Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Review by Jude Felton
There’s a scene in Tony Scott’s 1993 flick, True Romance, where Christian Slater’s character, Clarence, is explaining “movies” to Saul Rubinek’s Lee. Assault of Precinct 13 is a “movie”, not a film, but a dick swinging sonofabitch movie. It swaggers across the screen with an almost nihilist "fuck you" attitude, and quite honestly rocks the goddamn house. Director John Carpenter has made many outstanding movies, but Assault on Precinct 13 is without a doubt one of the best.
You only need to watch the 2005 remake, which in itself wasn’t a terrible flick, to see the difference in style and attitude that Carpenter pumped into his second feature film. It was something that couldn’t be replicated, in the remake, or many other films since.
The plot of Precinct 13 is straightforward enough, in fact it basically riffs off Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead and Howard Hawks Rio Bravo, with a small group all holed up in the soon to be closed Precinct 9, District 13, police station. That’s right, it doesn’t even take place in Precinct 13, but the studio liked that title, so they ran with it.
A group of prisoners is being transported, and end up needing to take refuge at the aforementioned police station. Unfortunately for them, and the police and staff of the station, a group of gangs have taken a blood pact and lay siege to the central location. Thus starts a character driven and violent siege movie, which delivers on just about every front.
Writer/director Carpenter not only delivers a terrific movie, he also contributes yet another incredibly memorable score (he really does not get the credit he deserves), as well as cinema’s great “holy shit” moments, which if you have seen you will know exactly what I am talking about.
I could wax on about the film itself for pages. However, it’s over 30 years old, and pretty much everything that could be said, has been said. It’s a great flick and needs to be in your collection.
This particular release from Scream Factory is a very nice one. Visually I can’t compare it to the 2009 Image release, as I watched the Scream edition on a new TV, but I will say that it looks bloody good. Also, that sound blasts from the speakers; the wonderful score has probably never sounded so good.
Aside from the terrific reversible sleeve, in case you don’t like the one pictured above, compliments the nice array of extras. There are some new interviews with Nancy Loomis and Tommy Lee Wallace, as well as older interviews with Carpenter and star, Austin Stoker, and an audio commentary from Carpenter.
So, whether you’ll want to grab this version, if you already own the Image release, is entirely up to you. The Image version does feature an isolated score, which isn’t present here, but damnit, Scream’s release looks so damned good. Personally, I think there is room in your collection for both editions, and this one will look great alongside all your other Scream releases.
I’ll leave it at this; the Scream edition looks and sounds great, so if you don’t already own the film, you’ll want to snap this one up. The Carpenter completest will want it regardless, and collectors will also snap it up. I say buy it, purely because it’s such a bloody good movie.
Assault on Precinct 13 is released by Scream Factory on November 19th.
(The stills contained in this review are used purely to illustrate the review and do not necessarily represent this Blu-ray release)