Released in 1976, Assault On Precinct 13 was John Carpenter’s second feature film after the low budget science fiction film Dark Star. The film is a homage to the great Howard Hawks and it’s a riff’s on the director’s 1959 western Rio Bravo which starred John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson. Carpenter used John T. Chance as his pseudonym for the editing credit – the name of Wayne’s character in the Hawks film. Carpenter’s thriller was also heavily inspired by George A. Romero’s seminal 1968 horror film, The Night Of The Living Dead.
Shot on a low budget with unknown actors, Carpenter’s film is an exceptional siege movie sees a police sergeant and a group of prisoners defend a closing LA police precinct against an army of gang members. The film features a wonderfully infectious pulsating synth score from Carpenter which adds serious tension to proceedings. What makes the film work is the limited setting and the fear of the unknown terror that will never stop (a Carpenter theme – see Halloween, The Fog). It’s an exceptional piece of filmmaking.
Movies In Focus was lucky to have included Assault On Precinct 13 when I curated and hosted a John Carpenter season at Nottingham’s National Justice Museum in 2018.