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RaulMonkey Regales All With Bizarre Tales From Coleman Luck's Rejected ESCAPE FROM L.A. Script!!

Merrick here...
A few weeks back, I posted an article about an ebay auction. The item for sale was an extremely rare copy of a very early draft of ESCAPE FROM L.A. The script was written by Coleman Luck, a writer on CBS' THE EQUALIZER. It was ultimately consigned to oblivion, although certain elements were retained in subsequent drafts by John Carpenter & Company (if I had to guess, these elements were most likely brought to the table by Carpenter when the project was first put into development). You can find more details about Coleman Luck's screenplay, its fate, and eventual sale on ebay, HERE. Which brings us to RaulMonkey - a longtime AICN reader and frequent contributor to Talkbacks and The Zone. Raul won the EFLA ebay auction, and recently received the script (the copy was being sold by its author). VERY little is known about this iteration of ESCAPE FROM L.A.; a smattering of details have bounced about for a while (all of which turned out to be accurate, by the way). the best of my knowledge...nothing pointed, concrete, or particularly enlightening has been shared about the EFLA that might've been. Until now. RaulMonkey was kind enough to provide AICN & its readers with quite a few details about Luck's script. Clearly, this project will never be made - although it might be nice to see the screenplay published in book form at some point. All the same, please know...
Actually, I'm not sure one can actually have spoilers for a project that'll never be know...some people are funky about that. Below: RaulMonkey's write-up. This is a fantastic synopsis of the film, although he leaves out many details. However, he invites you to follow-up with him several times within the piece - please feel free to do so. Also, as always, pontificate, evaluate, commiserate, celebrate, and/or decimate in the Talkbacks below.
Here's RaulMonkey...
Hey, kids. RaulMonkey here. I've claimed the Coleman Luck EFLA script in the name of AICN so that we can all be privy to its secrets. Allow me to fill you in by way of a question & answer session...
Does the Coleman Luck version of ESCAPE FROM L.A. represent the sequel many of us hoped to see as opposed to Carpenter's semi-remake? Yes and no. This is actually a PREQUEL to EFNY, a fact that had me asking myself why they didn't just call it a sequel until the script's final three or four pages. At the very end we learn why everyone in New York seems to have heard that Snake was dead. But this is a wholly original adventure featuring the Snake Plissken that we all know and love: the stone cold badass getting fucked by the man, the sociopathic hero in a society gone wrong. There is enough of a conceptual similarity for us to feel like we're inhabiting the same universe, but the story is ultimately quite different. Lee Van Cleef's Bob Hauk is a major player, which again, didn't make sense until the end of the story, since he and Snake appear to be meeting for the first time at his office in New York.
So what's the situation going in? Do we get a segment at the beginning of the movie detailing the future history of Los Angeles? Yes. Over images of a "holographic" Los Angeles, we are told the story of TWO separate catastrophes that strike the city in the year 1995. The first disaster involves a genetically engineered virus that is released into the air in order to combat a plague of fruit-destroying medflies. The virus itself is designed to be harmless to humans, but it unexpectedly mutates after coming into contact with chemical discharge from a factory producing "Sun-In-A-Bottle" tanning lotion, and spreads across metro L.A. in a matter of hours. We are told, "Virtually 100 percent of the population was left with irreversible molecular damage to the cerebral cortex of the brain, creating a violent insanity." The second disaster, occurring only three weeks later, is the Big One earthquake, measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale, which turns L.A. into an island off the new Western shore. The narration concludes, "Unable to cope with the two calamities, the United States Police Force abandoned the city, cutting off every avenue of escape and making it a permanent asylum for the criminally insane." We then join the story proper in the city of Las Vegas By-The-Sea: Resort and Naval Base. The date onscreen reads September 16th, 1995--approximately two years before the events of EFNY, and only a number of months after the two disasters.
