***½/**** Image B+ Sound A- Extras B+
starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence
screenplay by John Carpenter & Nick Castle
directed by John Carpenter
by Bill Chambers Is there a person alive who can hear the opening theme from John Carpenter's Escape from New York and resist the urge to tap the keys of an invisible synthesizer? Composed by the director himself (who knows how to write memorable bad music, as much an asset as the ability to write good music), the Mike Post-in-spurs riff is a fitting anthem for The Apocalypse, as well as a textbook example of how to draw, nay, ease the audience into a film that will feel the whole time like you're staring through a filter at other films, chiefly those belonging to the western, vigilante, and zombie genres. The gift for acclimatizing an audience to his idiosyncratic vision through a simple, melodic overture is one that Carpenter shares with idol Sergio Leone; another is an affinity for the 'scope aspect ratio, although he steers clear of the extreme close-up (Leone's signature), probably half out of plagiarism-worry and half because he's not a sensualist. Carpenter barely even bothered to exploit cheesecake-ready Adrienne Barbeau the two times he directed her--even if she was his wife back then, that takes indifference. I think that men love John Carpenter movies, especially his early shoot-'em-ups, because Carpenter's action figures are so chaste as to evoke the sexless joy of boyhood roughhousing.