"John Carpenter's Escape From L.A."
Music By Shirley Walker & John Carpenter
La-La Land Records
32 Tracks/Disc Time: 78:58
"Escape From New York" which was the brain child of horror director John Carpenter ("Halloween") and writer/director Nick Castle ("Dennis The Menace"),who was the "shape" in Carpenter's unforgettable horror film, "Halloween" which a spectacular and exciting action-thriller that was very gritty and superbly directed. The film created one of cinema's most iconic anti-heroes in the person of Snake Plisskin, a one eyed legendary criminal who was coerced into going into the island prison of Manhattan of the future to rescue the President Of The United States and ruining his secret M.O. in the end. Now fast forward to 1996, 15 years since the original film "Escape From L.A." brought back the iconic criminal one more time out of retirement for another harrowing adventure. Kurt Russell ("Tango & Cash") is Plisskin again this time brought back to do the dirty work of a dictator like Present of the United States (Cliff Robertson, "Spider-Man") and his leading Military right hand (Stacy Keach, "Mike Hammer") and his ice cold second in command (Michelle Forbes, "Homicide: Life On The Street") to sneak into another island prison, this time the once great city of Los Angeles which houses all the criminals and undesirables of the President's country. Snake is tasked to retrieve a vital device that would give anyone control over the world with a touch of a button which is in the possession of a ruthless Che Guervarra inspired lunatic named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface, "Christopher Columbus The Discovery") and kill the President's renegade daughter, Aurora (A.J. Langer, "People Under The Stairs") for betraying him and his country. Lead by a conneving weasel (Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"), and other friends of Snake's, he stands a fighting chance to escape L.A. and with the power to set the world back to the stone age, if necessary.
The film wasn't the big hit that Paramount Pictures was hoping for, but it was an engaging follow up to the original filled with fun cameos and nice production design along with a stellar performance by Russell. Another solid aspect of the film was the musical score by the late Shirley Walker in collaboration with John Carpenter, who in the past had scored his own films with the exception of both "The Thing" and "Starman". Walker who was one of Hollywood's best kept secrets at the time, was really being strongly cemented as the female composer who wrote alot of great music that should've been discovered long ago with her first major scoring assignment for Carpenter's own "Memoirs Of An Invisible Man" being the one that brought her the well deserved attention she's always should've had. The score to this film features Walker's big orchestrial style matching wits with Carpenter's old school electronics and surprisingly they both work well together in unison bringing a modern comptemporary feel to it.
The first half of the album is mainly dominated by mood and atmosphere starting with a new and updated rock based version of the "Main Title" from "Escape From New York" which is nearly as good as the original. Also introduced later on is a new Morricone inspired theme for Snake ("Snake Arrives/Deportees", "Weapons/Snake's Uniform") which makes several inspired moments later in the score with its bluesy harmonica and cool guitar motif. Going back to the mood thing, Walker utilizes heavy doses of pure electronic mixed with the orchestra highlight in the best tracks of this half of the album with "History Of Los Angeles", "Submarine Launch", "Acid Rain/Tour Guide Sting/Snake Gets Directions", and "Beverly Hills Surgeon" which Walker really uses Carpenter's original music as inspiration and the tracks really do have that feel which is every bit as enjoyable with the pulsing energy that both "Submarine Launch" and "Beverly Hills Surgeon" have with Walker retaining her own voice. The true reason to get this album is the second half of the album starting with the sinister energy of "The Black Box/Target L.A." where Walker's voice really starts to take full control of the score the rest of the film really becomes hers musically speaking. Highlight by some terrific set pieces in "Decapitation/Game Time/The Game", "Escape From The Coliseum", "Queen Mary/Hang Glider Attack", "Texas Switch/Fire Fight", "Escape From Happy Kingdom", "Crash Landing" and "Presidential Decree", Walker really unleashes a musical fury of energy, excitement and relentlessness that the last half of the film really works really due to her music transcending that somewhat lackluster action on screen. At times like the film, this score is wildly uneven as is the film and it is really entertaining in that regard and it is fun.
La-La Land Records release is the first time the score has been expanded as the original Milan Records release featured roughly half the score and missing several important key moments of the score that give it a rousing exciting feel to it along with the film's complete finale which showcased Walker at her very best. "Escape From L.A." may not be as memorable as people make it out to be, but it is a very engaging and fine listen that deserves attention once again as well as the film, which looks sparkling on Blu-Ray. Walker and Carpenter never worked again after this sadly and her talent is sorely missed to this day. Thumbs up.