Tag Archives: Nancy Kyes

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976, John Carpenter)

The titular assault in Assault on Precinct 13 doesn’t start until just over halfway through (and not at Precinct 13, but whatever). Until that point, Carpenter methodically lays out the elements to synthesize at the sieged police station. He introduces a tense gang situation, a new lieutenant (Austin Stoker), a convict being transferred to death row (Darwin Joston) and a man (Martin West) possibly unwisely traveling through the ghetto with his daughter (Kim Richards).

The way Carpenter portrays the L.A. ghetto is interesting. It’s empty, quiet and sometimes rather beautiful. He also treats the gang members like zombies–they don’t talk, they have no personalities. They’re just young and multiracial. Assault is a warning against young urban men of all creeds and colors.

Carpenter timestamps the scenes, bringing a scene of reality and commonplace to the film. When the timestamps finally do disappear, it’s because the audience–like the cast–is trapped.

At that point, Assault has its most beautiful sequence. The gang assaulting the police station is using silencers and, as they destroy it, the only sounds are of papers flying, windows breaking and drywall puncturing. It’s otherworldly.

When Carpenter finally does bring in the outside world, the timestamps return and the film’s changed entirely. In the midst of the rushed action, the film becomes about its characters and their relationships.

Great performances from Stoker, Joston, Zimmer and Tony Burton. Charles Cyphers has a nice smaller role. Excellent photography from Douglas Knapp, amazing editing from Carpenter.

Assault‘s a masterpiece.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by John Carpenter; director of photography, Douglas Knapp; music by Carpenter; produced by J. Stein Kaplan; released by Turtle Releasing.

Starring Austin Stoker (Ethan Bishop), Darwin Joston (Napoleon Wilson), Laurie Zimmer (Leigh), Martin West (Lawson), Tony Burton (Wells), Charles Cyphers (Starker), Nancy Kyes (Julie), Peter Bruni (Ice Cream Man), John J. Fox (Warden), Marc Ross (Patrolman Tramer), Alan Koss (Patrolman Baxter), Henry Brandon (Chaney) and Kim Richards (Kathy).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | JOHN CARPENTER, PART 1: THE WONDER YEARS.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Tommy Lee Wallace)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a–well, it’s kind of a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and not discrete about it at all. The setting has changed and the details, but the movie’s obviously going for the same feel. Occasionally, it even pulls something off. Tommy Lee Wallace is only an adequate director–and one who apparently doesn’t shoot enough coverage–but it’s Dean Cundey shooting Panavision. Dean Cundey shooting Panavision is never going to be a worthless experience.

Witch has one of the meanest spirited–maybe the meanest spirited–plots I’ve ever seen. A nasty Irishman is going to kill every kid on Halloween. Presumably, only in the continental United States and maybe Canada, but still. The movie even has a scene with a kid dying as part of the evil plot, something I really wasn’t expecting to see in a major studio release.

But all that mean spiritedness is revealed at the end and there’s about an hour to get through before then. The hour’s got some okay stuff and some bad stuff–Wallace’s dialogue is awful a lot of the time, so bad even Tom Atkins can’t get it out. Leading lady Stacey Nelkin is bad. Dan O’Herlihy has a great time as the mad Irishman, though. The rest of the supporting cast is immaterial.

What’s strange about the movie is it ought to be better. Producers Debra Hill and John Carpenter seem to have been the laziest producers ever, not giving the script an obviously needed polish. Carpenter did contribute the score, which is occasionally effective but the occasional references to his original Halloween score just show his mediocre effort on this one.

Wallace’s direction is strangely inept. He frequently shoots through a wall (imagine a room with four walls, the camera–in order not to make the scene look wrong–should appear to be shooting from inside those walls; Wallace often shoots through the walls), but then manages to create a fantastic tone in his exterior shots. The little town–and big reference to Body Snatchers–comes alive during Atkins’s arrival (and Witch‘s potential booms).

The film’s gotten a lot of more recent notice for its commentary about capitalism and consumerism (and, definitely vertical integration). These elements are rather clear and obviously presented in the movie–and the New York Times review at the time mentioned them–so I’m not sure why they’re a surprise. The commentary is much quieter than Carpenter had in some of his 1980s pictures; I’m not sure why this one stands out.

It’s definitely watchable for the Cundey photography and so on. Actually, it’s only really boring during the mediocre first act. As Wallace’s dialogue gets more and more absurd, the movie’s more compelling.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Millie Moore; music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Tom Atkins (Dr. Dan Challis), Stacey Nelkin (Ellie Grimbridge), Dan O’Herlihy (Conal Cochran), Michael Currie (Rafferty), Ralph Strait (Buddy Kupfer), Jadeen Barbor (Betty Kupfer), Brad Schacter (‘Little’ Buddy Kupfer), Garn Stephens (Marge Guttman), Nancy Kyes (Linda Challis), Jonathan Terry (Starker), Al Berry (Harry Grimbridge), Wendy Wessberg (Teddy) and Essex Smith (Walter Jones).


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