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The Snake Plissken Chronicles
Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
Snake Plissken Chronicles: Escape from New York The Snake Plissken Chronicles
Escape from New York
Movie
Written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle
Directed by John Carpenter
Released July 1981

 

When the U.S. president crash-lands on Manhattan, which has been converted to a walled prison for brutal prisoners, Snake Plissken is promised a pardon to rescue him.

 

Read the summary of this movie at IMDB

 

Notes from the Snake Plissken chronology

 

Escape from New York takes place over a 24-hour period from October 23-24, 1997. (The film gives the year and the novelization reveals the full dates of these events.) This would be Thursday-Friday according to the 1997 calendar.

 

Characters appearing or mentioned in this film

 

Section Commander Rehme

Snake Plissken

Commissioner Bob Hauk

Charly (copter pilot who blows up raft)

Desk sergeant (voice only in film, larger role in novelization)

President John Harker

Female NLF member (unnamed)

Romero

Walt Hauk (novelization, deceased, mentioned only)

Jerry Hauk (novelization, mentioned only)

Secretary of State Bill Prather

Vice President (on a phone call, unnamed)

Duggan (novelization)

Dr. Cronenberg

Boyle (ticket seller at theatre, novelization)

Jack the Bopper (novelization)

Cabbie

Maureen

Eddie (mentioned only)

Duke of New York

Maggie

Brain (Harold Hellman)

Slag 

 

Didja Know?

 

Co-screenwriter Nick Castle was a friend of John Carpenter's from film school and had worked with Carpenter previously, playing Michael Myers in Carpenter's 1978 film Halloween.

 

Actress Adrienne Barbeau (Maggie) was, at the time, the wife of director John Carpenter.

 

The character of Rehme was named for the president of Avco Embassy Pictures at the time, Robert Rehme. Avco distributed the film.

 

Other popular films that borrow from Escape from New York are 2012's The Dark Knight Rises and Lockout.

 

The cover case of the Escape from New York Special Edition DVD Collector's Set depicts Snake Plissken with a cobra tattoo on his left arm which the character does not have in the movie! (He has a cobra tattoo on his belly.) Also, the rifle he's holding in this image is not like any weapon seen in the film.

 

A Snake Plissken video game and an anime movie were in pre-production in the 2000's, but never came through. Some demo video of the game and character sketches for the anime movie can be seen at Ain't It Cool News.

 

Didja Notice?

 

This movie was shot in 1980 and released in 1981, depicting events in the future of 1997, imagining a dystopian world evolving out of the 1970s. Obviously, the events mentioned in the film from 1988-1997 are fictitious: in 1988, the U.S. crime rate rises 400%; Manhattan Island in its entirety becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country (Manhattan was formerly one of the five boroughs of New York City); Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty), just off the southern tip of Manhattan Island, has become the security control installment for the prison.

 

The opening narration was performed (uncredited) by Jamie Lee Curtis, who had previously worked with Carpenter on Halloween.

 

The opening narration states, "A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline," to surround Manhattan Island. This is an accurate representation of the area around Manhattan Island.

 

The United States Police Force members carry modified AR-15 rifles (what the U.S. military calls an M16) throughout the film.

 

When the police helicopter blows the escape raft out of the water during the escape attempt by a pair of prisoners, notice that one of the prisoners' bodies is seen flying through the air on the right-hand side of the screen at 4:24 on the DVD.

 

I like the ironic directness of the sign at 5:30 on the DVD, "Liberty Island Security Control".

Liberty Island Security Control

 

The exteriors of Liberty Island Security Control were shot at Sepulveda Dam, San Fernando Valley, California.

 

Most of the helicopters seen at Liberty Island Security Control are Bell UH-1D Iroquois. At 5:50 on the DVD, a Bell 206 JetRanger can be seen in the background.

 

The USPF bus that brings Snake Plissken to Liberty Island is a 1979 GMC RTS. It is interesting to note that Snake and his guards are the only passengers on the bus! Notice also that the bus tilts to its right when it comes to a stop to allow the passenger to disembark a little closer to the ground!

 

As Snake is brought into the security control building, notice that a number of USPF officers are standing around in the hallways, apparently to catch a glimpse of Snake before he is sent into Manhattan Island for life.

 

Hauk arrives at security control in a stretched 1977 Lincoln Continental limousine. In various scenes, we can see that Hauk has an earring in his left ear. The novelization reveals he wears the earring as a symbol of having survived Leningrad, the way sailors used to get an earring to show they'd survived a shipwreck; however, in the novel, the earring is on his right ear, not the left.

 

The aircraft identification code of the plane entering New York airspace is David 14, found to decode as Air Force One. Air Force One is the call sign of any U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the President.

 

The model plane representing Air Force One at 9:34 on the DVD is not a real world aircraft. The Internet Movie Plane Database pegs it as "the nose of a Boeing 707, the tail of a Convair 240 but with the jet engines put like a DC-9 and clean wings." At the time this film was made, the official Air Force One was a Boeing VC-137; from 1990-present, it has been a Boeing VC-25A. 

