on 19 February 2005
Assault on Precinct 13 is probably one of John Carpenter's best films (along with The Thing). That said, you certainly don't have to be a fan of John Carpenter's other films to enjoy this.
Although the film does look rather dated now (hardly surprising considering it was made in 1976), it still manages to entertain the viewer with its thrilling action sequences and by constantly maintaining the tension until the very end. The electro music also adds to the overall feel of the film.
Overall, a film worth adding to your collection.
Carpenter's revamp and resurrection of Rio Bravo and Night of the Living Dead is undoubtedly one of the best films of the last 30 years, and unfortunately one of the most overlooked. With the recent remake, (still haven't seen) hopefully more people will see this and recognise it as a modern classic. Low budget, unknown actors, tense, shocking and exciting, witty dialogue, shady characters, Assault is everything you would expect from a classic Carpenter film.
A group of criminals are being transported to another prison by armoured truck when one of them becomes seriously ill. They decide to stop at the local Police Station to lock up the prisoners and see if they can help the man. However, the Station they stop at is closing down and there is only one cop and a couple of secretaries inside. The prisoners are locked up, including Napolean Wilson- a notorious murderer, while the cops decide what to do. The power has been cut off, but people will be coming in the morning to finally close the place. Night has just fallen. Meanwhile a man in a frantic state runs into the station but won't say what has happened, falling into a comatose state. The Station suddenly comes under attack, and looking outside it seems that hundreds of gang members with guns have started a war with the those inside. With no help and only a few weapons, the survivors- cop, criminals, secretaries must work together to stay alive, and perhaps try to find a way out.
The two male leads of Stoker as the cop, and Joston as Napolean are both brilliant in the roles, unknown faces adding the the sense of uncertainty. Joston delivers his few lines with cool and even though he is a bad guy, he naturally becomes our favourite character. Stoker tries to hold everything together as the law, but realises this will not work. Zimmer is also strong as Leigh, delivering her lines almost passively or vacantly, almost as if she isn't there, but we sense the chemistry between her and Napolean. Burton, West, Cyphers and Loomis also do well in smaller parts, and all the cast deserved to go on to bigger parts. Carpenter creates massive tension again, the faceless enemy always outside, innumerable and even though there are cars going past and houses nearby, the gang is silent and deadly in their pursuit, ensuring that help will come. The guns with silencers are used to good effect, with papers spurting up into the air quietly meaning the cops sometimes do not even know they are being shot at.
The dialogue is minimal, every character has little to say as they all seem annoyed with each other, having to work together, dealing with the situation with no time for pointless chatter which fills other movies. The lighting adds to the tone, everything is shaded, we can only catch glimpses of the gang outside and in, and the score by Carpenter is another modern classic along with his Halloween theme. The deaths are both quiet and shocking- we don't see what happens to Loomis, while the ice cream van part would have taken great bravery to even dream of filming- there hasn't really been anything like it since. Once again Carpenter makes a brilliant film, and while he would soon go on to make bigger box-office smashes, this one stands on its own as the benchmark of low-budget film-making. Many directors try to create tension and fear throughout their careers, Carpenter could do it seemingly without effort.
Unfortunately for such an important film, the extras are awful. This deserves a commentary and interviews with cast and crew. It's unlikely we'll get a better version though, and as it is such a good film you just get it regardless.
on 24 July 2010
Assault on Precinct 13 Blu-ray Review
Distributor : Image Entertainment (US)
The original John Carpenter classic find it's way to Blu-ray disc courtesy of US distributor Image Entertainment who have unfortunately put this out on a region A locked disc.
The film has always been a must own title for classic movie collectors, so this review aims to see if the same would also apply to this Blu-ray release.
Assault on Precinct 13 has previously been widely available on a number of poor quality DVD releases which have mostly had varying degrees of problems including poor transfer, print damage and even wrong aspect ratio among them. This Blu-ray release presents a new1080p correctly framed 2.35:1 transfer which is a revelation to fans of the film. The detail which is present in the print is actually quite stunning considering the films low budget roots, colours are especially well defined and even black levels look impressive here. This film never has and probably never will again, look this good. There really is no comparison between this new Blu-ray transfer and some of those earlier DVD releases, finally this is how the film needs to be seen.
The DTS HD 5.1 audio is clear, although can seem a little flat during some of the quieter scenes, however it is at all times, free from distortion and I'm sure that any very slight muffling effect, is actually due more to the low budget roots of the film itself, rather than the presentation here. One really noticeable point on the audio, is the now classic score which sounds fantastic clearly pounding through your speakers like never before.
