This Week in 1981: Snake Bites Big Apple in 'Escape From New York'

"I thought you were dead."

That's what people keep telling mercenary Snake Plissken throughout his adventures. It may also be what they said about his creator, B-movie titan John Carpenter, who hasn't released a new movie since 2001. As he reemerges this week with his first film in a decade, 'John Carpenter's The Ward,' it's worth looking back at one of his most famous creations, the one-eyed antihero Kurt Russell played in Carpenter's 'Escape From New York' (released 30 years ago this week, on July 10, 1981), to see how he defied the odds and survived to make a lasting impact on pop culture.

It's easy to forget that 30 years ago, Russell was a 29-year-old alumnus of several live-action Disney comedies. He wasn't someone anyone thought of as a go-to actor for grown-up, dramatic roles, much less hard-boiled action-hero parts. The studio wanted Tommy Lee Jones or Charles Bronson. But Carpenter, having directed Russell's Emmy-nominated starring performance in the TV movie 'Elvis,' pushed for Russell, and after the smash success of Carpenter's 1978 horror classic 'Halloween,' he was pretty much allowed to write his own ticket.