 

The woman who has hijacked Air Force One radios the air traffic controllers that she is from the National Liberation Front of America. This is a fictitious militant organization for the film; in the real world, many countries struggling with internal wars or terrorism have had militant organizations using the name "National Liberation Front".

 

The Secret Service agent who is trying to bust in the cockpit door at 9:53 on the DVD is actor/director Steven Ford, son of former President Gerald Ford.

 

At 10:55 on the DVD, the digital graphic of Air Force One on the computer screen at Liberty Island Security Control is a different plane model than the plane seen in flight about 30 seconds earlier! (The plane in the graphic looks more like a Boeing 737.)
Air Force One Air Force One graphic
Air Force One Air Force One graphic

 

As the USPF helicopters come in for a landing near Battery Park at 12:28 on the DVD, a Budweiser sign is seen hanging outside an old bar.

 

Some kind of business called Anchor is seen in the background when the USPF copters land at 12:49 on the DVD.

 

The thin prisoner who delivers the message about the captive President to Hauk is not named in the film, but the credits identify him as Romero. Director John Carpenter also mentions this in the commentary track on the DVD, also saying he was named for director George Romero. The character is played by Frank Doubleday, who also played a killer punk in Carpenter's 1976 film Assault on Precinct 13.

 

Notice that Romero's teeth are filed into sharp points.

 

At 15:39 on the DVD, the digital map seen on the wall is of Manhattan Island and Liberty Island Security Control.

digital prison map

 

Hauk reveals his first name as "Bob" when he answers the phone at 15:52 on the DVD.

 

The pistol Hauk pulls out of his desk drawer at 16:32 on the DVD is a Smith & Wesson Model 10 Snubnose. He seemingly checks its readiness in preparation for meeting with Snake.

 

At 16:49 on the DVD, Hauk has some antique weapons (or just a print of such?) mounted on his office wall above some filing cabinets. There are also some antique swords mounted in a frame behind the chair Snake sits in.

 

Hauk reads from Snake's police file, stating his name as S.D. Plissken. It is never revealed what the S.D. stands for. In Escape from L.A., Commander Malloy refers to him as "S.D. Bob Plissken", though some fans consider this naming to be in error.

 

Snake's record also shows that he was a lieutenant in U.S. Special Forces Unit, Black Flight. He was awarded two Purple Hearts for injuries in Leningrad and Siberia. He was also the youngest man to be decorated by the President. The Purple Heart is a U.S. military award for those injured in service.

 

The police record also states that Snake robbed the federal reserve depository. This occurred in "The Bank Robbery".

 

Hauk tells Snake they want him in particular to go in and rescue the President because he flew the Gulffire over Leningrad. Details of this operation in Snake's past were revealed in "The Bank Robbery". The Gulffire glider is a fictitious aircraft. (The spelling "Gulffire" comes from the film's novelization, though some other sources spell it as "Gullfire". Since the novelization is based on the original script, I am presuming it has the correct spelling.)

 

At 19:06 on the DVD, a Smith & Wesson Model 67 with a mounted scope is seen on the table. Snake carries it throughout the film, until it is given to Maggie. Also seen on the table is a MAC-10; later, a sound suppressor and scope are seen mounted to it as Snake uses it on the prison island until it is taken by the Duke of New York. Some throwing stars are also seen on the table.

 

Notice that Hauk looks amused when Snake tells him he doesn't like needles. It is a bit amusing to think that a tough guy like Snake Plissken is bothered by needles.

 

Hauk tells Snake he has just 22 hours to get the President out of New York because the Hartford Summit meeting will end then and China and the Soviet Union will go home. But the timer he puts on Snake's wrist is counting down from 23 hours! "Hartford" presumably refers to a summit in Hartford, Connecticut. The Soviet Union still existed when this movie was made in 1980; in the real world, it fell in 1991.

 

Notice that Snake has a white scar on his left cheek. On the audio commentary on the DVD, actor Kurt Russell remarks that the scar was made up to help cover the dimple he has, the thought being that dimples make him look less tough.

Snake's scar

 

The Gulffire glider seen in the film is really an IAR IS-28B2 glider, manufactured in Romania.

 

As Snake powers up the console of the glider, Hauk tells him over the radio he has 21 hours left to find and bring back the President and the briefcase containing the recording. But the timer in security control and on Snake's wrist reads only 20:17:40 as his glider climbs into the air. How did he lose over 40 minutes?

 

Snake lands the glider on top of one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

 

After he lands the glider and enters the World Trade Center, Snake's timer reads 19:22:44.

 

At 23:44 on the DVD, Secretary of State Prather (identified in the novelization) is seen wearing a suit coat. At 24:08, he has removed the coat. At 24:26 he has the coat on again and we see him start to remove it!

