Stars: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer, Martin West, Tony Burton, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Kyes, John J. Fox, Henry Brandon, Kim Richards, Frank Doubleday | Written and Directed by John Carpenter
I class myself as a John Carpenter fan, but the fact that I’d not seen Assault on Precinct 13 bugged me. Now thankfully with the Second Sight release of Assault on Precinct 13: 40th Anniversary Limited Edition on Blu-ray, I finally got to fix that.
When police sergeant Ethan Bishop (Austin) is given the job of holding the fort at a closing LA precinct office on New Year’s Eve he hopes the night will go smoothly. When a man turns up in shock, chased by a group of gang members though, it seems things will hardly go smoothly.
The premise for Assault on Precinct 13 isn’t a unique one, in fact director John Carpenter even mentions in the commentary that his inspiration for the film was classic western Rio Bravo. Simple in design, Carpenter as writer and director manages to turn it into an interesting battle.
One of the ways this is done is to set up the group in the precinct building, a few cops, a group of prisoners and the father of a murdered child. The two stand out characters as Bishop, and prisoner Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston). The relationship between these two is arguably what makes the film work so well.
It is interesting to watch Assault on Precinct 13 and see the horror elements that are in place. In terms of where this film lies chronologically it was made in 1976, before Halloween. What we see in the way the gang are represented though are almost a zombie like horde who keep on attacking, hiding in the shadows ready to pounce. The fact that Carpenter also handles the music brings in his trademark synthesizer soundtrack.
This is what makes Assault on Precinct 13 such a memorable movie. If pulled the film apart and looked at its low-budget style, not much really happens. Under Carpenter’s direction though he creates a tense thriller that fans of his other films will instantly become a fan of. Not only action films like Escape from New York, but also his horror movies like The Thing and Halloween. There is enough feeling of dread and surprisingly effective kills to make this close to being a horror in itself.
What Assault on Precinct 13 shows is that Carpenter, even in his early work already had that style that we know and love. To be fair though he did show this in Dark Star too. Even though Assault on Precinct 13 has been remade with bigger named stars and modernised, this is the version to see.
Second Sight have shown the film the respect it deserves with the Assault on Precinct 13: 40th Anniversary Limited Edition release. The Blu-ray shows off the film with an impressive picture quality, and there are plenty of special features to enjoy. This includes two commentaries, plenty of interviews with cast and crew and a few Blu-ray exclusives including Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer.
If you are a fan of Assault on Precinct 13, then this is a must-buy release. For those who’ve not had the chance to see this cult classic yet should take this chance to see it in an excellent quality package of not only the movie, but plenty of supporting material to introduce you into the world of Assault on Precinct 13.
Assault on Precinct 13: 40th Anniversary Limited Edition is available on Blu-ray and also DVD in the UK now.