"WHO'S YOUR DADDY?":
12 of ROGUE ONE's Cinematic Ancestors
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FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978) score - "End Titles" (R. Goodwin)
7) TOP SECRET!
(1984 / dirs. - Jim Abrahams,
David Zucker, Jerry Zucker)
During a time of war and rebellion a young woman searches for her long lost scientist father who is being forced to design a super weapon. She falls in with a roguish adventurer and a band of resistance fighters; then united they set off on an impossible (perhaps suicidal) mission to rescue the father, destroy the weapon, and save the world. If that plot sounds a lot like ROGUE ONE: A STARS WARS STORY there’s good reason. It’s one of the most hoary-headed “secret mission” plot lines in the entire history of pulp war fiction.
ROGUE ONE pays loving tribute to its pulp ancestry by pulling that old chestnut of a story off the shelf for one more respectful dusting, ... albeit a high tech one. And Zucker / Abrams / Zucker (the zany writing / co-directing team behind the original AIRPLANE and THE NAKED GUN) pay tribute to their own fondness for World War II adventure films by lovingly pulling that chestnut plot out for another go 'round as well.
TOP SECRET! also manages to lovingly pull a lot of other dusty old nuts (LOL) as the ZAZ gang also shoehorns into the proceedings an Elvis Presley-like singer (along with some hilariously clever original songs and dance sequences), 50s era Cold War tropes superimposed over WWII settings and references (yes, this is whackily intentional!), a skewering of THE BLUE LAGOON, 70s era sex toys (“The Anal Intruder” is a hoot), shout-outs to British cinema (character actor faves Peter Cushing and Jeremy Kemp turn up), and a wonderful cameo by Omar Sharif which gut-bustingly spoofs a rather well known sequence from GOLDFINGER. But then, hey, it’s a ZAZ film, so you kind of expected that, right? Or at least you should have.
Those of us old enough remember Val Kilmer’s earliest film roles as being comedic ones. TOP SECRET! was his very first feature. And one year later he’d star as super intelligent (yet iconoclastic) party animal student Chris Knight in the (now) cult classic REAL GENIUS. Therefore regardless of TOP GUN, WILLOW, BATMAN FOREVER, HEAT, TOMBSTONE, KISS KISS BANG BANG and others, for us Kilmer will always and forever be the 50s era, hip gyrating, tight pants wearing, young girls dropping in his wake, Elvis-like singing sensation Nick Rivers, who, during a goodwill cultural exchange U.N. tour to East Berlin, ends up on a Hitchcockian "on-the-run" adventure with Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) - as they and the East Berlin French Resistance??? outwit (... ehhh, yeah) Vermacht, Gestapo and Communist agents in an attempt to free her father, imprisoned Professor Paul Flammond (Michael Gough), who is being forced to build a submarine smasher which can shift the balance of power away from the west. And that's the simple explanation.
TRIVIA: In case you were wondering, Kilmer isn’t dubbed by a professional singer. That’s actually him belting out those 50s era-inspired Nick Rivers tunes. Oh, and as (one of many) in-jokes bouncing around TOP SECRET! like pinballs, much of the German spoken in the film is actually Yiddish. For example, in the restaurant when the waiter speaks (in “German”) to Nick, the subtitles claim he’s asking if Nick is ready to order. But in Yiddish he’s telling Nick to “Go take a sh*t in the ocean”. Then when Hillary speaks to the waiter (again in so-called “German”) the subtitles inform us that she’s ordering her meal, while in Yiddish she’s actually telling him to “Go bash your head in”. Gotta love that ZAZ humor. Hey, no disrespect, but Parker and Stone, and their SOUTH PARK and THE BOOK OF MORMON, will always come up second behind these guys.
8) FORCE 10
FROM NAVARONE (1978 / dir. - Guy Hamilton)
The late director Guy Hamilton (FUNERAL IN BERLIN – 1966, and THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN – ’69) had no qualms whatsoever about “lightening up” material to make it more palatable (or in his own words “more fun”) for an audience. He did so to great success with the third (and still most popular with many) film in the James Bond franchise, 1964's GOLDFINGER: its larger than life / pulp-novel tone proving a welcome (and very profitable) change of pace after the more hard-edged, violent and (relatively) realistic execution of DR. NO (’62) and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (’63).
