ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13-United States-1976

Austin Stoker as Ethan Bishop

Darwin Joston as Napoleon Bishop

Laurie Zimmer as Leigh

Written and Directed by John Carpenter

Let’s play a game, you and I. It’s a simple game of word association. I’ll tell you a name and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready?

John Carpenter


John Carpenter

Escape from New York

John Carpenter

The Thing

Now, I never said I was good at this game. But did you notice that there’s a pattern to my madness? We know John Carpenter for his horror and for his science fiction films; but do we always remember that he was also the director of one of the best low budget action films of the 1970’s, “Assault on Precinct 13?” Watching this film I began to see the thematic templates that Carpenter would follow throughout most of his career. A small group of people under siege by an unseen or alien (or both) force; an anti-hero who puts his life on the line for the greater good; a soundtrack created by Carpenter himself that throbs along with, and against the beat of the action. All of these things have been evident in Carpenter’s films for years and I truly believe that this is where they began.

After a gang member murders his young daughter, a father kills him in retaliation. When the man seeks refuge in Precinct 13, the gang lays siege to the station; shooting it up and killing anything that moves inside. After the smoke clears the only ones left standing inside the station are a cop (Austin Stoker, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes“), a secretary (Laurie Zimmer) and two convicts, Wells (Tony Burton, “Rocky”) and a death row bound Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston, “The Fog”). Outnumbered and outgunned, will they survive the assault on Precinct 9, District 13?

The highlight of this film would have to be Joston’s performance as Wilson. He takes a stereotypical character, the guy with nothing left to lose, and makes it completely his own. There’s a lot of Snake Plissken and R.J. MacReady in Napoleon Wilson.

“Assault on Precinct 13” was inspired in part by Howard Hawk’s “Rio Bravo“. I’ve never seen “Rio Bravo”; but if it’s anything at all like ‘Precinct 13’ then I’m in for a treat.

Got a smoke?


Following the release of his first feature, Dark Star, John Carpenter was approached by a group of investors who gave him carte blanche to make whatever kind of picture he wanted, albeit with a very limited budget. Although Carpenter wanted to make a Western, he knew he wouldn’t have the resources to make a period piece. He wrote this film as a highly stylized, modern-day western, essentially remaking Rio Bravo, which was directed by Carpenter’s hero, Howard Hawks. Carpenter acknowledges this debt to Hawks and “Rio Bravo” by using the pseudonym of John T. Chance for his film editor’s credit, which was the name of John Wayne’s character in “Rio Bravo”.

The assault takes place on Precinct 9, Division 13. Many have noted the title misnomer, since there is no “Precinct 13” in the film. At first, Carpenter wanted to call the film “The Anderson Alamo” (the original title of his screenplay), and, at one point, he changed the working title to “The Siege.” CKK, the film’s distributor, was responsible for the misnomer; they rejected Carpenter’s titles and came up with the name “Assault on Precinct 13” (which they felt was more ominous sounding) during post-production.

The precinct’s new address, 1977 Ellendale Place (written on a sign erected in front of the building), was director John Carpenter’s real address when he first lived in Los Angeles.

John Carpenter has acknowledged Night of the Living Dead was an influence on the marauding street gang. Like George Romero’s zombies, they’re completely dehumanized. They hardly talk and almost seem supernatural in their ongoing resilience.



Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis-Scream Queen of the Month-October 2011

Jamie Lee Curtis-Scream Queen of the Month-October 2011

When your mother is the victim of the most famous onscreen murder of all time, the shower scene in Psycho, and your father portrayed one of America’s most notorious serial killers, the Boston Strangler, how the hell can you not have a career as a Scream Queen? Jamie Lee Curtis was probably slapped on the ass by Michael Myers when she was a baby. She has made the role of Laurie Strode as iconic as that of Michael himself and has appeared in 7 of the films in the Halloween series. In addition Miss Curtis has screamed her way through John Carpenter’s The Fog (1978), had herself a bloody time on Prom Night (1978) and rode the Terror Train in 1980.

    Curtis has also appeared in non-genre fare such as Trading Places (1983), A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and True Lies (1994). She is a published children’s book author and a blogger for The Huffington Post online newspaper. She is the wife of actor/director Christopher Guest and is the godmother of Jake Gyllenhaal. Written in Blood honors Miss Jamie Lee Curtis as our Scream Queen of the Month for October 2011!


JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES-United States-108 Mins. 1998

James Woods as Jack Crow

Daniel Baldwin as Anthony Montoya

Sheryl Lee as Katrina

Thomas Ian Griffith as Jan Valek

Maximilian Schell as Cardinal Alba

Directed by John Carpenter

Screenplay by Don Jakoby

Based on the novel by John Steakley

There is a major rule of thumb that everyone involved in movie making should take to heart. It’s called the KISS rule and it stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. John Carpenter knows all about the KISS rule. He’s been doing it for years and he’s made some of the best low budget horror films in history. That includes They Live, Christine and to an extent this movie, Vampires. To Carpenter, vampires are traditional. They sleep during the day and they rise at night to feed on the blood of the living. They burst into flame when exposed to sunlight and they die when you drive a wooden stake through their hearts. The only difference between traditional vampires and Carpenter’s vampires is the quantity. There’s a whole damn bunch of the blood-suckers in Carpenter’s movie.

The film revolves around Jack Crow, head vampire slayer for the Vatican itself. Jack’s team has just been by slaughtered by the master vampire, Valek. He’s out for revenge and he will stop at nothing to get it. Of course, being a master vampire you can’t just expect Valek to lie down and play un-dead. That wouldn’t be very sporting, now would it? Valek has an agenda all his own. He’s after an ancient relic that will grant him the ability to walk in the sunlight. Will Jack Crow get major wood and rise to the task of killing Valek, or will Valek have his day in the sun?

Vampires is not the best vampire film ever made. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It is. James Woods is in all his scenery chewing glory as Jack Crow. This film was made long before he became a Family Guy caricature. Thomas Ian Griffith has his last major film role as Valek. After this it’s been strictly direct-to-video for him. I hope he enjoyed it while it lasted. Sheryl Lee, Daniel Baldwin and Maximilian Schell round out the cast as hooker turned bloodsucker, vampire slayer and priest. No actual vampires were harmed in the making of this film and a splendid time is guaranteed by all.


Just before production began the studio cut the budget by 2/3, and the filmmakers had to furiously rework the story to fit. According to John Steakley, who wrote the novel, the finished film contained much of his dialogue and none of his plot.

Katrina has a snake tattoo on her back. Snake Plissken had a similar tattoo on his chest, the character from John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and Escape from L.A..

There are many similarities with this and another vampire film made the same year,Blade. Both are about a vampire killer, and they both have a similar plot of vampires trying to complete an arcane ritual that would allow them to move about in daylight. They also both feature a female character slowly turning into a vampire throughout. In addition, Tim Guinee appears in both films.


This is a filmography of John Carpenters’ theatrical films within the horror, sci-fi and action genre. It is not a complete filmography and that is why films that he directed for TV or Cable are not included.


John Carpenter directed several short films from 1969 to 1974, when he then directed his first full length feature film: DARK STAR. The film was co-written by Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon, who would go on achieve fame as the co-writer of ALIEN with Ronald Shusett. DARK STAR itself is now considered a cult classic.


Carpenter followed up DARK STAR with a modern day western entitled ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. The film is an homage to RIO BRAVO and to his hero, Howard Hawks. In fact, for his film editing credit he used the pseudonym “John T. Chance“. This was John Waynes’ characters name in RIO BRAVO.


In 1978 John Carpenter made the film that would establish him as a master of horror, would make Jamie Lee Curtis a scream queen for much of her career and would make October 31st the night he came home. Made on a very low budget (the leaves were spray-painted construction paper cut-outs and Michaels mask was a prototype Captain Kirk mask), it went on to gross around $47 million and would be his most financially successful film to date.

THE FOG-1980

After helming two made-for-TV movies (SOMEONES’ WATCHING ME and ELVIS, the latter his first collaboration with Kurt Russell), Carpenter cast his then-wife Adrienne Barbeau and mother/daughter scream queens Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis for THE FOG. When THE FOG rolls in, the terror begins.


Carpenter re-unites with his ELVIS star Kurt Russell for this futuristic action/adventure that is by far one of his most popular films to date. The names of some of the characters are the names of horror films great such as David Cronenberg and George Romero.


Once again teaming up with Kurt Russell, Carpenter made a film that was reviled upon its’ release but is now considered a classic of the horror/sci-fi genre. The all male ensemble cast is excellent in what is in my opinion Carpenters’ masterpiece as a film maker.


How do you follow up a masterpiece like THE THING? Carpenter did it by adapting Stephen King’s book about a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury. Keith Gordon, the actor who plays Arnie Cunningham, went on to be a successful director himself and has helmed several films and TV shows including A MIDNIGHT CLEAR and DEXTER.


In 1984 Carpenter directed Jeff Bridges in an Academy Award nominated performance as an alien who takes the form of a young widows’ husband in this sci-fi romance that also starred Karen Allen (RAIDERS of the LOST ARK).


Teaming again with Kurt Russell in 1986, Carpenter directed this action adventure comedy also starring Kim Cattrall. Due to poor promotion the film was a bomb upon it’s release. It has since become a cult hit due to home video rentals.


