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Assault on Precinct 13: Collector's Edition (1976) - Blu-ray Review

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Assault on Precinct 13 - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Director John Carpenter does director Howard Hawks.  Call Assault on Precinct 13 the premiere urban western because, in the era before the action movie craze, that’s exactly what this lean and mean to the extreme movie is.

In what amounts to an updated version of Hawks’ Rio Bravo (minus the Native Americans, that is), Carpenter takes to the streets of Los Angeles in Assault on Precinct 13 and has a violent gang take control of a police station.  It’s now considered a cult classic but – with punctuated suspense and had-hitting action – the film is more than its cult categorization suggests.  And it certainly adds a lot of oomph to the whole reevaluation of Carpenter’s career that is currently underway.

Widely known for the explicitly violent and infamous "ice cream" scene, Assault on Precinct 13 should be known for actually staying in its budgetary lines and coming in way below its commissioned $100,000.  Carpenter earned his creative control over the project and it – with its sharp action scenes – easily became one of the most exciting action flicks of the 1970’s.  It begins and ends with violence and – with Carpenter’s unique vision guiding it – has a lot of steely grit in its chops.

The screenplay about a group of thugs – some no older than teenagers – killed in a police raid and the revenge that follows by other gang members when they raid a decommissioned police station was written by Carpenter and intended to be an homage to Hawks, Hitchcock, and Sergio Leone.  In fact, a careful observer of the film will notice that the character of Leigh, played by Laurie Zimmer, is a not-so-veiled reference to Rio Bravo’s screenwriter.  The running gag of having Darwin Joston constantly ask “Got a smoke?” is also a tip of the hat to many of Howard Hawks's films.

The mostly unexperienced actors – including Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis – deliver on the mass terror experienced in and out of the station.  As far as main characters go, the loss of hope swelling between Bishop (Austin Stoker) and Napoleon Wilson (Joston) at their calls for hope go unanswered in a suburb of Los Angeles is knee-buckling.  Thing is, the viewer is made aware, throughout the film, of the danger inside and outside of the building and this only causes the suspense to escalate.

Assault on Precinct 13 is – unlike the widely inferior remake from 2005 starring Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne – is vicious and, with no need for comic relief, deadly serious.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Assault on Precinct 13 - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
91 mins
Director: John Carpenter
Writer
: John Carpenter
Cast:
Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer
Genre
: Action | Drama
Tagline:
A cop with a war on his hands. His enemy... an army of street killers. His only ally... a convicted murderer.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Why would anybody want to shoot at a police station?"
Distributor:
Turtle Releasing
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 5, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 19, 2013

Synopsis: The lone inhabitants of an abandoned police station are under attack by the overwhelming numbers of a seemingly unstoppable street gang.

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Assault on Precinct 13 - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 19, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Discs:
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Scream Factory’s transfer appears to be the same from the 2008 Blu-ray. Heavy shadows permeate every scene because – and make no mistake about it – Assault on Precinct 13 is a very, very dark film. Cinematographer Douglass Knapp (Escape From New York) utilizes natural lighting and since the action goes down at night, there’s a crisp darkness to every scene.  That being said, colors are still solid.  The transfer grabs much of the detail and contrast during these night scenes.  The 5.1 soundtrack is pretty front-heavy and, as a result, the original mono track and its mix is a bit better.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The new commentary from art director/sound effects editor Tommy Lee Wallace is a really informative track.  Wallace details much of the production and sounds very honest with his enthusiasm.  Also included is Carpenter’s original audio commentary.

Special Features:

You get the original supplements that came with the 2008 release.  Those include a detailed interview with Carpenter and Stoker, the original trailer and radio spots.  With those out of the way, the new supplemental material jumps in with a new interview with Stoker, a nice sit-down interview with Loomis, and a still gallery.  You also get Carpenter’s isolated score.

  • Interview with John Carpenter and Austin Stoker (23 min)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
  • Radio Spots (1 min)
  • Bishop Under Siege With Austin Stoker (8 min)
  • The Sassy One With Nancy Loomis (13 min)
  • Still Gallery (4 min)
  • Isolated Score

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