Snake's Back In 'Escape From L.A.' (The Patriot News/Jul 15/1996/US) By Ian Spelling


Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is back.

The anti-hero protagonist of the 1981 sci-fi cult classic Escape From New York returns in Escape From L.A., a $50 million sequel that will open Aug. 19.

Also back in action is John Carpenter, who directed the original Escape as well as Halloween (1978) and Starman (1984).

So why now for a sequel?

"It was a great time to get together with Kurt and (producer) Debra Hill because of what's been happening to Los Angeles,'' Carpenter says by telephone from an editing bay in Hollywood, where he's fine-tuning his film.

"We've had earthquakes, mudslides, riots, fires and drive-by shootings. We're a disaster-prone, edge-of-destruction, apocalyptic town nobody ever seems to leave. Everybody stays and talks about how beautiful it is,'' he says.

"So we - I wrote the movie with Kurt and Debra - decided it was time to do to L.A. what we did to New York in 1981,'' he adds.

The first film was set in 1997, with Plissken on a mission to rescue the president (Donald Pleasance) from a prison called Manhattan. Now it's 2013, and a new highly moralistic America has arisen in reaction to crime and immorality.

Americans are banned from smoking, drinking, drugs, foul language, red meat, and sex outside marriage.

The president (Cliff Robertson) was elected for life, and lawbreakers are deported to L.A. Island, which became an island in 1999 after an earthquake separated Los Angeles from the mainland.

"What you've got is an L.A. that's Armageddon, the Wild West and Hell rolled into one,'' Carpenter, 48, says.

"The president's daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), has a doomsday device that she took into L.A. Island and gives to Cuervo Jones (George Corraface), who's leading an effort to overthrow the president and attack America.

"Snake has to go into L.A. Island, get the device and kill Utopia.''

Carpenter notes that working again with Russell, who also appeared in the director's Elvis (1979), The Thing (1982) and Big Trouble in Little China (1986), was "a dream.''

He adds that Russell's performance retains its enigmatic appeal.

"Snake doesn't care about you, doesn't want to know or hurt you,'' Carpenter says. "He just wants to get to the next 60 seconds, so if you get in his way he'll be like a rattlesnake and bite you.

"He won't be corrupted by authority... I think we all have a little of that until it's beaten out of us.

"It hasn't been beaten out of Snake yet. He's just the ultimate cool.''

The release of Escape II marks something of a comeback for Carpenter. His output over the past decade includes such box-office disappointments as Prince of Darkness (1987), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), In the Mouth of Madness (1994) and Village of the Damned (1995).

So, does Carpenter consider Escape II a comeback?

"It's another movie, my 18th,'' he responds. "I really don't worry about those things. I love the film and think it's great.

"It's dark, fun, and there are a few scenes I've never seen anything like before.''

If Escape II takes off, is there another Plissken adventure snaking up Carpenter's sleeve?

"Earth,'' Carpenter reveals. "If we do another one, it'll probably be Escape From Earth.