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Assault On Precinct 13 – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Assault-On-Precinct-13Scream Factory’s latest dip into John Carpenter’s catalogue takes us back to the very beginning.  Assault On Precinct 13 has already been released on Blu-ray, but this Collector’s Edition takes what was enjoyable about that release and enhances it to become the seminal version to have.  John Carpenter’s first feature film shows much more than what you’d expect of what we’d come to expect from the legendary director.  The film also holds up very well.  If you’re an action fan, a fan of old Westerns or love stuff like the Die Hard movies and have never seen it, you’d do well to go back and revisit.  Night of the Living Dead and “trapped horror” enthusiasts will appreciate it greatly too.  It’s a suspense driven action film with simple stakes but high end intensity and edge of your seat entertainment.  Once again, Scream Factory does very well by Carpenter, so let’s get into what makes this particular representation of one of his movies so great.

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Film

A new police officer.  A closing down precinct.  A prison transfer.  A father who has just committed revenge for the brutal shooting of his daughter.  A street gang.  These all come together in John Carpenter’s first studio film Assault On Precinct 13.  It’s a long night for our heroes waiting for help or just for the night to end in this action packed siege.  The gang wants the father who is hiding out inside the station and they patiently await attack.  The edge closer and closer, making things more enclosed and claustrophobic for those inside as the minutes tick by.

John Carpenter’s first feature (he did Dark Star prior, but I think most look upon that as a student film) surprises in the way that going back and watching James Bond’s first film Dr. No does.  Most all of John Carpenter’s known motifs are present here from day 1.  You get the fantastic synth score and the simplistic conflict, plot and villainry.  His normal aesthetic is also here.  The film is shot big, in his preferred 2:35.1 frame.  And he’s making good use of the camera and there’s a real confidence that exudes from the photography in this film.  It’s a super cheap movie that plays and looks as if its got far more a budget than it actually has.  That’s also another glorious thing we’d come to know about Carpenter that is present here.  He’s the best at making $10 look like a thousand.

The story in the film is lifted directly from the likes of Rio Bravo and Night Of The Living Dead.  And I love when this kind of stuff is done as opposed to remakes/reboots.  Sure you love both of those movies, but make your own version of it here like Carpenter has, giving it your own spin as opposed to just telling the same thing.  Assault On Precinct 13 is in many ways its very own movie, but if you’re looking for it, you can see the other two movies as well.  But never do you feel like you’re watching those films, and when you can catch the homage you smile with this film’s own unique take on it.  It also honestly is one of the few films dubbed a “modern western” that actually is very fitting of that description in look and action.

And for as low budget as the movie is, the performances and effects look terrific.  I suppose with the minimal amount of players, you can get a little beefier in the acting department, but this cast really gels together and you’re really pulling for even the criminals to make.   This also marks John Carpenter’s first time usage of cast members Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis.  The blood splattering and gunfire in the film are all still quite effective today.  It looks “movie-real” and packs a bunch.  Carpenter’s mastering of suspense is on display for the first time and its really cooking.  There’s many a nail biting sequence and jump in here.  It’s not a horror film, but it sure plays out like a lot of them.

Assault On Precinct 13 still works and thrills me today.  It’s a pinnacle and best “holed up in a location with vicious forces outside trying to intrude” movies out there.  I don’t know if that’s the specific name for the genre, but I’m sure you understand my description.  Carpenter made a complete classic (I guess it’s of the “cult” vein) from the start and followed this up with a masterpiece.  I know I’m a Carpenter blowhard (an all-time favorite director of mine), but I think his work really doesn’t always get the appreciation it deserves.  This one isn’t a shining example of that as it does receive praise, but maybe its one that’s overlooked in quality and influence on film when putting his whole catalog in perspective.  Go back and take a look, it’s an awesome film.

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Video

Disclaimer: I cannot comment on how this looks compared to the previous Blu-ray release or if it is the same transfer.  As normally with Scream Factory releases, they tend to do their own transfers or work on cleaning up the existing more.

Scream Factory delivers again with another Carpenter classic looking absolutely stellear.  The 1080 MPEG-4 AVC is high in detail and very sharp.  There are a couple of rougher areas that I’m pretty sure are source.  A couple of them are in the dark, but the very next shot is in that same setting and very clean.  A couple specs and 1 film streak (occurs in the first 5 min) are present, but do no harm.  It’s to be credited that for as old and as cheap as this film was, the picture quality on it looks very 3 dimensional.  John Carpenter’s films have been transferred gorgeously in the past year and a half and this one is no different.  The colors are very bold and perfectly timed.  The blood looks really good.  The surfaces are all well detailed in every bullet hole and scratch.  You can even see scuffs and finger prints on car windows.  Scream Factory is shooting 100% with their John Carpenter-related releases.

