'Escape from Japan' chronicles the misadventures of Tatsuo Ihara, a small-time criminal who dreams of seeking his fortune away from Japan. I've seen the type before in some of the "Nikkatsu Noir" films collected in a Criterion Eclipse box set last year. While the Nikkatsu protagonists usually yearned to go to Brazil and make a new start through hard work, Tatsuo wants to become a celebrity entertainer in America.
John Carpenter is a rarity among film directors in that he is also a composer who writes the musical scores for his movies as well. Carpenter's 1981 film Escape From New York was a kind of genre hybrid, a science-fiction crime thriller with suggestions of a spaghetti western thrown in. Set in a near future when Manhattan has been converted into a no-man's-land prison, the movie needed an appropriately futuristic soundtrack, and Carpenter came up with a score for synthesizer that he played with his sound designer Alan Howarth. Despite the instrumentation, however, the composer retained a style familiar from such earlier works as Halloween. He favored simple, repetitive keyboard figures, generally two per sequence, set in a fast-slow counterpoint. The Escape From New York score had a few changes of pace, notably a borrowing from Debussy and an ersatz Broadway show tune, "Everyone's Coming to New York" ("Shoot a cop with a gun/The Big Apple is plenty of fun"), but most of the music sounded like earlier Carpenter scores, similarly creating a tense, ominous tone much of the time.