How does Snake wind up on Island L.A.? What mission does he have to perform? Snake, while a free man at the beginning of the movie, is apparently wanted for a number of federal crimes, and Bob Hauk captures him in Las Vegas. Snake is in town to have the cobra tattoo on his belly retouched, and his beautiful female tattoo artist betrays him to Hauk. But Hauk isn't interested in laying charges against Snake. He wants to drop him in the geographical centre of Island L.A. and have him evade a new, top secret military weapon. Snake has exactly 48 hours to make it to Disneyland (here called Rodent Park) to be picked up. If he doesn't make it to the pick-up point, it's tough titties for him; he has to stay on L.A. forever. This is what gives the mission its sense of urgency: there are no explosives in Snake's arteries or a virus in his system. Snake agrees on the condition that Hauk grant him a single wish at Rodent Park. Hauk agrees, but refuses to tell Snake exactly what he's up against.
So Snake parachutes in? Yep. They fly him out by chopper and he makes the drop, but it doesn't go very well. Some asshole shoots him down and he lands hard, knocking him out. After that the Los Angeles "Cultural Protection Committee" comes by in a caravan of police cars and a dump truck to capture him. When he comes to, he's been crucified on top of a parade float!
WTF? Apparently the citizens of L.A. amuse themselves with something called FLOAT WARS. Two parade floats, each equipped with a gun and a crew, drift toward each other in the middle of the street and blow the shit of each other. There are onlookers lining the street, but it's also a televised event, hosted by "John and Meridee" who are the Island versions of John Tesh and Mary Hart. Each float has a corporate sponsor. The float Snake's crucified upon is in the shape of a gigantic medfly on top of a pancake, representing the Universal House of Pancakes (UHOP.) The opponent float is sponsored by the First Interstate Sperm Bank of America, and looks like, I shit you not, a nebulous blob of jizz. Snake's cross becomes dislodged by the oncoming explosions and he's able to free himself and escape with the Parade Queen named Blandish Vox, who claims to know where his weapons have been cached. He realizes that the man in charge of the jizz-float pursuing him is an old army buddy of his named Drummond. Two things are weird about Drummond: he has a robotic lower jaw and voice box, and he's supposed to be DEAD--Snake remembers burying him in Leningrad.
What's the deal with that? We don't find out right away, but Drummond is one tough motherfucker to kill. He has his face slashed up with glass and suffers a three-storey fall, then takes four rounds to the chest before finally succumbing. After that, Snake tries to ditch Blandish Vox after realizing she's completely nuts (though harmless.) He goes into a bar filled with deformed zombies and catches the evening news to learn that the police are after him and have advised every citizen to kill him on sight. It is noted that he should be considered armed and dangerous since, after all, "we've all seen his videos." People keep referring to Snake as a "video star" even though he doesn't know what they're talking about. In this script, mentioning Snake's videos is the equivalent of "I thought you were dead" in EFNY.
The people of Los Angeles are all crazy, but there's still TV? Indeed. Most of the news staff is catatonic, but a few of them are able to form complete sentences. The news on L.A. is a call-in-request show. "Rose from Pacoima" wants to see a plane crash into a gas tank, so the news people set it up for her. After word gets out that the famous Snake Plissken is in town, everybody calls in wanting to see him get croaked.
I still don't get it. What exactly were the effects of the virus on the psyches of Los Angelinos Most people try to go about their old lives the best they can, in various states of catatonia. In one scene Snake and Blandish are walking along a freeway jammed with rush hour traffic, and all the cars have their original inhabitants still alive and at the wheel, just sitting there. Later on Snake enters a health club and it's full of people exercising monotonously. There is also an element of physical deformation that happens in certain cases. The people in the health club look like they're "...a hundred years old. Perfect bodies covered with ancient, wrinkled skin..." And the people in the bar that Snake visits are all identical to the bartender who is described thus: "His face is huge and oval-shaped. His head is at least twice normal size. Every feature hangs limp. The mouth is a dark slash that never closes and the eyes are black holes." There are also "Surfers" who are a lot like the underground "crazies" from EFNY. Blandish and Snake are captured by them and brought down to their lair in the old subway tracks. They're rescued by Sewer Man (sort of a subterranean Cabbie character) who explains that the Surfers were hit hardest by the virus since they were all hanging out on the beach wearing the Sun-In-A-Bottle tanning lotion which made the virus mutate. Their minds fractured and they all ran underground. No, we never get to see the Surfers actually surf. Or anybody else for that matter. But they do tie their prisoners to surfboards.
