If you missed the cinema re-releases of four of John Carpenter’s legendary movies fear not because Escape from New York, The Fog, They Live and Prince of Darkness are also available to purchase now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD, and we’ve been enjoying the remarkable new restorations.
First is the perfect cult classic Escape from New York, which remains an remarkable achievement of scale and off-kilter ideas. Set in 1997 and released just one year after The Fog, it was the second of a two-film studio contract for Carpenter and Debra Hill had and it steps up in both ambition and star quality. Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin, the classic 80s anti-hero, all attitude and brainy brawn, fighting his way through the enemies like some kind of arcade game hero, with an extraordinary health bar, and it’s absolutely awesome.
Against his will and under the threat of almost certain death, Snake’s job is to rescue Donald Pleasance’s President of the USA who has inexplicably crashed his Air Force One plane inside Manhattan, which is now an enclosed maximum-security prison. But here’s the twist, once you’re in the prison there’s no way out… unless you’re Plisskin of course and it also helps if everyone thinks you’re dead. Escape from New York still stands up in its own right due to its huge ideas and pure commitment to the dystopian ’97, plus it’s also a rather disturbing reflection of how some people might feel about each other in the States, especially with that orange-glow ‘president’ in charge.
Next up is The Fog, this old-school horror story set in the fictional town of Antonio Bay, California and the residents who find themselves celebrating their centennial year but, via the narrative of the Priest, we discover that the early days of town begun in terrible circumstances. Just as the locals begin planning and taking part in the festivities, a mysterious cloud of luminous fog appears upon the shore and starts creeping across town, leaving a trail of bloody slaughter. It is, of course, all related to the secrets that are hidden beneath the depths of the town’s existence. Along the journey of the film we watch Adrienne Barbeau’s Stevie Wayne trying to warn everyone from her lone lighthouse radio station, she really needs some assistance out there by the way, and it also has great cast members that also including Jamie Lee Curtis, having a rather unusual relationship as a hitchhiker who likes to sleep with whoever picks her up – Tom Atkins‘ Nick Castle here – and Janet Leigh who brings a bit of gravitas to proceedings.
While The Fog still brings the fear and fun, it is a bit messy but Carpenter’s numerous reshoots/edits, he did have issues with the film despite that great score, gives the film a wonderful B-movie tilt with a modern vibe plus it’s lifted by in its clarity because it was filmed in the anamorphic 2.35:1 format. Considering the reasonably low budget, this gives The Fog a more intense, filmic look and so, overall, it emerges from the murk as a memorable low-key-small town horror. An important part for me is the luminous fog itself and that still effortlessly swoops and changes beautifully on screen and there’s enough old-school smashing through the window scares to keep you intrigued. So if you do venture out there, please… remember to stay away from that fog bank!
Both 4K restorations look incredible on a 4K TV and it’s also an interesting time to remind us all of the cult status of Carpenter and Debra Hill and how much they’ve given to the major movie cause. His love for stirring up the genres and bringing horror and sci-fi into the minds of all is wonderful escapism, and to think he followed these two films up with The Thing, what an astonishing era it was for Carpenter.
As a little technical background, it’s worth nothing that these restorations were done using the original camera negatives, with the colour grading approved for the new restorations and UHD versions by the films’ cinematographers, Gary B Kibbe and Dean Cundey. So whether you head to see one of these at your local cinema, or pick-up the title for the Home Entertainment release, this is a rare and exciting time to experience the spectacle of Carpenter’s much-loved cult classics up there on the big screen alongside some exclusive events.
Want to own one of these wonderful restorations? Find links below for the Blu-ray and DVD releases, out now, along with that ace artwork from Matt Ferguson:
THE FOG (1980)
Antonio Bay, California has turned a hundred years old and is getting ready to celebrate its centennial year. But as the residents of the tightknit community begin to prepare for the festivities, a mysterious cloud of fog appears upon the shore and begins to creep its way across the town, leaving a trail of horrifying slaughter that hints at a deep, blood-soaked secret from its past.
Home Entertainment – Order: https://amzn.to/2NVK4fU
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)
The year is 1997 and in a police state future the island of Manhattan has been turned into a maximum-security prison. The rules are simple: once you’re in, you don’t come out. But when the United States president (Donald Pleasance) crash lands an escape pod into the centre of the city after fleeing a hijacked plane, a ruthless prison warden (Lee Van Cleef) bribes ex-soldier and criminal Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell) into entering the hazardous Manhattan and rescuing the stranded President from the twisted underworld and the demented clutches of its criminal overlord The Duke (Isaac Hayes).
Home Entertainment – Order: https://amzn.to/2CyJm70
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)
Deep in the basement of an abandoned church, once run by a sinister religious sect, lies a strange bottle of green liquid being investigated by a group of local theoretic physics students. But as the night draws on the students soon realise that the strange relic holds a dark and powerful force beyond their control. A force that could well be the essence of pure evil: the remains of Satan himself. Starring Donald Pleasance, Jameson Parker and Jason Wong.
Home Entertainment – Order: https://amzn.to/2M59ztB
THEY LIVE (1988)
WWF wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays John Nada, a homeless, unemployed construction worker who discovers a pair of sunglasses that when worn suddenly reveal a world run by yuppie aliens intent on keeping the human race brainwashed and sedate with subliminal messages fed through advertising and the media. Luckily for us all John Nada is a man of action and so begins the fight-back (including perhaps the longest fistfight in cinema’s history) to save humankind.