 

The script had a tribe of Native American Indians inhabiting the World Trade Center which Snake has to tangle with on the way down to the street. The scenes were cut, but some evidence of the Indians remains during the later WTC scenes near the end of the film. The tribe is later identified as the Lenape tribe in "A-Number-One".

 

At 28:36 on the DVD, notice that a fire hydrant is blowing water up into the air near the crash site of Air Force One.

 

According to the Internet Movie Plane Database, the plane at the crash site of Air Force One is a Convair 240.

 

After finding the crash site of Air Force One and reporting to Hauk, Snake's timer reads 18:50:18.

 

The theater Snake walks up to says Fox Theatre on the wall. The exteriors of the theater were shot at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. The marquee has mismatched letters reading something like "Olde Manhattan Melodies, Musical Revue Featuring The Velvettes". Presumably, the Velvettes are the men in drag seen performing songs onstage as Snake walks through the theater.

 

Inside the theater, a band of inmates is playing musical instruments for the performers on stage. The musicians include John Carpenter on violin and Nick Castle on piano. 

 

The song being sung onstage as Snake walks through is an original composition by co-screenwriter Nick Castle, "Everyone's Coming to New York". Only a few lines of the song are heard in the film, but the soundtrack collection has the full version. The lyrics are printed below. It sounds like it was intended to be a song written by the prisoners, about the prison that is New York. (In the novelization, the song used is "Happy Days Are Here Again" by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen from 1929).
 
  To the cop
With a gun
The Big Apple is plenty of fun

Stab a priest
With a fork
And you'll spend your vacation in New York

Rob a bank
Take a truck
You can get here by stealing a buck

This is bliss
It's a lark
Buddy, everyone's coming to New York!

No more Yankees
Strike the word from your ears
Spin the roulette
There's no more opera at the Met

This is hell
This is fate
But now this is your world and it's great

So rejoice
Pop a cork
Buddy, everyone's coming to New York!

To the cop
With a gun
The Big Apple is plenty of fun

Stab a priest
With a fork
And you'll spend your vacation in New York

Rob a bank
Take a truck
You can get here by stealing a buck

This is bliss
It's a lark
Buddy, everyone's coming to New York!

This is hell
This is fate
But now this is your world and it's great

So rejoice
Pop a cork
Buddy, everyone's coming to New York!

No more Yankees
Strike the word from your ears
Spin the roulette
There's no more opera at the Met

This is hell
This is fate
But now this is your world and it's great

So rejoice
Pop a cork
Buddy, everyone's coming to New York!

 

At 35:26 on the DVD, the prisoner who is wearing the President's vital signs monitoring bracelet sings "Hail to the Chief", the official Presidential anthem of the United States, played at many of the President's public appearances. (In the novelization, he sings "America the Beautiful" by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward from 1910.)

 

At 39:06 on the DVD, Snake seeks cover inside a ruined Chock full o'Nuts coffee shop on Lexington Avenue. The chain does not have shop on Lexington, though the corporation's office is located in a high-rise on that street.

 

The young woman Snake meets inside the Chock full o'Nuts is played Season Hubley, who was Kurt Russell's wife at the time. She tells Snake they're in Skulls territory, but she's with the Turks. (In the novelization, she also tells Snake her name is Maureen.)

 

Talking to the woman, Snake mentions that the plane (Air Force One) crashed near 8th Avenue.

 

At 42:21 on the DVD, Snake's eye patch shifts a bit during the action so that you can see his eye underneath it!

 

Cabbie drives a Yellow Cab Company cab; however the car itself is actually a 1974 Checker Taxicab with an altered paint job for the film. Yellow Cab is a name now belonging to multiple companies across the United States that operate taxi services in their local areas under the name Yellow Cab.

 

The music Cabbie is heard listening to in his cab is the theme from music TV show American Bandstand that ran from 1952-1989. Snake later replaces the President's tape with Cabbie's American Bandstand tape at the end of the movie. (In the novelization, Cabby listens to a different song with lyrics. I have not been able to identify the song. Patches of lyrics from the song go "Got the time for…gettin' even...If I plot…If I plan…Like as not…Sure I can...That's what I'm for…Proper time for… get, get, get, gettin' even...And I'm tryin' soft...And I'm tryin' hard...Sneakin' round to catch 'em...All off guard...Can I do it anonymously..? Can I do it..? You just wait and see.")

 

Cabbie picks up Snake in his cab in the Bowery. The Bowery is a neighborhood of southern Manhattan.

 

Cabbie tells Snake he's been driving the same cab in New York for 30 years. As far as the filme goes, this seems to imply that Cabbie was a resident of New York City and got stuck there when Manhattan Island was isolated as a prison, but the novelization presents a fuller story of Cabbie's past (see the novelization notes below).

 

The glass bottle explosive Cabbie throws at Snake's pursuers is a Molotov cocktail.

 

Arriving at Brain's headquarters at the New York Public Library, Snake's timer reads 17:40:46. The exterior of the library was actually shot at a Masonic temple in St. Louis. (The novelization refers to the building as the 150th Street Memorial Library; this is a fictitious library as far as I can tell.)

