Escape From New York
Shiva Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/26/2000
It seems like the big fad these days in music marketing is the repackaging of motion picture soundtracks with previously unreleased material and information about the movies themselves. If you're someone like Roger Ebert, or you're simply a movie buff, such releases have to be sweet nectar to you.
Then, there's people like me. I maybe go out to a movie three times a year - and two of those outings are along the lines of Disney films or Rugrats. I maybe rent 20 films a year from Blockbuster or Hollywood - the last movie I sat down to watch in its entirety was Man On The Moon.
So I can't quite explain why I was somewhat excited about receiving the re-issued soundtrack to Escape From New York, a 1981 film that I've only seen bits and pieces of thanks to countless showings by my uncle every Memorial Day in the mid-'80s. This soundtrack is quite different from the ones you might be used to; instead of richly orchestrated songs that carry the plot forward, this one is sparse and dark, the synthesizers emphasizing an aura of doom around the action. If it weren't for the dialog snippets thrown in from time to time, you might not know what was happening in the movie. In short, it's pretty damned entertaining.
Ah, the dialog - believe it or not, I'm thrilled that it's included on this disc. Hearing the sound bites featuring people like Kurt Russell or Issac Hayes helps to add a real texture to the final product - and it sounds incredibly natural to have them included. I don't know why it works so well; on many other soundtracks, I'd probably be complaining about them being included. But in the context of John Carpenter's music, they fit like hand in glove.
Carpenter - who also wrote and directed the film - composed and performed nearly all the music on Escape From New York, and the use of the synthesizer throughout pieces such as "The Bank Robbery," "Over The Wall," "Snake Shake - End Credits" and "The Duke Arrives / Barricade" really helps to set the dark mood of the movie scene itself. In cases such as "Snake Shake", it's really hard to believe that some of these tracks have sat unreleased all these years.
There is, however, one major bone I have to pick with Carpenter - namely, the song "Everyone's Coming To New York". Done in a Broadway-musical style (with sparse instrumentation), this is a song that's going to bore into your brain like a termite through pressboard - and, frankly, I want it out... now. It's so camp, it's downright annoying - and hearing it in your head for three hours after you've finished the disc itself doesn't help matters.
The only other drawback I can see to a disc such as Escape From New York is its sound is not always the most approachable. You really have to be willing to open yourself up to an entirely different musical frame of mind - of course, being in a bad mood helps matters along. If you're able to transcend into the level of the music, though, you're bound to have a good ol' time.
Escape From New York is the kind of disc that will make people who haven't seen this movie in years rush out to rent a copy. Me? All I know is that my interest in this film has greatly increased - and I'll see you in Hollywood Video, fighting for the last rental copy of this one.