Wednesday, November 20, 2013

John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 from Movie Morlocks


Ed here: I'm one of those John Carpenter fans who devoutly wish his career had stayed on track. He directed four or five of the most exciting, darkest B movies of his generation, movies that will last forever. Precinct 13 is one of them. I haven't seen the Ethan Hawke version. The trailer put me off so much I gave it a pass. Carpenter's original I've seen at least six times and will watch it again several more times.

From Movie Morlocks Posted by  on November 19, 2013

Carpenter’s first feature, the sci-fi comedy Dark Star, had started as a student film project during his time at USC, completed in stops and starts when money became available. Assault marked his professional debut, with a full cast and crew to go along with producer demands. The reported budget was $100,000, and he had twenty-five days to shoot it in. Originally titled “The Anderson Alamo”,  Assault was his homage to Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). Unable to afford an editor, Carpenter cut the film himself, using the pseudonym “John T. Chance”, the name of John Wayne’s character in the Hawks Western. Without the resources or the acting talent at Hawks’ disposal, Carpenter reduces the earlier film’s leisurely story to its central siege sequence. John Wayne, , Dean Martin, Walter Brennan and Ricky Nelson hole up in the one-horse town’s prison to guard inmate Claude Akins, whose land-grabbing brother has sent his hired goons to break him out. The prison interior becomes a proving ground, where Martin battles his alcoholism and Nelson enters maturity, and Carpenter uses Precinct 13 to similar effect. Outside of the station house all the characters are ciphers, while inside their inner lives begin to leak out.
The four narrative strands are: Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is a rookie cop sent to oversee the shutdown of Precinct 13; a local gang, who has stolen a large cache of weapons, stalks through the town; a father and daughter innocently prepare for their day; three convicts are being transported through town on a bus. A sick prisoner lands the bus at Precinct 13, while the father is chased in as well, as the only eyewitness to a cold-blooded murder. Shot in various locations in Los Angeles, from Watts to North Hollywood, the exteriors are wincingly bright, exposing vice in every shot. A bulbous warden lands a blow at cuffed inmate Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) before he is transferred, while the silent gang commits random acts of violence. Anarchy is in the air.

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1 comment:

Jerry House said...

Avoid the Ethan Hawke version with all the strength you can muster. Its only use is as a motivator for children: "If you don't behave, I'll force you to watch the Ethan Hawke version of Assault on Precinct 13!" (Don't use that threat anywhere Child Services could hear you, though. They tke these things seriously.)