Escape from New York, movie posters (1981)

I’m in the mood to post some pretty pictures, and since I’ve just finished watching Studio Canal’s new restoration of Escape from New York, taking a closer look at some of the promotional posters from John Carpenter’s classic film seems like a damn fine idea.

The advance US poster for the film. The main image was painted by Stan Watts while the character portraits were by Ben Bensen.

Released in 1981, Escape from New York was co-written and directed by John Carpenter, who was fresh from the success of Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980). Not one to let the grass grow under his feet Carpenter decided to change track, and instead of directing another horror/slasher film he instead created a dystopian sci-fi movie where the whole of Manhattan Island has been turned into a giant high-security prison. The plot revolves around convicted criminal Snake Plisskin, perhaps one of the most nihilistic characters ever committed to film, played by Kurt Russell, in probably his most iconic film role. Plisskin’s mission is to break into New York and rescue the President, whose plane has crashed on the island. Once inside he encounters various obstacles that hinder him in his attempt to rescue the President, and escape before tiny explosives in his neck kill him!

This eye-catching poster was the one sheet poster from Thailand, painted by Tongdee Panumas.

The film features a roster of top drawer Hollywood talent, including Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence and Harry Dean Stanton, who were joined by Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Barbeau. The film is action-packed, fun, and featured a fair amount of social commentary and satire — in other words, it’s classic Carpenter.

The UK quad poster, with art by René Ferracci.

The film was a huge hit for Carpenter, pulling in $50 million from a $7 million production budget, which is impressive by any standards. And the worldwide advertising for the movie was backed up by some great movie posters. The US poster featuring Barry E. Jackson’s painting of the Statue of Liberty’s head is easily one of the most iconic in cinema. Clearing drawing inspiration from the ending to Planet of The Apes (1968) the Statue of Liberty has become the poster child for post-apocalyptic movies, and Jackson’s rendition is wonderful. So what if the statue — fully intact — only appears for a few seconds at the beginning of the film, it’s still a great image.

In Japan the film was renamed ‘New York, 1997’.

Also worthy of mention is Tongdee Panumas’ dramatic artwork from the Thai release of the film, which was also repurposed in Italy and Argentina (I can forgive him for putting Snake’s patch on the wrong eye). René Ferracci eye-catching artwork was used in the UK, Sweden and France, while Japanese versions also put the Statue of Liberty front and centre. One of my favourites though is Wieslav Walkuski’s artwork for the film’s Polish release in 1983. Walkuski also featured the Statue of Liberty, but he drenches the image in blood-red, making the statue look both mournful and menacing — great stuff.

The polish poster by Wieslav Walkuski.

Below is a selection of other versions of posters from Escape from New York.

US one-sheet by Barry E. Jackson.
Artwork by Barry E. Jackson.
Swedish one-sheet by René Ferracci.
Italian one-sheet by Tongdee Panumas.
Spanish one-sheet by Barry E. Jackson.
Japanese poster.
German version, artist unknown (film retitled ‘The Rattle-Snake’).
French one-sheet, artwork by René Ferracci.
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