What’s this, you say? Another Carpenter classic getting the collector’s edition Blu-ray treatment from Scream Factory? Is he going to mention, yet again, the John Carpenter retrospective that they recorded all throughout the year of 2012? Well, of course I am, because we put a lot of work into that series. We were drinking the Carpenter Kool-Aid before it was cool. Seriously though, these episodes we recorded are pretty in-depth, and they would make for great companion pieces for these releases. Scream Factory’s collector’s edition releases come with great extra features, but we dug really deep and examined not only the specific film we were discussing each episode, but where it fit into Carpenter’s career, and what impact it had on his future in the business. You can find the series here. Assault On Precinct 13 maybe, if not my favorite, my second favorite John Carpenter film. As simplistic as it is, the score of the film is right at the top of the list of the best of the best musical scores from John Carpenter films. The type of film making that went into the film itself, Carpenter wearing his influences on his sleeve, puts Carpenter far ahead of the game in-terms of self-aware genre films. I love Tarantino, but to be fair, Carpenter was perfecting that particular “style” while T was still in diapers.
Assault On Precinct 13 is John Carpenter’s Rio Bravo. Being a huge fan of Howard Hawks and the like, Carpenter wanted badly to make his own Western, and while the film takes place in modern day(1976), Carpenter very much captured the spirit of some of the greatest classic western films. The Western theme is prevalent through most of Carpenter’s career, so the love for the genre is apparent, and the homage he pays to such films, even with films that to the naked eye are seemingly unrelated is masterful. Carpenter would go on to make several “Man With No Name” type of films, including They Live, and even though the man had a name, the “Escape” films as well, fit such a pattern. With Assault, Carpenter wanted to make a “big” film, and even on a low budget, he managed to do so. The photography on display is some of the best I’ve seen in any film, not even just Carpenter films. The framing of the shots lends to just beautiful scenery. The tricks done to convince the viewer that we’re actually watching this story unfold in an almost post-apocalyptic South Central Los Angeles, despite not actually being filmed there(for the most part), makes for an experience that sucks the viewer into the world in which the film takes place, a form of art that could almost be considered “lost” at this point in cinematic history.
As usual, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of Assault On Precinct 13 is far from barebones. It comes with a healthy dose of extras, some from previous releases, some from releases from other territories, and some new features. There is a lengthy on-stage interview with Carpenter and Tommy Lee Walace, though it is a bit rough to understand unless you turn the volume up a little further than you’re comfortable with, due to the way in which the interview was recorded. But there is a standalone interview with Carpenter alone on the disc as well. Also, there is the feature-length commentary with Carpenter, an interview with Austin Stoker, who played Ethan Bishop in the film. Of course the original theatrical trailer is included, as well as some radio spots.
Unlike most releases that come from Scream Factory, Assault On Precinct 13 already had a region A Blu-ray release. It’s easy to gather praise for releasing something that wasn’t previously available, but when releasing something like this, that already exists in the format, it takes more than a few extras to compel your average Joe to double disc, even when it’s a movie that they love. It’s clear to me, that the same master that IMAGE Entertainment used for their Blu-ray release of the film was also used for the Scream Factory release. As has been stated publicly by people behind-the-scenes, Scream/Shout! are not in the business of doing full-on 2k/4k remasters. The process is costly, and comes with the risk of damaging the master copy of the film, which makes future restoration attempts impossible. What Scream Factory does do well, though, is to make little tweaks to the previously utilized master, so that certain issues that existed in past releases, are no longer an issue. I have the Image disc, and while the two versions are pretty similar in PQ, some of the more troublesome issues I had with that disc have been done away with this time around. The Image disc had a weird “ghosting” issue, which put some kind of subtle, yet noticeable outline around moving objects as the film progressed. I saw no such thing while watching the Scream Factory release. For a film made in 1976, it looks fantastic, and unless someone does a full 4K remaster sometime in the near future, I highly doubt it’s going to get any better than this. DTS audio was invented for John Carpenter films, especially this one. It’s crystal clear, and those synthy bass pops will rock your media room.
Is it worth it, if you already have the Image release, for you to buy yet another version of this film? In my opinion, yes. It does look slightly better, due to some behind-the-scenes tweakery, and it does have some worthy extras. I’m not promising that the transfer is going to knock your socks off, if you’ve already taken the Assault On Precinct 13 HD plunge with previous releases, but I think you’ll find that the changes that have been made have made for a better home video exhibition. Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 will be available to the masses tomorrow, November 19th, 2013.