Hamilton would similarly “lighten up” his Agatha Christie / Hercule Poirot filmic foray EVIL UNDER THE SUN (’82), which added more humor than the more serious DEATH ON THE NILE (1978 – dir. by John Guillerman), and was certainly much less serious than the psychologically complex MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974 – dir. by Sidney Lumet).
He'd do the same with his filmic take on Warren Murphy & Richard Murphy’s violent, sociopoltically cynical, and sexually explicit THE DESTROYER novels with his more family friendly REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS (’85). And, while that one wasn't a financial success (though critics liked it), at the time Hamilton felt secure in his choice of a lighter tone after earlier succeeding at such with the back-to-back 007 trifecta of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (’71), LIVE AND LET DIE (’73) and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (’74). All three films were considered "Bond lite" by many Ian Fleming fans at the time. But they all proved extremely popular with audiences, and helped to keep the superspy franchise alive and well during the most topsy-turvy era in cinema (the late 60s / early 70s), when traditional tastes were being usurped, and studios were going belly-up as many failed to adjust to the (then) popular growing youth market of EASY RIDER and THE GRADUATE.
In the context of all of this, Hamilton would (believe it or not)most controversially go the “lighter is better” route with his single (and singular) Alistair MacLean adaptation, FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE.
For all intents and purposes taking the title of MacLean’s 1968 THE GUNS OF NAVARONE sequel novel and little else, the 1978 film picks up two years after the events of the original NAVARONE film, with Major Keith Mallory (originally portrayed by Gregory Peck; and now by Robert Shaw of THE STING and JAWS) and Sgt. John Miller (originally David Niven; here THE DAY OF THE JACKAL’s Edward Fox) charged by British intelligence to “tag along” with “Force 10” – lead by Col. Mike Barnsby (Harrison Ford, in between STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) on their secret Allied mission into Yugoslav partisan territory, that they might identify for execution a traitor believed to be operating within partisan ranks (the legendary DJANGO himself, Franco Nero), and who also may have betrayed them during their original Navarone assignment.
Along the way, a series of twists and turns bring into the mission an American POW (ROCKY’s Carl Weathers), two partisan rebels (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME’s Richard Kiel and Barbara Bach), and a series of incidents leading to everyone at one time or another falling under the radar of suspicious traitor / possible murderer. In grand MacLean / impossible mission fashion our story climaxes with the spectacular demolition of a huge damn - it's destruction designed to take out a strategic bridge before a Nazi tank battalion can cross it to annihilate the growing partisan army. Yeah, there's a lot going on!
As seems to be the case with at least a quarter of the films on our list, (here's that refrain again) critics weren’t too kind to FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE either. At least not at the time of it's release anyway, though many have come around to say nice things about it since. And hey, let's face it, it really is something of a fool’s endeavor to attempt to follow in name such an entrenched cinematic pop culture icon as the original NAVARONE. And in addition it doesn't help that the plot is so far removed from MacLean’s sequel novel, that the author himself felt no qualms about later integrating parts of FORCE 10 the film (mostly involving it's WWII Yugoslavian setting) into his 1982 novel PARTISANS.
All of this, however, somehow miraculously gives way, and falls to the wayside under the sheer entertainment value which FORCE 10 brings to the cinematic table of the “impossible mission” genre. Not unlike the 1977 James Bond film THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, which dyed-in-the-wool Ian Fleming aficionados acknowledge as a watered down, comic-booky bastardization (but a damned enjoyable one!) of the original source material, so does FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE similarly earn a huge amount of forgiveness and timeless fanboy love from even the most demanding of MacLean devotees. Guy Hamilton’s “more fun” / “more tongue in cheek” filmic model succeeds once again. Go figure!
TRIVIA: Producer Carl Foreman had originally wanted to film FORCE 10 in 1967 with original cast members Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn, but it took another decade to secure financing. By the time the budget was secure enough for cameras to roll, the trio of actors were then deemed “too old” to reprise the characters. FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE was Robert Shaw’s last completed film. He died of a heart attack three months before it’s release while working on the thriller AVALANCHE EXPRESS with Lee Marvin and Maximillian Schell.
