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Blu-ray: Assault on Precinct 13 | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Assault on Precinct 13

Blu-ray: Assault on Precinct 13

John Carpenter’s classic second film still thrills

Through the smoke: Austin Stoker, Laurie Zimmer and Darwin Joston in 'Assault on Precinct 13'

An action film with an intensity that sets it apart, Assault on Precinct 13 still shocks. Although expected, its first killing is a “they wouldn’t do that, would they?” moment. No wonder the 2005 remake failed to overshadow the original. John Carpenter’s hard-boiled second feature, a follow-up to Dark Star, was filmed on a budget of $100,000 in less than three weeks in late 1975 and released the following year.

He wrote, shot and edited it as well as composing and playing its brilliant soundtrack music (the early Human League took a lot from it). With a cast of unknowns, the noir-toned Los Angeles exploitation film stands or falls on its execution and power to enthral.

As Carpenter says in the extras of this new Blu-ray release, Assault on Precinct 13 was his version of Howard Hawks’s western Rio Bravo, with a touch of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. In this case, a police station in contemporary suburban Los Angeles is under siege on the night before it shuts down, rather than a small town.

Each precise set-up is framed for maximum effect

The cast give remarkable, flab-free performances. Austin Stoker is police Lieutenant Ethan Bishop, straight down the line in his decency and stoicism. Condemned criminal Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston), stopping off on the way to Death Row, turns out to be a tower of strength. As the station’s admin person Leigh, Laurie Zimmer dominates with her mix of can-do attitude and fatalism tinged with positivity. Douglas Knapp’s cinematography is also a joy: each precise set-up is framed for maximum effect. No space is wasted.

Assault on Precinct 13 is well-served by this new edition which is packed with extras (though there's no booklet). The image quality is superb and emphasises the inventive lighting. The (grainy) trailer, various shorts and Carpenter’s commentary are complemented by two essentials: the director's recently discovered oddball student short Captain Voyeur, and the dreamlike full-length, Agnès Varda-influenced 2003 French documentary Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer? Assault on Precinct 13 is a classic and this package is a great way to see it.

The noir-toned Los Angeles exploitation film stands or falls on its execution and power to enthral


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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