Release date: 17th January 2005
Running time: 91 mins
Director: John Carpenter Stars: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer and Charles Cyphers
Region 2 PAL.
As yet another big-budget Hollywood remake gets ready to blight our cinema screens, this DVD release of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 presents the perfect opportunity to reappraise John Carpenter's original 1976 masterpiece as it was meant to be seen.
A member of a vicious gang known as Street Thunder, (in one of the film's most shocking and memorable scenes), brutally and senselessly murders a young girl as she buys an ice-cream. The girl's father quickly tracks the gang down and kills their leader. Barely escaping from the gang himself, the man finds refuge in a soon to be abandoned police station manned only by a couple of duty officers and a secretary. Meanwhile, a prison bus transporting a group of convicts is forced to stop at the station to use its holding cells as temporary accommodation for the criminals. Having followed the young girl's father, the members of Street Thunder are determined to avenge their leader's death and they begin to lay siege upon the police station with an arsenal of automatic weapons. Totally isolated inside the building, the criminals and cops must reluctantly join forces to fend off the deadly assault.
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 was writer-director John Carpenter's second feature (DARK STAR, 1974 being his first), and alongside HALLOWEEN (1978) it is undoubtedly one of his finest works, and is arguably one of the greatest "B-movies" of all time.
Described by the director as his "modern-day, urban version of the Western", ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is essentially a reworking of Howard Hawks' classic RIO BRAVO (1959) spiced up with elements of George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968); similarities including the black central character, and the hordes of outsiders attempting to get into the police station.
One of the stand-out features of the film is the minimal, unsettling electronic score, composed by Carpenter himself, which was often emulated in subsequent thrillers and horror films during the 1980's, but never matched. Coupled with the excellent score are some inspired sound effects, such as the bullets shattering the windows of the disused office, scattering piles of paperwork everywhere and ricocheting off walls and furniture. This scene still makes you want to lie down on the floor, out of range, with your hands over your ears - well it did with me.
Although a hybrid of the Western, Horror and Thriller genres, Carpenter provides moments of respite from the escalating tension with some excellent dialogue and doses of black humour. An example of this is in the now classic scene where a member of the beseiged group discusses an escape plan, which he somewhat selfishly refers to as 'Save Ass'. The plan involves him getting out of the building, and "Running like a bastard".
The fully restored and remastered ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 – SPECIAL WIDESCREEN EDITION (cert. 18) will be released on DVD (£16.99) by Contender Entertainment Group on 17th January 2005. Special Features include original Panavision 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation, original trailer, stills gallery and collector's booklet. The DVD is packaged in a limited edition clamshell box.
"Got a smoke?"