9) OPERATION CROSSBOW (1965 / dir. - Michael Anderson)
FOR THE HISTORICALLY UNAWARE. The real life “Operation Crossbow” (1943 – '45; formerly dubbed “Bodyline”) was the catch-all phrase concerning all Allied operations designed to gather intelligence, and hinder and / or destroy any and all research, development, manufacturing and usage of Germany’s V-1 rockets (aka “flying bomb”), V-2s - the world’s first ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) designed to reach Allied cities; and proposed V-3 subterranean bunker facilities intended to house super cannons which could fire V-1 variants at London. During this two year period Crossbow military operations included the bombing of V-1 / V-2 manufacturing and launch sites at Pennemunde, the bunkers of Watten,the Mimoyecques V-3 bunkers, and the destruction of Belgium-based cryogenic “LOX” (liquid oxygen) manufacturing facilities.
After the war, the offshoot program “Operation Overcast” (aka “Paperclip”) became the U.S.-initiated mandate to bring approx. 1,500 German scientists and engineers responsible for developing the V-1s, V-2s and V-3s to America to help develop its ICBM and early NASA space programs, and to prevent the Soviet Union from doing the same. One of the most famous former "Crossbow" scientists brought to the U.S during the "Overcast" era was Wernher von Braun.
Archival U.S. military photo of "Overcast / Paperclip" scientists brought to America
FOR THE CINEMATICALLY UNAWARE. The film OPERATION CROSSBOW was unique for its day: it being a genuinely gripping combination of (what would later come to be known as) the fact-based“docu drama” (a’la THE LONGEST DAY andTORA TORA TORA)) cross pollinated with the fictitious “impossible mission” adventure yarn such as THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and THE DIRTY DOZEN.
Directed with a relentless eye for detail and a fanatical desire to “get the facts correct”, Michael Anderson (AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS – ’56, LOGAN’S RUN – ’76) worked from a script by BLACK NARCISSUS’ and THE RED SHOES’ Emeric Pressburger (here using the pseudonym “Richard Imrie”) to dramatize the lives of real life “Crossbow” participants Winston Churchill, British Scientific Advisor Frederick Lindemann, and legendary female German aviator / test pilot Hannah Reitsch; then intertwine their reality with a fast moving fictional story about a secret Allied infiltration mission.
A synopsis of said mission: A group of saboteurs (among them THE BLUE MAX’s George Peppard and DARLING LILI’s Jeremy Kemp) must steal their way into an underground Nazi missile launch site to destroy a prototype super weapon – the real life A10 “Projekt Amerika Rakete” (aka “New York Model”) designed to reach the U.S. mainland.
Produced by Italy’s legendary Carlo Ponti (DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – ’65, BLOWUP – ’66), his wife, actress Sophia Loren, gets top billing in OPERATION CROSSBOW even though her appearance is fleeting as the widow of a German rocket engineer – the man whose identity is assumed by George Peppard in order that he might infiltrate the rocket facility. CROSSBOW is slickly executed “big studio” entertainment. In fact it opens with a stunningly photographed black & white documentary-like recreation of Hanna Reitsch’s famous stick and rudder “flying of the V-1” rocket legend. But its desire to keep things as realistic as possible never allows it’s characters or narrative to devolve into fanciful action and romance.
In fact in CROSSBOW innocents are murdered by Allies in order to
protect the integrity of the mission, good guys are betrayed to the
death, and the ending has more in common with the self-sacrificial
nature of real life war than the stand-and-cheer heroics of a
NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE.
OPERATION CROSSBOW is a fascinatingly unique addition to the “impossible mission” genre.
TRIVIA: The score to OPERATION CROSSBOW is by popular English film composer Ron Goodwin (1925 – 2003). With over 70 film music works spanning various genres over fifty years (among them THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS - ’62, CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED - ’64, THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES - ’65, Hitchcock’s FRENZY - ’72, and Disney’s CANDLESHOE – ‘77), he is perhaps most fondly remembered for his muscular and energetic scores to memorable wartime adventure epics such as 633 SQUADRON (’64), SUBMARINE X-1 (’68), THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (’69), and the Alistair MacLean actioners WHERE EAGLES DARE (’68) and FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (’78).
10) THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976 / dir. - John Sturges)
Along with Robert Aldrich (FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE LONGEST YARD), few directors have helped create and shape the concept of the cinematic “bromance” as much as John Sturges. Justly lauded for men-under-fire bonding classics such as BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955), GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (’57), THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (’60), THE GREAT ESCAPE (’63), MAROONED (’69), and Alistair MacLean's THE SATAN BUG (’65) and ICE STATION ZEBRA (’68), his much lesser mentioned (though equally impressive) final film before retirement - 1976’s “impossible mission” yarn THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, was a box office and critical smash which wrapped up Sturges’ lengthy career on the highest of notes. But why isn’t it as well known and mentioned among the pantheon of his other films?
With a top drawer row of talent in front of the screen (it's cast includes Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Anthony Quale, Donald Pleasence, Jenny Agutter, Jean Marsh, Treat Williams and Larry Hagman), as well as behind it – with a script by LIVE AND LET DIE and SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE’s Tom Mankiewicz, a score from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE / DIRTY HARRY music legend Lalo Schifrin, editing by LAWRENCE OF ARABIA Oscar winner Anne V. Coates, and all of it spearheaded by English mega producer Sir Lew Grade (of THE MUPPET SHOW, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, ON GOLDEN POND, THE DARK CRYSTAL and more), THE EAGLE HAS LANDED has a pedigree equal to (and maybe even greater than) any other Sturges film.
What the film also has, however, which no other Sturges' "bromance" does, is a monumental narrative irony in that it's protagonists (such as they are) - y'know, the team assigned to the "impossible mission" from which many don't expect to return, are kinda / sorta the bad guys. Well, not "sorta". They are! They're a special forces Vermacht commando unit charged by the Abwehr (German military intelligence) with the task of infiltrating the British mainland, kidnapping British Prime Minister Winston Churchill - as he spends a few days in a bucolic Norfolk village for a little R&R, then bringing him back to Berlin to stand before Adolf Hitler.
Most of the aforementioned cast (with the exceptions of Agutter, Williams and Hagman) are Nazi soldiers, officers and sympathizers. And even Sutherland is an IRA expatriate who functions as the Abwehr’s on-location-in-Norfolk ops facilitator. A sterling review in Time Magazine at the time of the film's release concurred with the audience conundrum of finding oneself rooting for the kidnappers. And part of how Sturges and co. see their way through this bit of narrative incredulity is by, both geographically and psychologically, making the commando kidnap team "men without a country". Most of them (patterned after the real life unit under Otto Skorzeny - German soldiers who rescued Mussolini from an Allied mountain prison without firing a single shot) are German born men who were educated in England, then returned home at the outset of the war.
Otto Skorzeny, the basis for EAGLES' Oberst Steiner, rescues Mussolini in September 1943
Now, however, as the war in Europe is coming to an end, and it is evident that Hitler is mad and is leading his own country to annihilation, a few German Generals have come to see the abduction of Churchill as the last great bargaining chip with which to sue for a negotiated peace with the Allies rather than having to bow to a unilateral surrender. In certain respects this is novelist Jack Higgins', screenwriter Mankiewicz's, and director Sturges' WW2 version / analogy of / to the later days of the Vietnam War. And the members of the special forces unit under the anglicized Oberst Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine) are in essence decades earlier narrative stand-in versions of Vietnam soldiers who now view the war, their world, and their part in both with a great deal of cynicism.
As depicted in EAGLE the men of Steiner's unit are now more loyal to one another and their own personal ideals, than to a national platform in general or their superiors in particular. In fact it is ultimately this “loyalty to cause” which early in the story leads them into conflict with a superior officer - the unit committing “mutiny” in the rescue of a young Jewish girl from abuse at the hands of a Vermacht soldier. This action lands them in a military prison, and makes them something of a German “Dirty Dozen” offered reprieve if they survive the Churchill kidnap operation dubbed "Eagle". Later in the story it is also this “loyalty to cause” which blows their cover (that of Free Polish soldiers invited by the British government to partake in training maneuvers in Norfolk) when, during the act of saving a boy from drowning, a flash of German insignia is exposed beneath the torn Polish uniform of one of the commandos.
