves roaring, explosions, gunfire, fire, engines, and more really put good work in for your subwoofer to rumble and pound.

Surround Sound Presentation: Speakers are active from all around. Yes, there’s more an emphasis to the front-facing action, but the rear ones do pick up unique off-screen details and, of course, help with sound travels. However, there are many scenes where everything comes together in concert and really fills the room with a full experience and places you right into the film.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, finding good attention to diction and other mouthy sounds when characters speak. Always audible, the dialogue does sound everpresent and always part of its respective environment.

Extras

Escape From L.A. – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring the original poster.

A Little Bit Offbeat (HD, 7:55) – An interview with actor Stacy Keach. He recalls connecting to Carpenter through Sandy King on The Longriders, which led to Body Bags. He had an adoration for the original Escape film, compares his character to Lee Van Cleef’s in the original, and how great working with Kurt Russell is. At the end, he reflects on the legacy of John Carpenter.

Beverly Hills Workshed (HD, 9:10) – An interview with actor Bruce Campbell. The interview is audio-only, recording from a phone call. He didn’t really work with Carpenter a whole lot as his scene was brief, but he tells all he has and mostly focuses on a lot of the face prosthetics. He also talks about how chill Kurt Russell is and a story of how Wyatt Russell was a fan of Evil Dead and told Kurt to tell Bruce “Workshed” when he saw him on Escape From L.A. He ends saying he asked Carpenter if he could play a shuttle pilot in Escape From Earth.

Part Of The Family (HD, 25:55) – Interview with actor Peter Jason. This is a full-on story of Jason from acting to working on this film. Jason particularly has great things to talk about his experience on Village of the Damned (Playing a lot of hands, including picking up Mark Hamill from the airport). His Escape From LA anecdotes includes another Wyatt Russell story. And overall, he talks his love and passion for Carpenter, who he says has crafted a wonderful family of those he worked with, and its very “real” and he treats everything as such, going beyond just the movies.

Miss A Shot, You Get A Shot (HD, 14:37) – Interview with actor Georges Corraface. He goes through his early acting and experience with Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (Also being offered a part in the Ridley Scott Columbus film). Corraface goes over his audition with Kurt Russell and digs into character and how it relates to and is inspired by Che Guevara.

One Eye Is Better Than None (HD, 17:58) – An interview with special effects artist Jim McPherson. We get a bit of his own personal history, his relationship with Rick Baker, and how he landed work on Gremlins 2. For Escape From LA, he talks about meeting Carpenter, the Surgeon General scene (Which had quite a big instance of confusion) and also reflects on the film’s “ahead of its time” legacy.

The Renderman (HD, 19:04) – Interview with visual effects artist David Jones. Jones discusses his lazy way of breaking into the industry and also goes over some of his ambitious work on Escape From LA. He also takes blame for some of the shortcomings with the film in terms of the visual effects using such fun terms as “janky”. Considered Kurt Russell “Jovial and present” and was in awe of him working as Russell oversaw a lot of the post-production work. Overall he’s quite proud of the film and finds that some of its humor and angles were lost on people back then.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:34)

TV Spots (HD, 2:26)

Still Gallery (HD, 7:31)

Summary

Escape From L.A. is quite better than its reputation and has improved a little bit with age and distance from its initial expectations. Finding better care in its second Blu-ray release, there is a terrific new transfer for it, and a better coding for the 5.1 mix this time around. While it would have been great to have John Carpenter or Kurt Russell in some capacity on the bonus material, the new interviews are still gangbusters, highlighted by an outstanding one with Peter Jason. This is an easy pickup as hands down its not only a complete upgrade over the original Paramount release, its possibly the best this film is going to have ever.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments