• Siege (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: July 20th, 2021.
    Director: Paul Donovan, Maura O’Connell
    Cast: Doug Lennox, Keith Knight, Tom Nardini, Jack Blum
    Year: 1982
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    Siege – Movie Review:

    Released in 1983 by Manson International and alternately known as Self Defense (which featured an advertising campaign that read ‘FIGHT CRIME, SHOOT BACK!’), Paul Donovan and Maura O’Connell’s Siege was shot fast and cheap entirely in and around Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    Some news footage opens the film, alerting viewers to the fact that Halifax’s police department is on strike (which really did happen in 1981). With the cops on strike, violence is erupting across the city. From here, we see a group of armed men, vigilantes really, called themselves the ‘New Order’ (or ‘N.O.’ for short) - Rosie (Rick Collins), Ian (Fred Wadden), Goose (Jeff Pustil) and Clark (Dennis O'Connor) - head into a gay bar called The Crypt where they start harassing the clientele. One thing leads to another and soon the bartender is dead. They men call in their leader, Cabe (Doug Lennox), who starts to systematically kill the remainder of the people in the bar executioner style. One patron, Daniel (Terry-David Després), manages to escape and the villains give chase.

    When Daniel makes it into a nearby apartment building, Horatio (Tom Nardini) and Barbara (Brenda Bazinet), let him into the apartment where they’ve been hanging out with two blind friends, Patrick (Jack Blum) and Steve (Keith Knight), and another guy named Chester (Daryl Haney), who is surprisingly handy and creative when it comes to making weapons. When the bad guys show up at the door and pretend they’re from the nearby mental hospital and trying to take back a violent patient, Horatio and the rest aren’t buying it. This leads to Cabe’s heavily armed crew surrounding the building and launching an attack against everyone inside, leaving the tenants to fend for themselves with the police on the picket lines.

    A genuinely effective thriller that plays a lot like a home invasion film, Siege is really solid stuff. It’s paced really well and while it doesn’t go super in-depth with the character development, it gives us enough to let us know who to cheer for. The bad guys are just that, clearly very bad guys out to beat up gays just for being gay knowing full well that the cops aren’t going to step in. They’re basically just a pack of assholes out to cause trouble, they really don’t have any redeeming qualities. While the inhabitants of the apartment may not necessarily be angels, they’re clearly on the right side of things here, opening their home to a stranger simply because they know he’s in danger and want to do the proper thing.

    This was made on a modest budget, it would seem, but the filmmakers are savvy enough here not to overreach. The location used for the bulk of the film, the old rundown apartment building, is perfect. It has an appropriately scuzzy vibe to it and it suits the tone of the movie nicely. The use of violence in the film is nicely controlled, showing us the impact of the kills without going over the top in terms of on screen gore. The film’s score, which is heavy on synths, is also pretty strong here, and the movie has an interesting twist at the end that most won’t see coming. The film also gets creative in how our heroes figure out how to defend themselves against the members of ‘N.O.,’ which leads to some neat kill scenes. All in all, this one is lean, mean and sleazy but not without a decent (and thankfully, never ham-fisted) message to it.

    Note that Severin has includes two separate cuts of the movie – the eighty-four minute theatrical cut and the ninety-three minute extended cut. The difference between the two cuts is really comprised of an opening scene that shows things from the good guys' perspective, a prologue of sorts. We see Horatio read about the strike in a newspaper before helping some punks get their stalled car moved around the corner, not realizing that they've stolen it. This turns into a whole debacle with the owner of the car. From there he meets up with Chester and helps him move a motorcycle that he's puzzlingly roped up on a pulley of some sort (this scene does set Chester up as the MacGuyver of the group). It then shifts over to one of the guys from 'N.O.', securing his house with barbed wire before then establishing him as abusive to his wife. We then see him making some weapons while watching news footage about crime getting out of control in the city. He then joins up with his friends and heads into town to the bar, and from there the extended cut seems to mirror the theatrical cut.

    Siege – Blu-ray Review:

    Siege comes to Blu-ray from Severin Films ‘scanned in from the original negative’ in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The extended cut takes up 23.6GBs and the shorter theatrical gets 21.4GBs of space, both cuts sharing a 50GB disc. The opening scene with the newscast footage looks a bit rough but once we get into the movie proper, things shape up nicely. Colors are reproduced nicely, though some scenes look to have a slight blueish tint to them (having never seen the movie before, I can’t say if this should be there are not). Skin tones look good and detail is pretty solid throughout. All in all, no complaints, the transfer looks quite nice.

    Both versions of the film get 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks in English, with optional subtitles provided in English SDH only. No problems with the audio. The dialogue is clear, the track is properly balanced and there are no issues with any hiss, distortion or sibilance.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Co-Director Paul Donovan and Filmmaker Jason Eisener (the man who gave us Hobo With A Shotgun, also made in Nova Scotia!) that is available to play over the theatrical cut of the film. This starts with Eisener talking to Donovan about his background and education and how he got into filmmaking after going to film school in London and heading back to Canada to take advantage of the tax shelter program productions that were going on at the time. They then go on to talk about making Siege, covering getting access to the building where most of the action takes place, the intensity of the opening and starting the movie from the villain's perspective, shooting additional material for a prologue for the Japanese video release, getting along with the cast and crew and how all of the guys who played the heavies in the film were actually super nice in real life. He also notes that there was no agenda when they made the movie, they were simply trying to make something that would sell. He goes on to note the influence of Assault On Precinct 13, and how Siege has in turn been an influence on The Purge. As the talk continues, they discuss getting guns from locals and people affiliated with the crew rather than a prop house, where the different cast members came from, having to have a police officer on hand while shooting outside, the scope effects that are used in the movie, how the movie was always composed and intended for theatrical play rather than direct to VHS, the film's distribution history and the different territories it played in (oddly enough it never played theaters in Canada itself), how a guy who lived in the building where the movie was shot did the SFX scenes and lots, lots more. This is a really interesting track, there's no dead air here and it's loaded with information.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options. As to the packaging, Severin has made this release available with a limited edition slipcover and with some cool reversible cover sleeve artwork (both sides of which are unique and are not duplicated on the slipcover).

    Siege – The Final Word:

    Siege really should be a better known film than it is, and hopefully this release from Severin Films will go some way towards making that happen. It’s a tense, gritty and violent action thriller that hits all the right notes and which proves deliriously entertaining from start to finish. Consider this one essential.

    Click on the images below for full sized Siege Blu-ray screen caps!