We saw Snake Plissken for the last time 25 years ago when John Carpenter's Escape from L.A. was released in theaters. Serving as a direct sequel to Escape from New York, the movie brings Russell in his second adventure as the popular eyepatch-wearing action hero. John Carpenter also returned to direct the sequel using a screenplay he'd co-written with Russell and Debra Hill. The movie was released in theaters by Paramount Pictures on Aug. 9, 1996.
This time, Escape From New York favorite Snake Plissken is called in by the U.S. government to recover a potential doomsday device in Los Angeles. The big problem is that the city has become a crime-ridden island where undesirables are deported, similar to what happened in New York. Along with Russell, Escape from L.A. also stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Peter Fonda, Georges Corraface, Cliff Robertson, and Pam Grier. While the movie was a box office bomb when it was released, it has since developed a large cult following.
The Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell also has a memorable cameo in the movie as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. Because of heavy makeup used to alter his appearance, some fans may not have realized that it was Campbell in the scene. In a new talk with The Hollywood Reporter looking back at his role in the movie, Campbell explains how the idea at the time was for the Surgeon General to spoof the rising popularity of plastic surgery. He was also told by Carpenter to take the role very seriously, a far cry from Campbell's Ash Williams character.
"He goes, 'Bruce, I want this dead straight.' He repeated twice, meaning no ad-libs, no winks to the camera. He wanted a creepy guy, and that direction helped a lot," Campbell said. Looking at the evolution of plastic surgery in the years since, Campbell also notes that he doesn't think the parody character doesn't quite have the same effect.
"What's the show? Botched? It's not so funny anymore," Campbell adds. "I am just struck by people doing such random stuff that is completely elective; people who are not related in any way to the arts or the public eye. I met a woman once who spent $10,000 to look like Xena, like Lucy Lawless. She even changed her name to Xena legally. She would go to cons as Xena. I think she was probably 70."
Of Escape from L.A. garnering a cult following over the past 25 years, Campbell went on to state that he "thought it was entertaining - and hokey." The B-movie legend admits that the CGI doesn't really hold up all these years later, citing scenes like the Snake Plissken and Peter Fonda's Pipeline surfing the L.A. River as cringeworthy. But as Campbell also says, "Pulling that crap off is different than reading it in your script."
We may not have seen the last of Snake Plissken just yet. John Carpenter recently said that he thinks the character is good for one or two more stories, even if it's not likely we'll see it happen. He has also said he'd be up for doing his next movie with Russell, so you never really know what could happen. In any case, the two movies we got will always have their place in cinematic history.
Some CGI issues aside, the classic movie is certainly a lot of fun to watch, especially for fans of John Carpenter, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Campbell. Happy 25th anniversary to the entertaining sequel.Escape from L.A. is currently streaming on Starz. Credit for Campbell's quotes about the movie goes to The Hollywood Reporter.