1981 sci-fi thriller by John Carpenter starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef and Donald Pleasance, which was greeted with huge popular acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.
The film is set in a 1997 that never was, where World War 3 is raging across Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and threatening to go nuclear imminently. In the United States, a nationwide crime epidemic has called for desperate measures, with Manhattan Island having been turned into a gigantic maximum security prison compound ringed with a 50ft concrete perimeter wall.
The US President (Donald Pleasance) is on his way to a superpower summit meeting that is the last chance to avert an all-out atomic holocaust, when Air Force One is hijacked by revolutionary terrorists and deliberately crashed somewhere in Manhattan.
Kurt Russell plays 'Snake' Plissken, a former war hero turned robber who has been convicted of trying to burgle the US Reserve Depository. On the brink of being incarcerated on Manhattan Island, the Prison Governor Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) offers him a full Pardon if he can bring the President out alive in 24 hours.
Made in the late Summer of 1980, much of the movie was shot in Eastern St.Louis rather than the real New York, and made on a surprisingly small budget. It was first shown on British TV in '86; Carpenter actually wrote the screenplay in the mid-'70s in the aftermath of the Watergate Scandal, when American disillusionment with the Presidency was at an all-time high, but was unable to secure funding for the film until about 6 years later.
Carpenter went on to direct the ghastly remake of the '50s sci-fi horror 'The Thing', although he redeemed himself with his film adaptation of Stephen King's novel 'Christine'. A re-hash of 'Escape From New York' (called 'Escape From L.A.') was made in '96, and a full-blown remake of the original is currently in the pipeline. But nothing will equal the first superb movie- who can forget the cinema poster, showing the head of the Statue of Liberty lying in a ruined Manhattan street?!