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Friday, October 25, 2013

'Assault on Precinct 13:' A temporary commander, a suburban dad, and transferring prisoners walk into a closing police station

Assault On Precinct 13 [Collector's Edition] with Exclusive Poster!
Shout! Factory's November 19, 2013 Blu-ray release of the 1976 John Carpenter classic film "Assault on Precinct 13" give fans of this cult classic genuine cause to rejoice. The surprisingly clear images and crisp sound really enhance this movie.

As an aside, Shout's Blu-ray release of  Carpenter's "trilogy of terror" "Body Bags" hits actual and virtual store shelves on November 12, 2013. Unreal TV will review this one as part of a series of Halloween posts next week.

Although many critics and fans validly consider "Assault" a variation of zombie movies from Carpenter and other hall-of-fame worthy horror directors, this tale of a street gang launching a vicious attack on a police station hours before it is scheduled to shut down seems closer to the 1979 film "The Warriors."

"Warriors" is equally low-budget and incredibly violent film about the titular New York street gang running a gauntlet of comically themed opposing gangs following a peace summit gone horribly wrong.

Like "Assault," the violence in "Warriors" starts as brutal as any video game and ramps up from there to a climatic battle that is reminiscent of a very avante-garde staging of "West Side Story." These scenes prompted the Massachusetts legislature to launch a failed "banned in Boston" campaign. Of course, that only prompted every male between the ages of 12 and 18 in the Boston area to see the film.

An associated warning to "Warriors" fans that watch "Assault" is that viewing that film will fill your mind's eye with images of human popsicles. You will also get the taunt "Warriors, come out and plaaay" stuck in your head.

Returning to "Assault," this fact that the opening credits gives the coveted final actor "as ..." credit to then-former early '70s sitcom "Nanny and the Professor" moppet and future "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Kim Richards indicates the intentionally campy quality of the film right off. Further, "Nanny" fans will get a HUGE laugh regarding the lack of prudence that Richards' character displays in "Assault."

The following trailer, courtesy of YouTube, of "Assault" provides an excellent sense of the film. The sharp contrast in the quality of this clip and the Blu-ray release highlights the enhancements referred to above.
The first 30 minutes of "Assault" establish the stories that ultimately bring the film's characters to the titular police station before the titular attack.

Suburban kid Kathy who Richards plays and her incredibly white bread father have come to an inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood to visit her elderly "nanny" to persuade her to come live with their family. Things start going awry when Dad stops to make a telephone call.

Meanwhile, a police lieutenant is on his way to the station to babysit on its last night so that the regular commander can work at the replacement precinct building. The jokes about the lieutenant being in for a quiet night alone ensure the ensuing mayhem.

The next piece of the puzzle relates to an enroute emergency requiring temporarily housing inmates who are being transferred from one prison at Precinct 13.

One of these developments leads to the very violent and heavily-armed street gang known as Street Thunder that comprises a different form of Rainbow Coalition than Jesse Jackson envisioned first isolating the precinct from the outside world and then beginning a well-planned attack that includes quasi-advanced combat tactics.

The intense suspense starts with isolating the precinct and intensifies regarding anticipating the next round of gunfire. The gang members being very skilled at concealing both themselves and the evidence of their attacks create genuine tension.

The usual plethora of special features that Shout! includes in releases include a handful of interviews with Carpenter and actors from the film, the film's trailer, and radio ads for "Assault."

The final debriefing regarding the Blu-ray release is that it is an excellent choice for an evening in which your tastes run more toward Quentin Tarantino than Merchant Ivory. Watching it nearly 40 years after its release demonstrates that it has earned the cult film status that it enjoys.

Anyone with questions about "Assault" or "Warriors" is welcome to email me. You can also track me down on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.