As EAGLE doesn’t seek to rewrite history (this isn’t Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS), it’s no spoiler in saying most of its cast does the DIRTY DOZEN-like “going out in a blaze of self-sacrificial glory” thing by film’s end. And this is how it should be. Screenwriter Mankiewicz does however manage to supply one nifty little last minute narrative twist (not in the original book) which still delights the most die hard fans of Higgins’ original novel.
As the final theatrical film of director John Sturges storied career, THE EAGLE HAS LANDED earns well deserved props alongside his other well renowned “bromance” classics, as well as hard-fought-for shelf space among the best of the best “impossible mission” sagas.
TRIVIA: As the Donald Sutherland “Liam Devlin” character is one of the few survivors of THE EAGLE HAS LANDED’s attempted Churchill kidnap plot, author Jack Higgins makes him a central “man on the run” / anti-hero in his own series of later novels beginning with TOUCH THE DEVIL (’78), and proceeding through CONFESSIONAL (’85) and THE EAGLE HAS FLOWN (’91). In the 1989 U.K. mini-series adaptation of CONFESSIONAL (concerning an attempted Papal assassination intended to derail the Irish / British peace process) Liam Devlin is portrayed by Keith Carradine.
(2000 / dir. - Jonathan Mostow)
A recurring plot device in a number of STAR WARS films concerns the stealing of an Imperial vessel, and the attempt(s) by our heroes to use it for subterfuge without being discovered by the Empire, … and / or being blasted to bits by their own colleges who may be unaware of who is at the helm. ROGUE ONE revisits this tried and true notion when Jyn, Cassian, Chirrut, K-2, Bodhi and Baze commandeer an Imperial transport in their escape from the weapons manufacturing facility, then later use it for their unsanctioned "Rogue" mission to the planet Scarif at the film’s climax.
This pulpish plot device is not only “tried and true” within that intergalactic universe “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, but alive and well within the WWII filmic adventure-verse from which the STAR WARS films continue to glean so much of their tone and narrative. In 1942’s DESPERATE JOURNEY for example, Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan and their group of downed Allied airmen engage in a running gun (and fisticuffs) battle with the Nazis as they attempt to make it out of occupied Poland. And here the third act climax kicks into high gear when the protagonists happen upon a Nazi-captured bomber, then steal it to make their way home, … on the way dropping its explosive payload on a German military base. Never, however, has this “making one’s way home in a captured enemy vessel” scenario been done with more fierce, nail biting cinematic aplomb (and plain old-fashioned filmic bad-ass-ed-ness) than in the 2000 WWII submarine thriller U-571, from BREAKDOWN (1997) director Jonathan Mostow.
In the (somewhat) fact-based U-571, in 1942, not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of U.S. submariners (among them Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Noseworthy, David Keith and T.C. Carson) use their “converted-to-resemble-a-German-U-Boat” American sub to board the titular German subsea vessel (damaged in battle) that they might steal a valuable Enigma cipher machine which will allow the Allies to decode scrambled Nazi radio transmissions.
After successfully taking possession of the valuable prize, their own vessel is sunk by a German resupply ship, and the unit must then make their way home in the crippled German sub, dodging Nazi depth charges and cannon fire, as well as that of their own Navy along the way. Oh, and in case you were wondering ... . While the captured German U-boat does have a working radio, our guys can't use it to contact their own ships, because if they do, the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) will know their sub has been captured, and they'll change all of the Enigma codes - making the entire objective of capturing the decoding device for naught.
A critical and financial hit (and deservedly so, it is one of the most relentless and exciting edge-of-your-seat military thrillers since Wolfgang Peterson's DAS BOOT), U-571 the movie was torpedoed by some who took umbrage with the film’s “Americanization” of maritime history, as in reality it was British submariners who captured the first (and most of the subsequent) German decoding machines and cipher material at sea.