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Audio  

The assault comes with 3 listening options.  The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is bad ass.  Its loud and consuming.  Everyone loves this score and it knows it.  Its always loud and you can hear every knook and cranny, but somehow it never manages to be overbearing and knows exactly when its place is.  Seriously, once I hit play this thing got me in a stellar mood (I was like “Aw yeah, bring it on”).  The sound effects are good.  Shotguns boom, bullets crash and ricochet.  Some the effects in the mix have that dated sound in them, but for the most part they are pretty awesome.  The dialogue is also good crisp and clear.

The disc also provides a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track for the purest who want the original experience.  Personally, I was loving the 5.1, so I’ll recommend that.  But this track is no slouch either.  Its good and loud and definitely gives you more that classic 70s feel to it.  And it’s lossless too.  It’s must be pointed out that Scream Factory ALWAYS supplies this for you on releases which is really awesome of them.  Most studios, if they give it to you, it’s just the old DVD compressed version ported over.  So, thank you, Scream Factory.

And last but not least, we all love the score right?  Well, we’re in luck.  They’ve also provided an Isolated Score track.  So if you wanna see this thing play out to John Carpenter’s sick synth, you now have that option.

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Extras  

This release comes with some new extras as well as porting and improving upon ones from the previous release (IE the trailer is now in HD).  There’s new key art on the box, but it has that always awesome reversible art featuring the original theatrical poster for the film.

Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter – This commentary is ported over from the previous release.  It’s a stellar commentary with Carpenter consuming the entirety of the runtime with almost every aspect of creating the film and his own critical analysis of it.

Audio Commentary With Tommy Lee Wallace – Tommy is moderated by Michael Felcher and they go over Wallace’s history with Carpenter and his thoughts and aspects on going through the process to making this film.  This is a new commentary for this release.

Interview With John Carpenter And Austin Stoker (HD, 23:07) – This ported over feature is taken from a Q&A session following a screening of the film at the Egyptian Theater in 2002.  Carpenter is very candid and funny and this one presents mostly good questions but the occasional lame one, but Carpenter makes them worthwhile with his snarky responses.

Bishop Under Siege With Austin Stoker (HD, 7:48) – The actor talks about getting the part and working with John Carpenter.  He also reflects on its history, his thoughts on the ending and a little bit of his career.

The Sassy One With Nancy Loomis (HD, 12:43) – If you remember my presser for this, you’ll know this is one I had high hopes for and I’m happy to say it was everything I was hoping it to be.  The actress discusses her relationship with John Carpenter, how she came to be an actress and her film career with John Carpenter.  Unlike Jamie Lee Curtis she liked working on The Fog!  She also discusses getting away from it and her love of teaching and sculpting now.  I love that Scream Factory is not content with keeping these interviews just specific to A) the movie this release is for and B) their own releases.

Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:03)

Radio Spots (HD, 1:04) – 2 radio trailers

Still Gallery – 40 stills featuring publicity shots, behind the scenes and lobby cards.

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Summary    

Here you go, fans!  The ultimate version of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13.  Once again Scream Factory knocks one out of the park with a John Carpenter-related film.  The film is presented with superb Video and Audio and has plenty of goodies in the extras for you to spend plenty of your time devouring.  I’m happy with this, but  I wonder, what is left for them to cover?  The only Carpenter films not yet on Blu-ray are Memoirs Of An Invisible Man, Village Of The Damned and Vampires (in the US, that is).  I’d actually be pretty giddy to see what they’d do with one of those.  Of the titles that are already available, I’d kill for Scream Factory to get their hands on Escape From New York or The Thing!  Both have bare bones releases.  There’s also waiting for Twilight Time’s license on Christine to expire as well, but that’s a bit down the road.  I love their work on his material and am anxious to see if there’s any more in the works from them.  Maybe they’re done for now and will move on to someone like Wes Craven whom they’ve already got a few in the can already.  All just speculation, but Scream Factory is one of the few distributors that lead to these, making every announcement of theirs a very exciting time.  I apologize for getting off base with my speculation, but a high recommendation for Assault On Precinct 13, preorder it below!


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

3 Responses to “Assault On Precinct 13 – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Great review Brandon! I did read on another site that said that the video and audio were indeed sourced from the previous Image release, so take it as you will.

    You can acquire Vampires but that would be an import option – I’ve had the Blu-ray for a couple of years now and it is stellar and has the JC commentary, too. It’s region locked, though.

  2. Brandon Peters

    Thanks for the leg up! I knew there was a Vampires out there, but isn’t it a cut version? I think that’s what kept me from pulling the trigger on it. I dunno though, you’d know that since you have it.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Nope. The German version IS cut, the French version is not. I have the french version.