 

At 48:19 on the DVD, notice that Brain has a an oil horse to pump oil from a well operating inside his library home.

oil horse

 

Snake and Brain (real name Harold Hellman) were involved in some kind of theft in Kansas City with Fresno Bob four years before their reunion here. This would place the Kansas City incident in 1993. (The novelization implies the Kansas City crime was a bank robbery.)

 

Snake implies that something bad happened to Fresno Bob after Harold ran out on them in Kansas City. (The novelization states that Fresno Bob was caught by the blackbellies and skinned alive.)

 

After making the deal with Snake to find the President and escape from the city together, Brain tells him not to call him "Harold". But notice that Snake keeps using his real name anyway for the rest of the film!

 

Brain says he has a diagram of how to get all the way across the 69th Street bridge, avoiding the mines. In the real world, there is no bridge on 69th Street in New York. (In the novelization, it is the 59th Street bridge instead; this is an actual bridge in New York, also known as the Queensboro Bridge). The film production actually used the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge on the north end of neighboring St. Louis, Missouri.

 

The Duke of New York's car is a 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.

 

Possibly the title of "Duke of New York" is a play on the real world "Duke of York", a title of nobility in the United Kingdom.

 

The second and third cars in the Duke's fleet that park in front of the library are a 1978 Pontiac Catalina and a 1975 Mercury Marquis.

 

The bus that pulls up among the Duke's fleet of vehicles is a 1959 International Harvester.

 

The station wagon Snake steals from the Duke is a 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire.

 

During the theft and journey of the station wagon, the headlights are alternately on-and-off throughout.

 

After they steal the station wagon, Brain directs Snake to drive down Broadway. Broadway is a road running through Manhattan (famous for passing through the theater district). However, the road seen here is not wide enough to pass for the real Broadway.

 

At 55:10 on the DVD, a sign for Advance Counter Company is seen in the background as Snake drives down Broadway. Advance Counter Company is a business in East St. Louis, Illinois, where most of the city street scenes were shot.

 

At 56:39 on the DVD, there appears to be a business called Speedway on the right-hand side of the screen. Possibly, it is a Speedway convenience store, but the logo is a bit different than any I can find record of.

 

At 58:20 on the DVD, as Brain and Maggie distract the Duke's men outside the train cars, notice that Snake can be seen scurrying along the top of the train cars for a few seconds in the background.

 

Inside the train holding the President at 58:44 on the DVD, notice that one of the Duke's men is trying to file through the chain holding the briefcase to the President's wrist.

 

At 1:00:33 on the DVD, notice that Romero looks at Maggie's cleavage and then pulls his own shirt open to the same degree hers is!

 

At 1:02:39 on the DVD, one of the Duke's men is wearing a shirt that appears to have old bottle caps attached to it as armor! He is also wearing sunglasses with only one lens.

bottle cap armor

 

At 1:04:03 on the DVD, notice that the Duke is using Snake's confiscated MAC-10 to shoot near-misses at the restrained President.

 

At 1:07:58 on the DVD, one of the Duke's men appears to be a wearing a hubcap over his belly as armor.

 

The wrecked station wagon seen during the daytime supply drop-off scene at 1:06:47 on the DVD is a 1965 Dodge Coronet 440.

 

At 1:08:39 on the DVD, Brain realizes that Snake must have landed his glider on top of the World Trade Center and points it out on a map of Manhattan. He is, in fact, pointing to about the right location for the WTC.

map

 

Notice that the tail of Snake's cobra tattoo on his stomach disappears below the waistband of his pants. Possibly the symbol is a sort of double entendre relating to both his nickname and his "manhood".

 

At 1:09:08 on the DVD, notice that Snake's infrared goggles that the inmates send back to Hauk in the briefcase have a pair of nails driven through the lenses.

 

The novelization reveals that the fighting ring is set up in Grand Central Station. The scenes were shot at St. Louis Union Station.

 

At 1:11:39 on the DVD, a man outside the combat ring is wearing a "Drink Coca-Cola" sign on his back. It actually says "Tome Coca-Cola", tome being Spanish for "drink".

 

Snake's opponent in the ring is listed as "Slag" in the end credits. He is portrayed by professional wrestler Ox Baker (1924-2014).

 

When Snake and Slag are given baseball bats with spikes driven through and a trash can lid shield, notice that the lids appear to have blood stains on them from previous bouts.

 

At 1:16:32 on the DVD, Snake embeds the spiked bat into the back of his opponent's head, letting go of it and leaving it stuck there. But then, seconds later, the bat is back in Snake's hands as the man falls dead against the ropes.

 

When Snake kills Slag, Slag falls into the ropes of the ring with his arms on the inside of the ring. But seconds later, Slag arms are seen hanging over the ropes, on the outside of the ring. (Also in this later scene, the bat is back to being imbedded in the back of Slag's skull!)

 

Snake activates the tracer with 1:35:26 left on the timer.

