1428 Elm starts John Carpenter Week with the filmmaking legend’s first feature film and one of his very best. Ready to assault a few precincts?
The Career Begins With An Assault
After stunning the film world with his USC (University of Southern California) student film, John Carpenter is looking to begin his career. After turning Dark Star into a feature length film – beginning as a short — producer J. Stein Kaplan (college friend) approaches the future Halloween director to spearhead features. After “Eyes”, eventually The Eyes of Laura Mars, is sold off, the two venture to make a movie redefining siege films. They’re readying an assault and even the thirteenth precinct isn’t safe.
Assault on Precinct 13 — Courtesy of Turtle Releasing
You’re Pretty Fancy Wilson
The film is Assault on Precinct 13. Made for $100,00 in the fall of 1975, the film become the first of many classics in the Carpenter canon. With shooting spanning a mere 20 days, the film is a raw and gritty story of survival. Graying the lines between good, bad and spectrum’s side we choose, Assault is unlike anything before it — anything since.
With it’s brilliant figures, including an all-time great character in Napoleon Wilson, the film causes viewers to question their allegiances while putting a microscope on the titles we assign. The movie follows a cop, watching a precinct ’till sunrise and ready for an uneventful night. But after a bus transporting convicts stops to use its vacant holding cells, a gang ascends on the station looking for payback. With only convicts and secretaries, the man must choose who to save and whom to save him. It’s a brilliant script breaking down racial barriers and constrains of social classicism from the then 27-year old auteur.
One Man Assault
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In the 1976 classic, Carpenter begins showcasing the juggernaut filmmaker he truly is. While providing scripting and direction duties, Carpenter offers up the first in a long line of unforgettable scores. Beginning with credits over a black background — a true Carpenter staple — the score thrusts his audiences into Assault’s world head on. It’s a chilling use of music, foreshadowing how the filmmaker uses themes to express character, mood and intensity.
But the New York born director’s duties don’t end there. After taking on a team’s worth of tasks, the director also edits the picture. Under the pseudonym John T. Chance, a reference to Howard Hawk’s Rio Bravo (a Carpenter favorite and inspiration for Assault on Precinct 13), the filmmaker pieces together his tale with precision and poise — on top of other creative demands. If that doesn’t make him one of film’s greatest voices, nothing will.
Assaulting The Masses
Upon opening up at the State Theater in Los Angles on Nov. 3, 1976, the film does little business and receives mixed reviews. When the film hits the Cannes Film Festival in May of 1977, British critics begin embracing the picture and seeing its true value. But when the picture hits the London Film Festival in December the same year, everything changes. And the rest is history.
Today, Assault on Precinct 13 is regarded as an unforgettable classic. With a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, people are now embracing the 1976 classic like never before. Is the film fancy?…It has moments.
John Carpenter Week is just heating up, so don’t go anywhere as 1428 Elm is only getting started on its dedication to the filmmaking legend.
Love John Carpenter? Think Assault on Precinct 13 is one of Carpenter’s best? Let the other crazy carpenters know what you think in the comment section below.