Monday, July 09, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Escape from New York (1981) ***½

R, 99 min.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Season Hubley

Because this is Penny Thoughts, this will not be a proper review. The great thing about that is it gives me an excuse to watch the movie again sometime soon so I can review it properly. No, instead of a review I’d like to tell a little story about Ernest Borgnine, who passed away Sunday at the age of 95.

The Oscar-winning actor was fairly well known for his friendliness and with more than 203 roles listed on his IMDb page; he was quite prolific in his long acting career. That is why this story is worth telling.

There were a few years that went by when I attributed this story to myself, but it was actually my older brother who once met Ernest Borgnine in a Florida elevator. We had just headed in from the pool of a fairly well to do hotel on the Florida coast. I don’t remember which hotel it was, but my brother and I were fairly bored there, as the clientele was generally old and crusty. We were there for a business conference for my father’s business. The company chose the place for its golf course and not for its family activities. Most of the employees of the company were old and crusty too.

Anyway, Dan and I were along for the ride so the family could go to Disney World after the conference was over. As I said we had headed in from the pool to get ready for dinner. Just as the elevator opened, my brother realized he had forgotten something at the pool. He said he’d meet me upstairs. Fifteen minutes later, I was ready for dinner. We were on our own for dinner, because kids weren’t invited to the crusty-butts’ soiree. Dan had yet to return from the pool, so I went out to the elevator bank to see if I could figure out what had happened to him.

Just as I arrived at the elevators, one of the doors opened and my brother kind of drifted out, as if he didn’t know quite where he was. “What took you so long?” I asked.

He still didn’t quite snap out of his daze. He spoke almost as if he were in a trance. “You’ll never guess who I just rode up the elevator with.”

I didn’t guess. I knew he didn’t really want me to. But, the answer to his question was perhaps one of the last people I expected.

“Ernest Borgnine,” he said, stretching out his words as if he were a teenaged girl today who had just lived out her short life’s long dream of meeting Justin Bieber.

I was taken aback. Not because I couldn’t believe it so much as I couldn’t believe my brother even knew who Ernest Borgnine was. He was never the movie buff that I was. “Ernest Borgnine?” I had to confirm that he really knew whom he was talking about.

“Yes,” he said, “The Ernest Borgnine.”

The? I thought.

“You mean the actor?” I asked.

“Yes,” he seemed to finally snap out of his schoolgirl crush daze, “Ernest Borgnine. The actor.” Then he seemed to slip away again.

I waited for a bit to see if there was more that had just popped into his mind. Nothing. “Did you say anything to him?”

My brother started scrunching his face up as if he’d done something terrible, “Well, yeah. I did, but I wish you’d been there.”

“Why? What happened?” I asked with growing curiosity. What had my brother subjected this cinematic icon to?

“Well, I said, ‘You’re Ernest Borgnine, aren’t you?’ And he said, “Why, yes I am.” So, I wanted to say how great he was, but the only movie I could think of that he was in was “Escape from New York”,” Dan got a worried look on his face.

“So?!” I said with anticipation.

“Well, I knew he’d been in much better movies than that one, but I couldn’t think of any of them. I don’t even know if I’ve seen any of them.” He looked ashamed of himself.

“So!?” I repeated.

“That was it,” he said, “It was kind of awkward after that.”

“That’s it?” I said aghast. “You didn’t say anything else after asking him if he was Ernest Borgnine?”

Dan nodded.

“Because you thought he was embarrassed by “Escape from New York”?”

Dan nodded again. “He was really nice.”

And so, that’s what happened when my brother met Ernest Borgnine in an elevator in Florida.

You’ll be missed Ernie, especially by my brother.

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