Yesterday I had the absolute privilege of watching Escape From New York on the big screen and with a great crowd, courtesy of the Castro Theatre and San Francisco's long-running and uniformly fantastic Midnites for Maniacs program (with an assist from the Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow). This was awesome. What a great movie to watch with an audience that gets it. Because let's face it: seen today (and maybe even seen in 1981 -- I wouldn't really know), Escape from New York is weird. You need a bunch of people who are "in on the joke" -- and who are at the same time aware that it's actually not a joke at all.

Nothing illustrates that seeming paradox -- John Carpenter's patented way of blending borderline kitsch with undeniable badassitude -- better than this wonderful scene from Escape from New York. Having enlisted Ernest Borgnine's Cabbie, Harry Dean Stanton's Brain, and Brain's squeeze Maggie (Andrienne Barbeau), Snake gets ready to make a run for it when Cabbie announces that the Duke (Isaac Hayes) and his entourage are rolling into the neighborhood. And roll in they do, in a Lincoln outfitted with four exterior chandeliers and a disco ball, set to Carpenter's trademark techno, pulsating score.

That this turns out awesome instead of ludicrous -- that it makes us grin and dig in for the rest of the flick instead of laugh derisively and turn on it -- is one of the miracles of the modern cinema. I'm not sure Escape from New York is Carpenter's best film, but it's probably his most virtuosic accomplishment. That the bleak, moralistic ending manages to pack an emotional punch despite the utter insanity of the preceding 100 minutes is all the more impressive.

Watch the scene after the jump -- and then pop in the DVD.
categories Cinematical