Snake and Blandish Vox seem to get around. Does she become some kind of romantic interest? No. Her brain's fried. Snake's not interested. And she gets shot to death by the cops about halfway through.
You mentioned Snake's "old army buddy" Drummond. Do we get to learn more about Snake's past? In a matter of speaking. Drummond isn't the only supposedly dead member of Snake's "Black-light" Army Unit that he runs into on L.A. He is also rescued from the cops by a one Johnny Lorder, whose heart was cut out by Russian peasants and rode over with a tractor--he now has a garish purple lump beating on the front of his chest--and after being imprisoned by cultists, he runs into Dargan, who was cut in half by a Russian machine gun while hiding in a pool, and now has the ability to hold his breath underwater for upwards of ten minutes. We don't learn much about what Snake did in Russia, except that Hauk mentions he once marched 2000 miles across Siberia (so marching across L.A. should be a piece of cake.) We're also given an idea of how Snake lost his left eye... Apparently it was self-mutilation. We're not given the whole story, but I guess he lost a woman once and "tears weren't enough." He needed to weep blood.
Drummond wanted to kill Snake. Are Lorder and Dargan nicer to him? Not so much. Lorder drugs him up and tortures him before attacking him with electrified nunchucks, and Dargan tries to drown him.
What do they have against their old pal Snake? All right, here's where we enter major SPOILER territory (if anyone's going to hold out on this sucker being published.) Snake eventually runs into a man named Oral Turnwheel. We see him a couple of times spying on Snake throughout the movie--he rides in a limousine filled with rats, and wears only a white tunic, like Gandhi. It seems that he owns a conglomeration of all the major military contractors on Los Angeles, and the Americans have given him the run of the island. He has devised a method of cloning the world's finest soldiers while removing certain genetic limitations, and retaining the benefit of the memories and experiences of the original subject. Turnwheel plans to sell the super-clones wholesale to all of the world's major powers. The Drummond, Lorder and Dargan that Snake fought were examples of these clones and, as you may have guessed, Turnwheel already has a line of Snake Plissken clones in production, and his model is meant to be the best of the best. Turnwheel claims that everything that has happened to Snake on L.A. was controlled by him in order to show the world that Snake is unbeatable... unbeatable by everyone except the exquisitely crafted Snake-clones he has made! The climax of the movie takes place at Disneyland/Rodent Park, in front of the ruins of the Sleeping Beauty castle. Hundreds of people have turned out for Snake Plissken Night, and news crews are live on the scene. Turnwheel unveils a number of massive glass tanks, "filled with a strange, multicolored liquid that shimmers softly... Floating in the liquid is a diffused mass of silvery cells. It's an entire human body dissolved into a new form, motionless, yet, somehow, swirling... like a galaxy suspended in a liquid universe... or the diffused essence of an angel, beautiful--yet utterly horrifying." These are the exhumed bodies of Snake's former comrades, used as a source of cells for generating clones. There is one tank without a body in it which Turnwheel makes clear is meant for Snake. One of Snake's famous videos is projected onto a big-ass screen. He appears "a smiling, clean-shaven, shiny-faced little military puppet, minus the eye patch, and in a crisp army uniform, covered with medals." It turns out to be an Army recruitment video, featuring the clone marching around, parachuting, and hanging out with hot chicks in bikinis. When the video's done, Turnwheel brings out a new Snake clone that has been generated from cells Snake has shed since arriving on L.A., and the real Snake is only too happy to oblige Turnwheel by going at his clone mano-a-mano. The genetic improvements in the clone prove to be rather formidable, and Snake has a particularly hard time kicking its ass because it knows all of his moves, not to mention how the real Snake doesn't have any depth perception. Eventually Snake is pummeled into the ground, and in the biggest "holy shit!" moment of the script he challenges the clone: CLONE PLISSKEN It's over, Snake. You're damaged beyond repair. I'll go on. I know everything you do. SNAKE (barely conscious) There's something... you don't know... because... I learned it... right now. CLONE PLISSKEN What's that? SNAKE How to die. And then he rolls over right into the