After being a Walt Disney player in the 1970s, the 1980s transformed Kurt Russell into an action start with the film Escape from New York.
Produced, written and directed by John Carpenter, the film was set in 1997 Manhattan, where this island city had been turned into a maximum security prison, after the crazy increase of crime in the USA.
Meanwhile the world has dissolved into WWIII but the war is soon coming to an end, with possilibity of a ceasefire and treaty between Russia, China and the USA.
The President of the United States of America played by Donald Pleasance, who on his way to negotiations in Aircraft One, crashes into Manhattan and needs to be rescued.
Enter Snake Plissken aka Kurt Russell, an ex-soldier and convicted bank robber, who takes on the challenge of trying to rescue the President in 22 hours, dealing with gang leader Brain Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) and with help from Slag (Ox Baker) and girlfriend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau).
Plissken battles, tracks, and fights his way through Manhattan, to save the President and the save the world.
Carpenter wrote the screenplay in the aftermath of the American Watergate scandal but no film company wanted to make his science fiction thriller. But by the beginning of the decade, and the success of his film Halloween, Avco-Embassy Pictures signed Carpenter for a two picture deal.
The first film was supposed to be The Fog, but with an unsuccessfully completed script, Carpenter went ahead with this film, and chose Russell, trying to shed his Disney image as the lead character.
Filmed in East St. Louis, the cast and crew always filmed at night, and wanted the extremes of feudal England/urban jungle versus the technical of the computer/neon police state.
Released in July 1981, the film was made for US $6 million and became a box office hit and a hit with critics who liked the escape thriller. The film grossed over US$25 million in box office release, a blockbuster of the summer.
And for Kurt Russell, transformed him into an action star.