As far as extra features are concerned, firstly, there is an interview with director John Carpenter and actor Austin Stoker which takes place in some form of convention recorded in 2002. Following this, there is the original theatrical trailer, radio spots, still gallery, isolated score soundtrack and full director's commentary, which although perhaps not as fast paced as his usual commentary tracks, actually covers a wealth of information regarding the making of the movie, actors, filming locations and so on and it is highly recommended.
All things considered, this Blu-ray release has to be a must have package for fans of the film, or even for collectors of classic 70's action thrillers. It is unlikely that the movie will ever be bettered in it's presentation and to see the film in this new fabulous looking transfer, alone makes the Blu-ray purchase worth while.
For some unknown reason, Image Entertainments Blu-ray release seems to be a little harder to find than most regular Blu-ray titles. Whether through lack of advertising or lack of retailer promotions, this one seemed to slip through the net and it is surprising just how many people do not yet realise that the movie has even been made available on Blu-ray disc. This may also be the reason that even in the second hand markets the disc appears to be keeping it's retail price, so it may be a while before you find this one in the bargain section. Do not let that put you off though, if you can play region A locked titles, then this release is worth every penny.
An all time classic with a worthy Blu-ray release, comes highly recommended.
"L.A.'s deadliest street gang, just declared war on the cops"
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on 3 August 2015
It deserves almost five stars. The dvd is ok but now I have the blu ray and it's like a different film! Caroenter shows all his best skills in an apparently simple film that is indeed an original revisitation of western and thriller and metaphisical horror (it amticipates same mood and atmosphere as of Primce of Darkness: his masterpiece on my opinion), in a metropolitan setting and with all basic elements that reduce action, motivation and dynamics to the bone, in order to let real storytelling and cinema come out with no distractions and unessential overstructures. Dry and bitter like Leone of Argento, visionaire but very grainy like Friedkin and best 70s directors. A modern Rip Bravo that doesnt look derivative
on 30 May 2014
1976's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (the working title was "THE SIEGE) is the template for quite a few movies (the abysmal THE PURGE being the latest) that never even come close, not even the less than mediocre remake.
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 itself copies the John Wayne classic RIO BRAVO, placing it in 70s urban America.
AOP 13 is gritty, savage and bold. It broke a Hollywood taboo by unflinchingly showing a child being shot an killed without the camera panning away. It remains suspenseful till the very end, without the gang's real motive for besieging the police station ever being revealed.
Carpenter again wrote the soundtrack himself, which suits the movie's dark atmosphere.
4.0 STARS OUT OF 5.0
Reviewed version: 2005 Contender Special Edition UK DVD
Feature running time: 91 mins. (uncut)
Rating: R (MPAA) / 18 (BBFC)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16:9 (anamorphic)
Audio: English 2.0 dual mono
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Gallery (there is also supposed to be a booklet but it wasn't included in the DVD I got)
Picture and sound are good. Remastered version. Extras lack.
on 31 January 2012
i have just recieved my blu ray of john carpenter's classic assault on precinct 13 and despite the fact that image entetainment has printed that this title is region free on the back of the blu ray cover,it is region a locked and so it will not play in this country unless you have a multi region dvd player.which i do not.
it has really angered me that this company are cheating people by stating on there covers,that some of there titles are region free,when they are not,it's a blatant lie,to con blu ray fans from other parts of the world into buying something that they believe they can watch,just to be kicked in the teeth when the blu ray arrives and they put it in there player and find out that they cannot actually watch it because the disc is region a locked.
so, beware to people that want to purchase this disc and you do not live in a part of the world where blu ray disc are region a,because you might as well just throw your movey into a fire,than buy this.however if you have a region free blu ray player,then you will be fine and will be able to watch this classic film in glorious high definition.
shame on you image entertainment for being blatant con men and falsely advertising discs as region free,when they are not.i do not see in this day and age,why any company would region lock there discs,as if all company's made there discs region free,then they would sell more of them!!!!
I've become quite a fan of John Carpenter's films recently. I've always been very fond of Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing and recently bought Escape From New York and They Live. To round out my collection I bought The Fog and then this gem of a film. Assault is a film about a gang of thugs who take a blood oath to exact revenge on society for the killing, by the police, of six of their members. The precinct where the killing took place is now to be decommissioned and Austin Stoker is a cop there to oversee it's shut down. The gang go on a random killing spree and end up chasing a witness to the crimes to the old precinct. The gang then start to siege the building. All that Stoker has on his side in the precinct are two female police secretaries, two locked-up criminals... and very little ammo.
Assault is another example of John Carpenters brilliant use of the camera to build suspense (almost Hitchcock like). He is an absolute master of displaying the 'trapped' nature of the character and the big odds against their survival. There's not much to Assault script-wise but then this is more a film of survival and action. I really enjoyed Darwin Joston's role as a cold criminal-turned good guy, also Laurie Zimmer's Leigh was very cool (very Lauren Becall-like). I really enjoyed the film, great pace, likeable characters and a really fun story... another classic from John Carpenter.