 

The car sitting in the lobby of the WTC at 1:18:26 on the DVD (which turns out to be Brain's car) is a 1971 Toyota Corolla.

 

At 1:19:35 on the DVD, some graffiti on the wall inside the WTC reads, "Don't fool with Nicoletty". About 10 seconds later, some graffiti is seen, reading, "Focus on the God-head" and "Go Big Red". At 1:21:02, "Death to the enemy".

 

At 1:20:55 on the DVD, notice there is a tee-pee in the lobby of the WTC (a reference to the American Indian gang/tribe that lives there).

 

The exterior of the WTC was shot at the Century Plaza Towers in Century City, CA.

 

Outside the WTC at 1:22:02 on the DVD, graffiti reading "USPF die", "Kill USPF", and "Death to all" is seen.

 

At 1:22:14 on the DVD, Snake ejects the music tape from Cabby's tape player. Notice that he sticks it in his right-hand pocket pants pocket! About 20 seconds later, he puts the President's tape in the same pocket and refuses to give it to the President at that time. Was he already planning the switcheroo?

 

The tape that has the President's speech on it just happens to be the exact same brand and label design as Cabby's collection of recordings. What a convenient coincidence.

 

In the cab, Snake listens to a few seconds of the President's tape to confirm he's got the right one. All we here of it is: "The discovery that tritium creates only one one-millionth of the biological damage of iodine-1..." The novelization goes a little farther with it: "...iodine-131, now makes it possible to begin thermonuclear fusion..." Tritium (also called hydrogen-3) is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

 

As Snake and his crew drive towards the 69th Street bridge, his timer reads 0:23:19.

 

Besides the chandeliers mounted on his car, the Duke also has a small disco ball hanging from the rearview mirror.

 

Tthe front end of the split apart cab smashes into an old, wrecked 1966 Ford Mustang at 1:24:32 on the DVD.

 

Have you ever noticed that Hauk wears some kind of a major-size watch band on his left wrist?!

Hauk's watch

 

Maggie wants to stay behind on the bridge and kill the Duke while Snake and the President make their getaway, so Snake gives her his Smith & Wesson Model 67 pistol. The gun has six chambers for bullets, yet Maggie fires seven times without reloading!

 

The USPF Jeeps that drive up to the wall to pull out the President and Snake are Jeep CJ-7s.

 

As the President is being hoisted up the prison wall at 1:28:48 on the DVD, Snake's timer reads 0:1:32. But it takes a little over 2 minutes for Snake to get over the wall and the charges in his arteries neutralized (even though his timer says he has 3 seconds left when it happens).

 

 

Escape from New York novel Notes from the novelization of Escape from New York by Mike McQuay
Chapters 3-end cover the events of the film

(The page numbers come from the 2nd printing, paperback edition, published July 1981)

 

Notice that the cover of this book mistakenly depicts Snake with his eye patch over his right eye instead of his left! It seems the image was flipped.

 

Chapter 3:

 

Page 17 reveals that Hauk's first name is Bob and he used to be called Big Bob when he was in the military. Page 26 reveals he was a colonel and was also involved in the Leningrad operation, he and his men drawing fire on the opposite side of the city in order to give Plissken's team a chance to get in; he never met Plissken though.

 

Instead of arriving at Liberty Island Security Control in a limousine as he does in the film, he arrives in a helicopter. In fact, he even gives permission for the pilot to divert from the landing momentarily to chase down the escape attempt on a raft made by two prisoners from Manhattan Island in North Bay. As far as I can tell, "North Bay" must be a misnomer, because there is no formally recognized body of water in the area by that name; from the description, the author is probably referring to Upper Bay.

 

Hauk is described as once having been hard and lean, but now decaying to fat. In the movie, actor Lee Van Cleef still seems fairly hard and lean!

 

During the chopper flight, Hauk looks down at the Hudson. The Hudson River is one of the rivers that empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Manhattan.

 

Hauk's chopper flies over the remnants of the elevated train system in Battery Park as they head to intercept the escapees on the raft.

 

Page 18 states that the New York Maximum Security Penitentiary now holds three million prisoners.

 

Page 19 describes why New York City became a prison: "New York City had been the first North American target in the war. It was under siege for three full weeks with fire bombs and gas. When it was over, those who were left alive were crazy. They roamed the streets in large packs, desecrating and cannibalizing what bodies they found. What remains there were got piled in layers up and down Wall Street, and that section of town became known as the boneyard." Wall Street, of course, is the name of the major thoroughfare of New York's financial district.

