Screengrab: Assault on Precinct 13

Richard Lutz eyes up the best film on TV this week.


Some of those fantasy movies out of Hollywood cost a ludicrous bundle to make. Studios spent an alarming £378 million on Pirates of the Caribbean, they spent $353 million on Avengers: Age of Ultron and they….well, it goes on and on if you get the idea.

But how about the original 42 year-old Assault on Precinct 13 (Friday: Film4, 22.45)? Are you ready? Got that seat belt cinched tight? Producers chuckled in a mere $100,000 to director John Carpenter back in 1976 to come out with this deadpan parody. That’s peanuts to film bosses.

It’s a great tongue in cheek noir/horror thriller and Carpenter himself (The Fog, Halloween) admits it’s a combo of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It’s where siege plot collides with nightmare flick.

Basically, a bunch of police, convicts and no-goods hole up in a deserted downtown cop shop as a gang of voiceless crazies throw themselves at the doors and windows to level the place. The dialogue is knowingly hammy and camp, the action hokey and OTT and the acting by a group of nobodies is clunky, amateurish and fun. There’s a budding Bogart/Bacall romance between a convicted murderer and a secretary, there’s the tight lipped top dog fending off the loonies and the usual cast of motley losers guarding the crumbling empty police station against the crazy world outside.

It all adds up to a rollercoaster thriller – and a hoot, to boot.

The 2005 remake starring Laurence Fishburn and Ethan Hawke has nothing  on the 1976 original (you can say as much for most re-makes). And you know it’s a Carpenter film with its thick mix of horror, humour, action and  parody. It makes for perfect Friday night viewing or, for that matter, in these interesting transitional times, Tuesday mornings or Sunday afternoons for you and Mr and Ms Download.