As a side note I'd say this DVD (widescreen edition) is not the best picture you'll see. It struggles in the darker scenes and becomes grainy. Really with we could get a European Blu Ray release of this film.
on 27 June 2001
Dated only by the fashions and the fact that the trapped heroes don't have mobile telephones, this is a fantastic action film that has been as influential to action genre as 'Halloween' was to horror. Borrowing elements from old westerns and 'Night of the Living Dead', it's bloodier and more shocking than modern action films, and makes the modern 'Air Force One', for example, seem much worse than it is. And it has a memorable electronic soundtrack that anticipates hip-hop in places. As for the DVD, it's a shame that there aren't any extras - the American version has a director's commentary from John Carpenter, but this doesn't have a thing.
on 17 July 2009
Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing...there is no doubt that John Carpenter's peak as a director came relatively early in his career, with the aforementioned movies (all from the late 1970s and early 1980s) still regarded by most fans as his greatest work. But Carpenter's very best film came from slightly earlier than that; 1976's Assault on Precinct 13 is today regarded as a genuine cult classic. As many will already know, the story's inspired set-up is a meshing of the plots from Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (dedicated lawmen under siege) and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (relentless zombie attack), in this tale of a condemned urban police station targeted by a feral street gang.
The director uses his gift for creating eerie menace by showing us an emotionless, nihilistic group of urban terrorists who want to do nothing but kill indiscriminately; Carpenter's haunting theme music, the deliberate lack of personality afforded the gang members, and the shockingly pointless nature of their crimes (the murder of the little girl by the ice cream van is still arguably the most shocking scene in Carpenter's work) all combine to give us an incomprehensible and seemingly unstoppably evil force to rival Romero's zombie hordes (or Halloween killer Michael Myers, for that matter). On the flip-side, the film's heroic figures are characterised very well indeed by a largely unknown cast, and in the use of archetypes such as the dedicated, honest lawman, the gunfighter with a moral code, and the woman with plenty of guts, Carpenter manages to pay homage not only to Hawks' 1959 classic, but to the western genre as a whole.
The most recognisable member of the cast is probably Tony Burton, best known as the trainer of Carl Weathers' Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies; here he plays the ill-fated Wells, one of the two Death Row convicts who find themselves caught up in the siege. The other prisoner, played by the forgotten Darwin Joston, is Napoleon Wilson, a sardonic, fearless killer in the mould of the classic western gunfighters. Clearly 'born out of time', the character of Wilson is somewhat of a cipher; all we know about him is that he 'killed some men', but he cannot give the other characters nor the audience any real reason as to why. Two of Wilson's most telling lines are taken not from Rio Bravo, but from another classic western, Sergio Leone's masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West; when asked the origin of his unusual first name, Wilson replies that he will only reveal it at 'the moment of dying', whilst he also proclaims that he was once told he had 'something to do with death' inside him. Like Charles Bronson's character Harmonica in the Leone classic, Wilson is all too aware that if a man's only talent is his ability to kill, he must have no place in the modern world. Joston is marvellously charismatic in the role of the fatalistic Wilson, and it seems sad that his role here didn't lead to bigger and better things; after a few generally forgettable parts, mostly on TV, he eventually ended up working as a crew member on movies such as Wild at Heart, before his death from leukaemia in 1998.
The little known Austin Stoker, playing dedicated cop Ethan Bishop, had nothing under his belt but a few supporting parts in below-par films like Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Sheba, Baby before he bagged the leading role here; Bishop is a less interesting character than Wilson, but Stoker provides the audience with a strong identification figure of an decent man determined to do the right thing in a doomed situation. And Laurie Zimmer (who, as far is known, had just a couple of minor roles after this film, then vanished from acting altogether), is similarly strong as secretary Leigh, whose mild flirtation with killer Wilson suddenly becomes rather poignant at the film's climax.
Assault on Precinct 13 is one of the great 1970s 'urban hell' films. As a B-movie, it might not have the polish or popular reputation of The French Connection or Taxi Driver, and the low budget is sometimes visible on screen (the climactic underground explosion isn't particularly impressive). But even within these limits, the film is still compelling enough to rate as Carpenter's best and most enjoyable film. The 2005 remake, though a reasonable action romp in its own right, really can't hold a candle to this original. 'We're out of time, out of ammunition, and like Wells, we're out of luck...'
on 1 March 2005
This is an excellent movie, probably better than Halloween, so the movie is 5 stars and the print and sound are excellently done, but the extras are pretty poor for a re-release.
An 8-page booklet, a trailer and a photo gallery of screen grabs from the movie.