TRIVIA: One of the most famous critics of U-571’s “Americanization” of history was then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who called the film an “affront” to British sailors. However, former British Naval officer David Balme – who in real life lead a raiding party aboard the U-110 in May of 1941 to secure numerous cipher documents - called U-571 a “great film”. In his more positive response to Mostow’s thriller, he praised its attempt to bring to light a near-forgotten piece of maritime military history; and he acknowledged that without the “Americanization” of some events, the film (and its honoring of forgotten heroes involved in the cipher raids) probably never would have been commercially viable enough to be made into a motion picture in the first place.
12) ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981 / dir. – John Carpenter)
Yeah, we know, at first superficial glance John Carpenter’s dystopian action adventure may seem the most atypical “impossible mission” entry on our list as, unlike ROGUE ONE and the others, it doesn’t take place in the midst of a traditional wartime setting. Hey, even FIREFOX takes place during the Cold War, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA at the tail end of the thousand year conflict with the Cylons. But the “atypical” nature is merely (as we said) superficial on this one. Now, for those one or two atypical folks who (hard to believe) may not be familiar with ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, the story …
In the (then) future world of 1997 crime in the U.S. has reached such an apex that the entire island of Manhattan has simply been walled-in and transformed into a maximum security prison where the populace divides itself into gang fiefdoms under the control of brutal criminal lords. En route to a conference with a piece of data which can avert World War III, the President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) is taken hostage aboard Air Force One, the plane is deliberately crashed into the center of Manhattan, and the Commander in Chief is “rescued” by the island’s most powerful gang lord, The Duke of New York – portrayed by that “Baaad mutha’, … shut your mouth!” himself, Issac Hayes.
Captured after a failed attempt to rob the Federal Reserve in Denver, former special forces soldier turned criminal - Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell, in the second of five collaborations with director Carpenter) is offered a pardon by Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (THE GOOD THE BAD & THE UGLY’s Lee Van Cleef) if he’ll enter the prison colony via glider, find the President, and return him safely. To make sure Snake doesn’t “take a powder” with the glider, Hauk (in a plot device lifted from the Gregory Peck thriller THE CHAIRMAN) has a small mirco explosive device injected into Snake which will auto detonate in 22 hours.
With little choice but to comply, Plissken enters the prison, and fights and shoots his way through the societal food chain of aberrant, capricious, and just plain freaky and freaked out denizens (among them Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, Season Hubley and more) all the way to the Duke, whose ultimate ransom demand for POTUS is the immediate release of all prisoners incarcerated within New York.
Essentially here the “war zone” is Manhattan (and those familiar with the city back in the 1980s remember this as not being too far from the truth), and Snake is all twelve members of THE DIRTY DOZEN rolled into one. Carpenter originally penned ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK in 1976 which, not unlike Martin Scorcese’s TAXI DRIVER and Michael Winner’s DEATH WISH, was a personal (albeit creative) response to the sociopolitical cynicism, as well as street violence, prevalent within the still fresh aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Turned down by studios, Carpenter was finally able to make his film independently after the massive box office successes of HALLOWEEN (which cost $325,000, and took in $47 million during its original run) and THE FOG (which cost $1 million, then banked $21 million).
Released in July 1981, Carpenter’s modestly budgeted dystopian spin on the “impossible mission” yarn held its own in a summer of gargantuan studio adventures such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SUPERMAN II and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.
TRIVIA: During the summer of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK’s theatrical debut, Bantam Books released a (to this day still popular) paperback novelization by Mike McQuay. ESCAPE the novel was one of McQuay’s earliest published works. And he’d later go on pen many beloved books including the novelization to 1985’s MY SCIENCE PROJECT, as well as his lauded collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke on 1997's RICHTER 10. To this day, for fans of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, McQuay's novelization remains something of an “appendices” to the film in that it begins in detail with the failed robbery at the Federal Reserve, lets us in on how Snake lost his eye, gives insight into the military past of Hauk, ... and how he later became Police Commissioner, and much more. It’s a great read in and of itself apart from the film for which it was created.