To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the release of AOP13, Second Sight films are delighted to announce a newly restored high definition version of the film from a 1080p transfer. It is presented in a stunning limited edition Blu-ray box set, packed full of brand new special features including an early John Carpenter student short, as well as the original soundtrack CD and art cards, and is set for release on 28 November 2016 – this release belongs in everyone’s ‘cult film’ collection.
John Carpenter considers AOP13 to be his first ‘real’ film as it was shot within a time frame, whereas 1974’s ‘Dark Star’ seemed difficult to make as both directors Carpenter and O’Bannon were multi-tasking various roles in the film. Hollywood it would seem still marvelled at just what Carpenter could do on a shoe string budget, $60,000 respectively. What I find to be incredible is that AOP13 was shot on a budget of $100,000!
The film was initially met with high criticism when released in America more notably O’Bannon was disgusted with the film, a hint of bitterness which had stemmed from Carpenter’s success over his own. It wasn’t until the following year that its presence in the UK and Europe would start to give the film its cult status, what followed was a reassessment by the American critics and viewers and an appreciation for what Carpenter had achieved.
The film starts with an LAPD raid on a gang, 6 members of the gang are killed. The warlords of the gang meet and swear a blood oath to take revenge on not only the police but the people of L.A. Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), a newly promoted cop gets sent to Precinct 13, to aid in the shutting down of the station, the station is all but empty bar storage boxes full of equipment and a handful of staff waiting until the morning until the doors finally close for good.
Across the city a car full of gang members are driving around (at first I thought without purpose) but later it becomes clear they are on the hunt to kill, they bump into someone that owes them money who happens to be an ice-cream man. He is killed in cold blood along with one of his customers a young girl (I’m sure this scene at the time raised a few eyebrows). The father of the child gets in his car and tracks down the thug that murdered his daughter and shoots him without thought, immediately they seek revenge, following the father to the closest police station he could find...precinct 13.
Furthermore there is a prison wagon transporting 3 inmates to a new prison, one of the inmates becomes really ill on the journey and the special detective decides they need to make a stop at a secure location, the driver finds the nearest precinct – 13. The plan is to hold up until they can get a doctor to the suffering prisoner. The game is on, the gang has congregated and they attack, determined to kill, all of the parties involved are now forced to bunker down and find what weaponry they can to survive the onslaught.
Although the plot has a few rolling elements to it, eventually they join together with a sense of simplicity. It’s easy to follow and is genuinely tense when the ball gets rolling, some of the kills show elements of early ‘gore’ and brutality, although this is by no means a horror it absolutely excels in the thriller department. For once you can connect to the characters, you want the team to survive. They are heavily outnumbered and outgunned but as odd as it sounds seem to merge a relationship that focuses on teaming up and surviving, the fact that there are prisoners that have been locked up for fairly heinous crimes doesn’t even come into the equation.
The cast at the time consisted of mainly unknown actors – most of whom going onto have successful careers in the industry. I felt the whole cast played their parts to a tea and I’m sure you will certainly notice at least a couple of faces from others films. For me stand out roles are Ethan the Lieutenant (Austin Stoker), the two inmates Wells and Napoleon (Tony Burton, Darwin Joston) and Laurie Zimmer as ‘Leigh’ who is one of the female secretaries, she is convincing as the ‘tough’ one with a soft side.
Assault on Precinct 13 is regarded as one of the best exploitation films of the 70’s. For me the story behind the films creation is just as interesting in the plot itself. Carpenter’s pulsating synth-driven soundtrack is a piece of mastery, by his own admission was a pain to create, taking 3-4 days in itself, but the end effect being a very memorable addition to a gritty film. The film deserves its cult status and it’s great to see this release being made 40 years on.