Review: Lean, Mean Exploitation Film 'Siege' Gets Terrific New Blu-ray from Severin Films

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 3, 2021

If history has taught us anything, it's that some of the most volatile and violent events in the past can be exploited for good — and yes, even thought-provoking — entertainment. The subject here is the 1981 police strike in Halifax that lasted for 53 days and resulted in looting and angry mobs. After all, there was no police force to quell the crowds. The film in question is a lean, mean exploitation machine titled "Siege" from 1983.

Severin Films brings "Siege" (also known as "Self Defense") to Blu-ray with a 1080p presentation sourced from a new 2K scan of the original camera negative, which was recently discovered in a Nova Scotia archive. While there are no special features aside from a commentary with co-director Paul Donovan and filmmaker Jason Eisner, Severin's new release of "Siege" further proves that unique exploitation gems like this one deserve discovery and reappraisal.

The new video presentation is terrific, and the disc contains both theatrical and Cannes cuts of the film, which is yet another reason to pick up this release. You can clearly see what needed to be cut to make the story even leaner and ready for theatrical release.

A right-wing fascist group called New Order — some of the members of which are in cahoots with cops — feels the need to set some new rules in Halifax while the police strike is still raging. Members of the New Order descend on a local gay bar, beat up the patrons, and accidentally kill the owner, which forces the fascists to kill all witnesses. But one man escapes and takes refuge in a nearby apartment building. The young tenants protect the escapee and are hunted by the fascists, but the multitude of traps and weapons at their disposal help them to fight back.

"Siege" is the kind of exploitation thriller that has the simplest of setups, but it's well executed and boasts thrills that pack a punch. Less can be said about movies similar to this one. While you can draw a direct line between "Siege" and the greater film that serves as its main source of inspiration, "Assault on Precinct 13," they're both powerful resourceful thrillers that don't go for overly violent tactics. Rather, the violence is very matter of fact.

The new commentary with Donovan and Eisner is probably the closest to an oral history that we'll ever get about "Siege." Eisner is clearly a huge fan of the film and came prepared with a million questions, while Donovan is pretty responsive and goes in depth about the Canadian tax shelter the film was produced under.

Severin Films has done a great deed by releasing "Siege" on Blu-ray for a new audience to discover. This underrated exploitation gem from Canada deserves your attention.

Other special features include:

• Trailer
• Limited edition slipcover
• Reversible art

"Siege" is now available on Blu-ray from Severin Films.