Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★★

Debra Hill (producer) and Joe Alves (production designer) commentary track. (I promise this is the last one of these for a while.)

Better than Barbeau/Cundey, but not quite as good as Carpenter/Russell.

Basically, since this is two producers, this commentary track consists of a bunch of great stories about how certain sets were created or how certain locations were acquired behind the scenes. Some of the highlights:

- In order to create the shot where Plissken discovered the Air Force One wreckage, the production crew went to an airplane salvage lot, but while they were picking out broken plane pieces, someone told them about an entire plane that had crashed in St. Louis (where they were filming), so they bought that instead and illegally smuggled it onto their location. The next morning, locals not only reported seeing the downed plane, but also claimed to have been eyewitnesses to the crash itself (which obviously never happened).

- The film required a lot of liquid smoke to be shipped in, and one of the shipments was damaged on the plane en route. The pilot thought the plane was on fire and made an emergency landing. The FBI got involved (burning planes and all that) and came to the production company to investigate. Obviously they weren't doing anything nefarious, but the company was fined $10,000. Now you know where movie budgets go.

- St. Louis was obviously not as trashed as it appears in the film. The crew had to spread garbage around the locations every night and then bulldoze it clean again every morning before traffic started.

- The famous Chock Full O'Nuts scene was a half-set created in the desert, and if Carpenter or Cundey had panned any more to the left they would have seen cacti.

- Debra Hill acquired the World Trade Center exterior location by changing into a short skirt and low-cut shirt and charming the pants off some executive. She sounds like a badass.

Some of the commentary track is just the two speakers re-learning what happens in the movie ("No, isn't this where Snake...?"), and a few pieces of it play a bit too much like sales pitches or resumes ("Look what we did with so little money!"). There's also a lot of repeated material from other commentaries, but overall it's definitely a worthwhile track for fans of the film.

More commentary reviews
100 Favorite Films | My Essential Sci-Fi Canon
Top 10: 1980's Sci-Fi | John Carpenter | Dean Cundey

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