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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • None

    Assault on Precinct 13

    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 87 mins . R . PAL


    Is there anything sadder than watching the decline of a genius? Itís hard to believe that the person who made junk like Ghosts of Mars and Escape from L.A could also be responsible for works of art such as Escape from New York, The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13. For the sake of brevity Iíve skipped over quite a few of equally brilliant films he helmed, but that just serves to drive my point home even harder. John Carpenter was at the top of the tree in his game, but in recent times has fallen to creating pale imitations of his own films, making it hard for his fans to tell him from his poorer imitators at times.

    This particularly well regarded classic has been the source of many ripoffs and justifiably the source of inspiration as well (even if it isnít an original concept itself), but few (if any) have managed to better it in regards to simplicity and economy of storytelling and sheer brutal momentum.

    On the final night of a suburban police station about to cease operation, the nightcrew and a final bunch of inadvertent prisoners are set upon by crazed local gang members seeking revenge for the killing of one of their own. Thereís no help on the way, the neighbourhood is barren enough that the violent activity doesnít draw too much notice, and the good guys are vastly outnumbered by the gangs. To survive the night theyíll have to kill or be killed.

    You canít ask for anything simpler than that, and Carpenter here showed that in his heyday he didnít need anything else to keep you glued to the screen. Feel free to dig deeper and examine the subplots and social commentary if you wish, but that would just get in the way of enjoying a bloody good film.


    Quite a few years have passed by since the films original release, and stylistically this looks aged via the 70ís fashions, settings and dialogue. The picture quality certainly looks less than stellar at times, and those accustomed to the smoothness and clarity afforded by the Ďperfectí picture created for todays unforgiving displays will occasionally cringe at the screen. But even before that the picture gets off on the wrong foot by being presented in the incorrect aspect ratio of 1.85:1 where it should have been 2.35:1, but if itís any consolation it is at least 16:9 enhanced for such capable devices.

    Colours are the familiar 70ís finish (dull), shadow detail is mostly poor to acceptable and washed out at times with blacks weak. Detail levels are okay and the clarity is good if you can tolerate grain, but Iím guessing that Carpenter fans will be reasonably accepting of the overall appearance (with the exception of the incorrect aspect ratio, that is).


    The DD 2.0 audio track lacks impact in most action scenes and sounds about as mono as they get, but the sound design here and there compensates by foregoing exaggeration for a restrained environment. There are a few moments which hint at what a contemporary remake could do with the typical bombastic 5.1 home system filling so many homes, but until that times comes this will just have to do as long as you donít expect something over the top. And it goes without saying that musically, being a Carpenter flick, youíll be very familiar with the sparse synth score punctuating the tension and action. Itís his signature sound and youíll either love it or hate it.


    Placing the DVD in my player and waiting for the menu to fire up, I quickly realised that I had unearthed the most pathetic DVD release of the year. Everyone associated with this disc, and anyone reaping the benefit of income from this title should hang their head in absolute shame. You can forget the standard extras, as thereís sweet F.A. here, but worst of all is that this DVD also doesnít have a menu system. Therefore, after the obligatory copyright warning the film played automatically and upon completion dumped me back to my DVD player default screen. This is simply pathetic for a legitimate product the studio expects you to pay money for.


    Frankly, any good the film does is ruined by the ridiculous thoughtlessness exhibited by the omission of a menu system or extra of any kind. Iíll retract these words if someone shows me that the final retail release actually contains a menu, but until then Iíll just have to assume that the preview disc Iíve been provided is the way it hit the shelves. Save your money and send it offshore to the States where they obviously give a damn.

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      And I quote...
    "Simply pathetic for a legitimate product the studio expects you to pay money for."
    - Vince Carrozza
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