7.4/10
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220 user 177 critic

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

A police sergeant and an unlikely band of criminals defend a closing LA precinct office on New Years Eve against an army of gang members.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Julie (as Nancy Loomis)
Peter Bruni ...
John J. Fox ...
Marc Ross ...
Alan Koss ...
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Gilbert De la Pena ...
Chicano Warlord (as Gilbert De La Pena)
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Storyline

Police ambush and kill several gang members in Los Angeles. Gang members make a pact of blood to strike back at police, and conduct a siege on the police station which is almost abandoned and due to be closed. Staff of the closing precinct and the criminals being held there while in transit must work together to fight off the attacking gang members. Written by Scott McKenna <smckenna@lcb.state.nv.us>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A cop with a war on his hands. His enemy... an army of street killers. His only ally... a convicted murderer. See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

5 November 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$150,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the gang members draw their own blood into a bowl, they're performing a Cholo ritual--a vow to destroy their enemies in full force, even at the cost of their own lives. See more »

Goofs

After the little girl is shot, the father chases the suspect. The car chase clearly starts during the light of day and continues into late dusk. A two hour chase in a populated city wouldn't go unnoticed by police. See more »

Quotes

Julie: Why would anybody want to shoot at a police station?
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Connections

Referenced in Prince of Darkness (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

Assault On Precinct 13 (Main Title)
Written by John Carpenter
Performed by John Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Brilliant, Suspenseful and Beautiful
6 February 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Set in gang-riddled Los Angeles in the 1970s, director John Carpenter was inspired to make a film that was basically a combination of Rio Bravo (1959) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) with rookie cop Ethan Bishop in John Wayne's Rio Bravo role/Duane Jones' Ben, a recently vacated police precinct as the small town jail/farmhouse, and with gang members in place of Night of the Living Dead's zombies/Nathan Burdette's men.

For some viewers, that premise alone may be enough for them to not be able to grant this film a 10, but Assault on Precinct 13 is yet another example of why quality isn't correlated to having unprecedented ideas.

One of the first striking things about Assault on Precinct 13 is that it looks beautiful. It was made on a relatively low budget, and it looks like a large percentage of the money must have gone into camera rental, film stock and film processing. Douglas Knapp's color cinematography is crisp, innovative (I just love the shot with the camera mounted in front of the car headlight, with the sunset in the background) and marvelously portrays Los Angeles as a gritty, suburban wasteland as well, if not better, than any other film I can think of. What makes it effective isn't over-the-top, run down buildings and heavily populated streets, but vast, wide-open spaces, with squat, nondescript houses and buildings, all fading into nothingness. Knapp even manages to make the streets look like this, and a couple scenes are set in what is effectively a sand-logged desert, with a lonely, dangerous phone booth sitting in isolation. The police station also reflects the suburban wasteland look in terms of its spaces and their relationship to each other, its sparseness and its colors.

The low budget nature of the film forced a very successful straightforward, brutal and realistic approach to the action, especially the violence. Carpenter, on his commentary track on the DVD, notes that some scenes weren't as he would have liked because they didn't have the coverage they needed, and had to let them play out, longer than normal, from a single angle. Thank the heavens for a lack of time and funding! Despite the over-the-top mayhem in subsequent action films by other directors, the impact of many of the scenes in this film cannot be topped, and it's often because of the unusual, almost documentary-like feel of the film.

Also adding to the effect is Carpenter's score. Although it's technically primitive, it's just as good as any of his other music, and Carpenter is as talented as a film composer as he is as a director. His use of motifs, often in an almost trance-like repetition, is similar too, and just as effective as, both Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone.

The performances are all excellent, and the staging is even better. If you know anything about the premise of the film before you begin watching it for the first time, you may have difficulty figuring out how they're going to pull off the central situation of the film. The logistics seem to be against creating a prolonged tense situation. Carpenter and company create the perfect scenario with just a couple ingenious moves, and the unending threat, combined with the unusual pacing of the zombie-like menace make Assault on Precinct 13 as frightening as any horror film could be.


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