Carpenter’s cult film released in 1981, “New York 1997”, whose character Snake Plissken has become an icon and matrix of the quintessential Badass anti-heroes, was to open with a now famous scene that was cut: a bank robbery .
New York 1997, a work of the counter-culture, cynical, dear to the heart of John Carpenter: he had written the first script of the film in 1976, in the wake of the horrors of the scandal of Watergate. As he said himself: “At that time, the nation’s overall sentiment towards the president was utter cynicism.”.
Ironically moreover, the studios initially did not want his script, considered too violent, frightening or twisted. It was the successes of Halloween and Fog that allowed Carpenter to receive an envelope of $ 6 million to realize Escape From New York.
Released in 1981, the film stars a character by the name of Snake Plissken. A creation that has become an icon, the matrix of Badass anti-heroes par excellence, always having a punchline that kills in its bag. A source of inspiration for a whole generation of filmmakers, and even Game Designers in the video game industry (Hideo Kojima, at random). The brilliant and absolute cross between the phlegm of a Clint Eastwood who would have met a Hell’s Angels. An incarnation which also obviously owes a lot to its interpreter, Kurt Russell.
A prologue of nearly ten minutes cut during the editing
If the version broadcast this evening on Arte corresponds to that which was exploited in theaters when it was released, the film was nevertheless originally intended to open in a completely different way. In this case a bank robbery that goes wrong, and which makes it possible to understand why Snake Plissken is (already) arrested when Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef), the Chief of Police, makes him a proposal that he does not can’t really refuse. A scene that has become quite legendary, lasting nearly ten minutes.
The context of the scene is precise. It takes place on October 31, 1997, just before the events mentioned in the film. A scene that was considered lost for a long time, moreover, until it was found by miracle on a working copy of the film which was stored in an old salt mine converted into a storage place, on the side of Hutchinson, in Kansas.
Here is the scene …
There was a question that this sequence would be restored, like the film, but Carpenter decided in the negative. If he had dismissed her, it was according to him for good reasons. She went by the wayside because he noticed that the spectators were confused during the test screening, and that there was ultimately no need for it to set up his story, as he began it. In the film’s audio commentary, Big John explains that it even slows down the plot.
His choice to cut the sequence is all the more justified since there is clearly mention of Plissken’s liabilities in the film, during the exchange between him and Bob Hauk. A former war hero, Snake Plissken has now become a notorious criminal, eventually captured in a bank robbery.
Still, this sequence is eaten and appreciated like a nice treat, especially if you are a fan of the film and its ultra charismatic anti-hero.