assaultonprecinct13blu‘Assault on Precinct 13’ will go down as one of John Carpenter’s least appreciated films. The real shame is that this is one of his better films. ‘Assault’ was released before ‘Halloween’, so of course it is a film that gets overlooked. This is a film that showcases the abilities of Carpenter as an excellent writer and director. Carpenter was able to take atmosphere building a very thrilling experience. Between character buildup, score, and atmosphere John Carpenter made a larger than life world here in ‘Assault’ which would continue in his later films. With ‘Assault’ being released on Blu-ray, I have not been this excited for a catalog title in a very long time.

The film opens up with a brutality of violence resulting in the deaths of six teenagers by the police. These teenagers were part of a gang called ‘Street Thunder’ as they have been stealing automatic rifles. This spells for trouble as it sets up an uprising. The four gang warlords swear a blood oath of revenge, known as a “Cholo”, against the police and the citizens of Los Angeles.

Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is sent to Precinct 9, Division 13 on assignment to keep an eye on things as it will be seeing its final hours of operation. The police station is rundown and looks to be in a part of town that has no life. There is a slight problem upon arrival; there is only one officer Chaney and secretaries Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) and Julie (Nancy Loomis). To make matters worse, the precinct doesn’t have any guns, phone service, or equipment to run an operation.

Lawson (Martin West) is driving with his young daughter, Kathy (Kim Richards) looking for her nanny’s house. While he is searching for her house, he stops by a phone booth to call her for the correct street. His daughter wonders off towards an ice cream truck where the ‘Street Thunder’ gang approaches the truck shooting the driver and his daughter. When Lawson notices that his daughter has stepped away, he runs after her and the closer he gets he sees that she is laying on the lawn. The driver tells him to grab the gun under his dashboard to go after the ‘Street Thunder’. Lawson eventually catches up to the guy that shot and killed his daughter, taking his life. Once he has done this, the rest of the gang leaders begin to chase after him. This leads to Lawson running into Precinct 9 not being able to get a word out as to what has just happened.

While this is ongoing, there are three prisoners that are being transported across town. One of the inmates gets sick, so officer Starker (Charles Cyphers) decides that they must pull over at the nearest stop which ends up being Precinct 9. The prisoners, Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston), Wells (Tony Burton), and the sick Caudell (Peter Frankland), are put into cells at the Precinct as they try calling for a doctor. This is when the phones go dead and the gang members make an all out assault on Precinct 9.

This film is excellent in building all kinds of tension which Carpenter has been a master at for many years. He never gives up on the tension and mood of the film. It doesn’t hurt that the acting is also very good. He brings the feel of the Western genre with a grittiness feel of 70’s society.
Movie Content: 4.5/5

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Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film has been restored having never looked so good before on DVD. Colors look much better than ever before. Blacks are deeper when compared to the lackluster blacks on the DVD. On previous DVD versions the image was washed out due to the blacks, but this time that is not an issue here. Details look good as the film has been cleaned up quite a bit with the restoration. There are a times where focus is not that great. This is a darker film that benefits from a high definition upgrade. There is some subtle grain throughout the print which is never an issue. There are a few specs of dirt, but that is an issue that comes with the original source.
Video Quality: 4/5

Audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix. There is a great mix of dialogue and action sequences throughout the entire film. The film does benefit a bit with the new lossless audio as gunshots can be heard in the rears. Carpenter’s score sounds very beautiful in the soundfield with the rears also being involved. Dialogue comes through the center very clean and crisp. The audio is what I expected from a low budget film like this, but Image Entertainment did an excellent job bringing the audio of this film to life.
Audio Quality: 3.5/5

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Special Features

  • Interview with director John Carpenter and actor Austin Stoker (23:07)
  • Radio Spots – 2 spots (:30)
  • Production Gallery (16:54)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2:03)
  • Acknowledgments (:02)

All the special features are presented in standard definition. I found the special features to be rather disappointing with only the Carpenter and Stoker interview being the strongest extra.
Special Features: 2/5

Final Thoughts:

Fans of the original ‘Assault on Precinct 13′ that own the previous DVD versions, it is time to upgrade. The Blu-ray version of the film offers a restored version of the film that looks excellent and much better audio than ever before. This is one of John Carpenter’s classics that has been lost in the shuffle over the years. I highly recommend this film as a purchase for fans and as a rental for those that are unsure.
Overall Rating: 4/5 (Purchase)