Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why Snake Plissken?

...I thought he was dead...
"Call me Snake"
Actually, I'm dedicating this week to my Dad. I was 12, maybe 13, when he brought home our first VCR. He never could set the clock, blinking correctly only at noon and midnight. But the local video rental shop had a great collection of science fiction, suspense, and horror. The videotape machine was my first exposure to The Exorcist and the Omen (Gregory Peck!), Deathstalker and Conan the Barbarian, Blade Runner (my all-time favorite film!!)...and John Carpenter's Escape from New York.
Yeah, you remember it....
John Carpenter is just pure entertainment to me. Halloween. Assault on Precinct 13. The Thing. Big Trouble in Little China. Ghosts of Mars. In the Mouth of Madness. But Escape from New York, I cannot even come close to describing how this movie affected my young mind. The synth-simple title theme music, Lee-#&$%ing-van Cleef, who bridged the gap between Kurt Russell and Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name, the ruined wreckage of New York City, the Big Apple rotten at the core, Adrienne Barbeau, Isaac Hayes as the Big Boss Man, President Donald Pleaance and Ernest Borgnine...too...much...awesome...
Almost forgot Harry Dean "Don't call me Harold" Stanton.
But Kurt, his portrayal of Snake Plissken, Special Forces hero turned haunted war vet, turned criminal, turned traitor. Captured prisoner offered a pardon in exchange for a suicide mission: Air Force One has crashed in the middle of Manhattan Island, now an uber-maximum security prison colony, and the President, holding time-critical information, has to be rescued in less than 24 hours.
He even escaped from New Jersey.

But that's all just window dressing. What strikes me is that Snake is a fictional version of the things Dad tried to tell me when I was a kid. Don't give in to bullies and thugs. Live with honor. Don't give up, only the difficult things are worth anything. Stand by your friends. Trust, but verify. Do what's right, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Morals trump ethics every time (because ethics help us live with others, but morals help us live with ourselves). Authority only has the power we allow it. And most importantly, that freedom is never given, only earned.
Oh, yeah, and don't smoke, it's bad.
So, Happy Father's Day, Dads everywhere. Oh, and by the way, Boom Studios has been doing a killer Escape from New York comic that bears checking out. See you all soon, off to have breakfast with Dad....
Thanks, Dad.


  1. Also, this is one of the sweetest Why?s we've had in a good while. Kudos, Ray.

  2. Snake Plissken - Everyone's Coming Back To New York

    1/ Snake Plissken lights a cigarette, shielding the flame of his lighter with his hand.

    Caption: It's not sentiment.

    2/ The decrepit stage of an old theater where a troupe of rough-looking men dressed like prostitutes of the fictitious Wild West are performing in a line.

    Caption: Veneration's what brought me back.

    --a priest
    With a fork!
    And you'll find yourself here in--

    3/ The men flash their petticoats the way you've seen countless times before in any production that features dancing girls in petticoats.

    Performers: New York!

    4/ Snake sits in the audience. The expression on his face hasn't changed since Leningrad, and it isn't going to change now.

    Caption: Never cared much for musical theater, if you could even call it that. But Cabby...

    5/ The performers continue. For the first time, we're behind Snake, seeing the silhouette of his head outlined against the stage of performers and the other assembled miscreants in the audience.

    Caption: Well. Sometimes, you just gotta sit back and enjoy the show.

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

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

    1. Well, Mr. N. ...
      Not only is this a great tip of the hat to EFNY's original theatre scene, as well as those "lone gunman walks into a saloon" scenes in westerns, but what a beautiful send off for Cabby. Borgnine's been gone for 3 years now, but talk about one of the neatest guys in movies. Great sentimental moment here.
      Also, "priest with a fork". I'd buy tickets to that show. Well crafted page, sir.


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