 

Page 19 also goes on to relate the reason for the severe elevation of crime and violence in the United States:

   The war went on, and so did the gas. As the years slipped by, the American economy went to pieces. There were a lot of poor people, who were going crazy with gas madness. To survive they turned to crime. The crime rate doubled, then redoubled and quadrupled as crazies took to the streets, looting and burning-destroying everything that they came in contact with.
   And as the wars continued overseas, the soldiers slowly went crazy. The Army, though, had learned to channel the insanity into battle fury. The trouble was, the boys were starting to come home after years on the front with no way to direct their madness.
   Then someone had a bright idea. The United States Police Force was formed, its ranks filled exclusively with veterans with a taste for blood. Their uniforms were black, just like their minds. Their justice was swift and fiery.
   They took to the streets, trained to mayhem, and fought the urban wars with clipped military precision. When they were done, millions lay dead. Those unlucky enough to be left alive were herded onto Manhattan Island. It was big enough, and uninhabited by anyone sane, and its rivers formed a natural barricade.

 

Page 19 reveals the helicopter pilot's name is Charly.

 

Chapter 3:

 

On page 23, Plissken's bad eye tells him it's going to rain.

 

Chapter 4:

 

Snake is brought to Liberty Island Security Control in a van rather than in a bus as in the movie.

 

Page 24 reveals there are no trials for those arrested in the U.S.; the USPF blackbellies are judge, jury "...and in more cases than not, executioner." Sounds a bit like Judge Dredd!

 

On page 25, the sign inside Security Control reads, "PRISONERS: NO TALKING, NO SMOKING, FOLLOW THE RED LINE". In the movie, the sign reads "follow the orange line".

 

Page 26 states that Rehme is a Section Commander at the prison.

 

On page 28, an air traffic controller at security control speaks to someone in Bayonne over his mike about the mayday aircraft. Bayonne is a nearby city in New Jersey.

 

Chapter 5:

 

The President's name is revealed to be John Harker. When he was in Congress, he earned the disliked nicknames Mousey (for his personality) and Straddler (of fences).

 

On page 30, the President ponders LBJ's quote that if a politician couldn't walk into a room and tell immediately who his friends and enemies were, then he was in the wrong business. LBJ is Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States (1963-1969); I have not been able to confirm him making a similar quote to this.

 

On page 31, a couple of doctors from Walter Reed are aboard Air Force One. This is a reference to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

 

Page 31 reveals that the cassette tape carried by the president is about a new thermonuclear bomb called the Super Flash that destroys without leaving any radiation in the atmosphere; the recording is meant to prove to the U.S.'s enemies Russia and China that the U.S. could blow them way without consequences, ending the war.

 

On page 31, the President thinks of the Russians as "Ruskies" and the Chinese as "Chinks". These are English language ethnic slurs for people of these two countries, respectively.

 

Page 31 reveals that Adlai Stevenson was President Harker's boyhood hero, noted for his "soft-spoken, low-key, egghead approach". This is most likely a reference to Adlai Stevenson II, the Democratic governor of Illinois 1949-1953 and later U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. His father, Adlai Stevenson I, was Vice President 1893-1897.

 

Page 32 reveals the President plans to deliver his message at the Hartford Summit, then retreat to the deep shelters at Camp David. Camp David is the forested retreat reserved for U.S. Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942. It is located in Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland.

 

On page 36, Rehme uses a pocketcom to calculate the plane's angle of descent. Obviously, a pocketcom is some kind of fictitious "pocket computer" device.

 

Chapter 6:

 

Page 38 reveals that the USPF had been trying to capture Snake for various crimes for the past 5 years.

 

On page 39, Rehme reports to Hauk that the President's escape pod came down near the corner of Beaver and Nassau near Battery Park. There are two streets called Beaver and Nassau near Battery Park, but they do not cross, Nassau turning into Broad Street a few blocks north of Beaver, then crossing.

 

Pages 39-40 reveal that Hauk had two sons named Walt and Jerry. Walt was killed in the L.A. fire bombing. Jerry was caught looting a supermarket in Chicago, determined to be crazy, and dumped into the New York prison island. Hauk took the job of Commissioner in order to be allowed to go into the city prison to look for his son, never finding anything about him there. Hauk finally stopped looking after several years had passed, about a year ago.

 

Chapter 7:

 

Chapter 7 contains an extended and modified version of the scene where Hauk asks for permission to attempt a rescue of the President inside New York. It features the Secretary of State, Bill Prather, and a slightly longer phone call with the Vice President, who gives Hauk permission for the rescue attempt.

 

Dr. Cronenberg, who injects Snake with the microbombs, is said to look old here, but in the movie he is quite young.

 

The microbomb technology is referred to by Hauk as the Stinger Project.

 

Chapter 8:

 

Chapter 8 implies that, if Snake had been sent into the prison as an inmate, he would first have been castrated in a room called the steri-chamber.

 

Hauk reads from Snake's file that he had been part of Special Forces Unit, Black Light. In the movie, the unit is referred to as Black Flight, which makes more sense.

 

Chapter 9:

 

On page 63, Hauk asks Snake to also keep an eye out for any information about his son in New York.

 

As Snake is being supplied with weapons and equipment for his mission by Hauk and Rehme, page 64 reveals he has not held a gun since Leningrad. Since it was stated on page 38 that the USPF has been after him for the past 5 years that seems hard to believe; possibly it has become illegal for civilians to own a gun in the U.S.

