BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

The bad news is the coronavirus is causing worldwide devastation.

The good news is I’m catching up on my movie watching.

BQB here with yet another classic movie review.

Ever since I saw Escape from New York (and more recently, They Live) I have become a fan of John Carpenter films. This is ironic, because though his Halloween is the film that started the slasher movie craze, the original Halloween doesn’t seem like it really holds up when it comes to plot, at least IMO, but at any rate, They Live, Escape from NY and this film are all good.

The plot? Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), working his first night out as a newly minted police lieutenant, is recruited to stand watch over a rundown police precinct in a crime ridden neighborhood during the building’s last night of operation. The precinct is slated to be closed permanently the next morning, so Lt. Bishop is the only cop on scene.

Mr. Lawson, a father who loses his young daughter to a terrifyingly violent street gang, fights back, only to be marked for death. He seeks shelter at the station and the gang, seeing the precinct is poorly defended, begin to lay siege.

Bishop’s only backup includes secretary Leigh (Laurie Zimmer, playing against old fashioned female stereotypes as she looks quite comfortable wielding a six shooter), and convicts Napoleon Hill and Wells (Darwin Joston and Tony Burton, who later went on to play Rocky’s trainer, Duke, following the passing of Mickey.)

Unlikely allies, the convicts, stuck in the station’s cells due to a prison transfer gone awry, realize they need to help Bishop because the gang plans to execute anyone inside the building, no questions asked. Bishop, no fan of law breakers, realizes he’ll have to trust the baddies because he can’t take the gang on by himself.

It’s a short film, only 90 minutes long and it cuts to the chase quickly.  An early scene where Lawson’s daughter is killed is horribly gruesome and something that shocked me as I don’t think you’d see a scene like that in a movie today.

Sidenote – the 1970s were kind of a wild west time period for film. The 1950s and 1960s mostly gave us films that were glorified stage plays, heavily scripted and nothing that you wouldn’t take your family to see if it were showing on Broadway. Filmmakers rebelled against the old norms in the 70s, sometimes bringing us cinema gold but often going way too far. By the 1980s, the movie rating system reigned a lot of it in.

Anyway, when you see the ice cream truck, you might want to just fast forward it a little while. I wish I had. Just assume Mr. Lawson has been wronged.  No need to see why.

STATUS: Shelfworthy. I think it was available on tubi or some such nonsense.  There is a 2005 remake which I remember as being decent but I don’t remember enough about it to make a comparison.

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