cell-harvesting tank and "diffuses into silvery strands, like a spinning galaxy in a liquid universe." The crowd goes wild and Turnwheel glories in his triumph. But the clone is bent over the vat watching Snake's body transform... He touches the multicoloured liquid and starts to cry... "It's as though for the first time, he feels all the pain that Snake Plissken has ever felt--coming in one great wave--up from the tank--into his hands... Suddenly the tears from one eye begin to change... Down his cheek fall drops of blood." A helicopter is heard in the distance and Turnwheel calls the clone Plissken over to him. Bob Hauk is arriving. When the clone turns around his left eye is completely blood-red, and he says, "Call me Snake." Then he leaps on a nearby guard and steals his gun and starts blowing the shit out of everything! Chaos ensues. He kills everyone who comes at him, and then he destroys all of the cell-harvesting tanks! He tosses Turnwheel into one of them before blowing it away in a massive ball of flame. Hauk's helicopter comes in for a landing and the clone, who the script regards as essentially having BECOME Snake Plissken, yells up at it: "Get down here, Hauk. Get your ass down here. We've got a deal, damn it." Hauk curses and tells the pilot to get the hell out of there. Snake keeps yelling at the chopper: PLISSKEN Get back here, you bastard. You said I could have anything I want. Well, I want L.A. The whole damn island. You hearthat, Hauk? It belongs to me. Get down here you son of a bitch. And we leave the story with Snake shouting that way, and on screen appear the words: "Two years later Snake Plissken entered the penal colony of Manhattan on a mission to save the President of the United States." And that is all she wrote.
You sound like you're wrapping up, Raul. Is this all we'll ever get to hear about the Coleman Luck EFLA? :( Have no fear, my friends. I've spent this review asking myself questions about the script, but I've started a thread in The Zone where you can come to ask me yours: CLICK HERE TO DO SO! (You'll need to create an account to log in and participate.) Ask me anything. I can be as broad or as specific as you like. I don't want anything in this script to remain a secret. I can rattle off some of Snake's great one-liners, or I can talk a bit about what Las Vegas was like. I only mentioned the cultists in passing, and I never even got to bring up the dog people... I think this is a great way to make information about the script public short of posting the whole thing online (it remains a copyrighted work, so I shouldn't do that) and the cool thing about a thread in a forum is that it's open-ended: you can come ask me stuff even if you're reading this a year from now. I'll peruse the TalkBack for this article too, but it'll be a hell of a lot easier for me to respond to you directly if you visit me in The Zone. I hope that my sensibilities in relating the story to you haven't given you any false impressions. A lot of subtlety is lost when you're writing an overview, so I want to say that in my opinion this script could have been made into a pretty kick-ass movie. I think that the ending would have created a lot of controversy among fans. Even if you buy the clone's last-minute transformation, you might find the insinuation that the Snake in EFNY wasn't "the real one" a little unsettling. It all depends on how willing you are to accept that the clones, who have all of Snake's memories and experiences are, for all intents and purposes, really him. Hopefully I've given you a clear enough picture of things to decide for yourself if you would have preferred this EFLA over Carpenter's. If I've been as clear as mud, let me know. RaulMonkey

Wow. That's crazy stuff. Much of it is pretty off-the-hook....which I like. I haven't thought about this too much yet, but my initial reaction is that I really dig many elements Raul describes & think, for the most part, this EFLA would've felt fresher than, more interesting than, and much edgier than the EFLA we eventually got. This is closer to the kind of EFLA that I wanted. HOWEVER, the clone Snake conceit is a complete stinker. I can see why Luck brought that to the equation, and appreciate the mind-fuck he was going for with it, but it feels decidedly un EFLA/EFNY to me. A big part of Plissken's appeal is that, well, he simply is what he is...there's no joy in defusing that (in my mind, at least). We'd like to offer RaulMonkey a great, big, gigantic hug for his time, effort, and expense - he went through some trouble to bring this to us & we appreciate it very much. Now, onto deliberations!

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