 

Page 64 states, Snake Plissken with a gun was like Samson with shoulder length hair. In the Bible, Samson was given superhuman strength by God, allowing him to defeat beasts and armies, which he would keep as long as his hair was never cut; when his lover Delilah orders a servant to cut his hair, he loses his strength and falls from God's graces.

 

Part of the supplies given to Snake for his mission are K-rations and a chunk of amphetamine. K-rations are combat food rations supplied to U.S. Army troops from WWII into the 1950s; even at the time this book was written, combat rations would have been called MCIs (Meal, Combat, Individual ration) and from 1981 onward, MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat). The amphetamine is seemingly provided as a stimulant and performance enhancer for a soldier under dangerous, exhausting conditions; Snake takes a bit of it a few times in the novel, though we never see this in the film.

 

On page 68, Snake takes off his leather jacket and then has to roll up his sleeve to receive an inoculation. In the film, of course, Snake wears a sleeveless shirt.

 

Chapter 10:

 

Page 73 describes Snake's Gulffire as black with stubby wings and a jet pack sticking out of the tail. This is very different from the glider seen in the movie.

Gulffire

 

Chapter 11:

 

Page 79 states that the World Trade Center has well over a hundred stories. This is true, the WTC had 110 stories in each tower.

 

On page 80, Snake thinks of the amphetamine he takes as "go-fast". This is a street term for the drug.

 

On pages 81-83, Snake encounters some American Indians in the lobby of the WTC. The original script called for an Indian presence there, but it was largely cut from the film; a bit remains near the end of the film, as can be heard in Brain's line of dialog when he curses the "Goddamned redskins!"

 

On page 83, Snake shoots a flare gun at the pursuing Indians, causing white-hot burning light like the Fourth of July. "Fourth of July" is a reference to the U.S. Independence Day holiday, when the original English colonies in America pronounced the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

 

Chapter 12:

 

On page 84, Snake dons some infrared goggles included in his gear as he makes his way to the site of Air Force One's crash landing. He does not don goggles in the film (though they do show up inside the President's briefcase when it is returned sans audiotape to the USPF in the film).

 

On page 87, one of the instruments described as played during the stage musical is a jew's harp. This is a small musical instrument made of metal or bamboo that has a reed placed in the performer's mouth and plucked by a finger, producing a twanging, rubber-band-like sound.

 

On page 89, Snake thinks of the theater manager with the club as Jack the Bopper. This is an offhand reference to Jack the Ripper, an unidentified serial killer in London in the late 1880s.

 

On pages 91-92, Snake overhears a couple of the New York inmates at the theater talking whether or not "the King" is dead; after beating the pair up, Snake tells them the King is dead. From the dialog, it seems they are talking about legendary rock and roll singer Elvis Presley (1935-1977), often called the King of Rock and Roll. Some of Elvis' fans think he faked his death and went off to a life of peace and solitude to get away from the pressures of stardom. The reference here may also be an in-joke to the fact the actor Kurt Russell played Elvis in the 1979 TV movie Elvis, also directed by John Carpenter.

 

As Snake moves to the downstairs portion of the theater on page 93, he imagines he is "a visitor in the Land of the Dead, a one-eyed Dante in the lower levels of hell." "Land of the Dead" is a phrase occasionally used to describe the world of the afterlife. "Dante" is a reference to the 14th Century Italian poet Dante Alighieri and his epic poem Divine Comedy, part of which describes the realm of Hell.

 

Chapter 13:

 

Pages 96-97 reveal that during the war, some crazies had taken Snake's parents hostage in their home and the USPF had simply taken out everyone in the house with flamethrowers, tied all the victims together with the criminals, buried them in a pauper's grave, and confiscated their savings for "restitution". This pissed Snake off. And he'd been rebelling against the state ever since.

 

Chapter 14:

 

On page 105, Snake actually gets a glimpse of Hauk's son, Jerry, in New York: the hand that gets severed at the wrist grabbing for Snake as he dashes through Chock Full o'Nuts has Jerry's H-A-U-K tattoo on it (at 42:16 on the DVD).

 

On page 110, Cabbie says he drove the same taxi when New York City was still a city and he locked it up safe there before they walled the city in as a prison and he left. When he got sent to the prison (for an unspecified crime), he went right to that spot and found his cab perfectly safe and started driving her again.

 

Chapter 15:

 

On page 115, Brain is described as well-dressed, with a long, shaggy beard. In the movie, he is not particularly well-dressed and does not have a beard.

 

Chapter 16:

 

On page 120, Snake thinks of Brain as being as slippery as Vaseline. Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly.

 

On page 122, the Duke's Cadillac has the top cut off, unlike the one seen in the movie.

 

Also on page 122, the Duke is described as being the leader of a Gypsy tribe having three scars running down his cheek. No such scars are seen on him in the movie.

 

On page 125, the train car holding the President is said to be on the grounds of Grand Central Station.

 

On page 126, Maggie warns Snake that Broadway is the home of a Hoodoo tribe. Hoodoo is a type of African American spiritualism that is intended to allow practitioners access to supernatural forces.

 

On page 128, Snake drives the station wagon over the blockade of wrecked vehicles on Broadway instead of crashing through them as he does in the movie.

 

Chapter 17:

 

Page 128 mentions that Grand Central Station had been old when Mister Ford invented his assembly line. This refers to Henry Ford (1863-1947), the founder of Ford Motor Company, who helped perfect the assembly line manufacturing process of automobiles.

 

Chapter 18:

 

On page 136, Hauk reflects that Snake could already be dead and stiff with rigor mortis in six hours. This is true, rigor mortis (stiffness of death) occurs 3-4 hours after death.

 

Chapter 19:

 

Page 141 states that the monthly food drops into New York take place in Central Park. Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan and one of the largest urban parks in the world.

 

Chapter 20:

 

Page 147 states that all of the gangs of New York are represented among the spectators of the ring fight: Gypsies, Africks, Low Riders, Chinkas, Dollies, and Octoes. These appear to be basically made up names for prison gangs.

 

On page 148, Slag is described as "an ox". This is probably a tongue-in-cheek reference to the actor who portrayed Slag, professional wrestler Ox Baker.

 

Page 149 states that the baseball bats provided to Snake and Slag for their bout are Louisville sluggers. The Louisville Slugger is a famous model of baseball bat made by the Hillerich & Bradsby Company.

 

Chapter 21:

 

On page 155, Snake slams the nail bat into the back of Slag's head, with the nail sinking in "all the way up to the Hank Aaron autograph on the varnished wood." Hillerich & Bradsby Company produced a Louisville Slugger model named for the famous major league baseball player with his signature etched into the barrel.

 

Chapter 23:

 

On page 169, the 59th Street bridge (as it's called in the novel) is said to cross over East River Drive. This is true.

 

Cabbie is said to have died without a mark on him and that when his beloved cab died in the mine explosion, he must have decided to go with it. In the movie, there is a fair amount of blood on his face, suggesting he slammed his head into the dashboard or grillwork over the windshield in the crash.

 

On page 176, as the President shoots the Duke with a machine gun, the bullets are said to kick the Duke's dead body through a lifeless mazurka. The mazurka is a Polish folk dance.

 

Notes from the Audio Commentary by Debra Hill (Producer) and Joe Alves (Production Designer)

 

After the crew set up the plane wreckage for the crash site of Air Force One, local newspapers had reports of it as an actual plane crash supposedly witnessed by residents.

 

The interior of the New York theater was actually the old Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles; it was a mess at the time, since refurbished.

 

Notes from the Audio Commentary by John Carpenter (Director/Co-writer) and Kurt Russell

 

The bank robbery sequence that was written and shot for the beginning of the film (see PopApostle's study of "The Bank Robbery") was cut because test audiences were confused by the sequence.

 

Inspired by the casting of Lee Van Cleef, who had appeared opposite Clint Eastwood in For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Snake Plissken was given the half-whisper voice of the Man with No Name character Eastwood played in those films.

 

The black and white camouflage pants Snake wears are meant to be leftovers of what he wore in the Siberian War he was involved in during his stint in the U.S. Army years ago.

 

The scene of Snake walking past the room where a couple of men are about to rape a woman is meant to show that Snake tends to mind his own business, even if he doesn't necessarily approve of things he sees.

 

During the scene of the crazies rising from the sewers through the manholes, Carpenter remarks that manhole covers are not as easy to lift as Hollywood films (including his) tend to depict.

 

The library interiors were shot at the University of Southern California Library.

 

Carpenter points out that one of the men who captures Snake for the Duke has only one arm. (He is the man who is holding Snake's right arm during the capture scene.)

 

Carpenter is also one of the men seen in the helicopters during the scenes over Central Park.

 

In the movie, it's not quite clear what is so important on the President's audio tape. The novelization says the speech on the tape is about a new thermonuclear bomb that destroys without leaving any radiation in the atmosphere. Carpenter seems to say it is about a fusion process that can provide unlimited power to the world.

 

The doctor who injects Snake with the microbombs is named Cronenberg for director David Cronenberg.


Memorable Dialog

the once great city of New York.wav
prisoners and the worlds they have made.wav
once you go in, you don't come out.wav
you now have the option to terminate and be cremated.wav
that's not funny.wav
call me Snake.wav
the survival of the human race.wav
what if I'm a little late?.wav
when I get back.wav
you mean I can't count on you?.wav
Plissken, what are you doing?.wav
I thought you were dead.wav
you're a cop.wav
I heard you were dead.wav
Snake Plissken in my cab.wav
the Duke of New York.wav
heard you were dead.wav
Fresno Bob.wav
don't cross the Duke.wav
I've heard of you.wav
A-Number-1.wav
Romero's laugh.wav
you and everybody else.wav
I said jog right.wav
we'd make one hell of a team.wav
American Bandstand.wav

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