Carpenter returned to horror with PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Donald Pleasance protrayed Father Loomis, an homage to the character he portrayed in HALLOWEEN.


“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was the star of Carpenters’ next film about a society  where subliminal messages are planted by aliens who wear the guise of the rich and affluent. The five minute plus fight scene between Piper and Keith David would parodied blow for blow on the popular comedy SOUTH PARK in the ‘cripple fight’ sequence of episode 67.


This was Carpenters first studio film since BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and is based on the novel by H.F. Saint.


Carpenter directed Sam Neill in this Lovecraftian horror thriller from 1995. Sutter Canes’ popularity is clearly based on the real life following of author Stephen King.


This remake of the 1960 film by Wolf Rilla would be actor Christopher Reeve’s final film before the horseback riding accident that would leave him paralyzed until his death in 2004.


In what would be his fifth collaboration with Kurt Russell, Carpenter directed this sequel to his brilliant sci-fi action film ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.


Carpenter directed James Woods as vampire hunter Jack Crow and his battle against the master vampire Jan Valek.


This would be Carpenters’ last theatrical film until 2010 when he will be directing THE WARD.

HALLOWEEN (1978) and HALLOWEEN (2007)

HALLOWEEN-United States-91 Mins. 1978 & HALLOWEEN-United States-109 Mins. 2007

Halloween 1978 Directed by John Carpenter

Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode

Donald Pleasance as Dr. Sam Loomis

Nick Castle as The Shape (Michael Myers)

Nancy Loomis as Annie Brackett

P.J. Soles as Lynda van der Klok

Halloween 2007 directed by Rob Zombie

Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill (1978 screenplay) and Rob Zombie


Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode

Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Sam Loomis

Tyler Mane as Michael Myers

Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett

Kristina Klebe as Lynda van der Klok

I just watched John Carpenters’ breakthrough film Halloween for probably the fifth or sixth time in my entire life. I have watched Rob Zombie’s re-imagining of the horror classic at least three times if memory serves me well. Having said all this, I can say one thing that will anger a lot of people but I say it with absolute honesty and will not change my opinion. Rob Zombies’ Halloween is better than John Carpenters’ Halloween.

Now before you get out the butcher knife to stab me in the  heart let me further explain myself. There are a lot of things about Carpenter’s Halloween that I like. Carpenter is a master at building and keeping suspense and drawing the viewer into the story. His will always be the definitive Michael Myers. What makes Zombie’s’ Halloween superior to Carpenter’s’ is one simple thing: Zombie created a back story for Michael. In the first film after Michael kills his sister he then walks outside just as his parents drive up to the house. The Myers family looks like a typical comfortable middle class family. I never bought that. I have always felt that Michael’s family life was a chaotic one and it seems that Zombie did as well. Carpenter’s version made one think that Michael just snapped out of the blue. Zombie shows that Michael is a product of his environment.

I also like the fact that Zombie shows the effects of what Michael’s’ actions do to his family, especially his mother. With his stepfather (the creepy William Forsythe) out of the picture, she has no one to lean on and every day that Michael’s own sanity slips further away the further her own lifeline unravels until she chooses to cut the final string herself. In the original, the only thing you were really aware of was that the family moved away from the house to start over. Michael’s mother taking her own life makes his story all the more tragic and his evil all the more intense. Incidentally, I though t that Sheri Moon Zombie did an excellent job as Deborah Myers, Michael’s mother.

Anyway, those are my reasons. I am sure that most people will disagree with me. Such is life. Stay scared, everybody!!

TRIVIA-John Carpenter’s Halloween

As the movie was actually shot in early spring in southern California (as opposed to Illinois in late October), the crew had to buy paper leaves from a decorator and paint them in the desired autumn colors, then scatter them in the filming locations. To save money, after a scene was filmed, the leaves were collected and reused. However, as Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter note on the DVD audio commentary, the trees are quite full and green and even some palm trees can be seen, despite that in Illinois in October, the leaves would probably be mostly gone and there would be no palm trees.
Jamie Lee Curtis’ first feature film. She was paid a reported $8,000 for her efforts.
Due to its shoestring budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest mask that they could find in the costume store: a Star Trek William Shatner mask. They later spray-painted the face white, teased out the hair, and reshaped the eye holes. Shatner admitted that for years he had no idea his likeness was used for this film. It was only during an interview that someone mentioned his mask was being used. He has since stated that he is honored by this gesture.
TRIVIA-Rob Zombie’s Halloween
Oliver Stone was rumored to be attached to this project before he decided to make World Trade Center.
At one point Dimension Studios considered making a crossover film featuring Pinhead from the Hellraiser series, following in the footsteps of Newline Cinema’s horror crossover Freddy vs. Jason. A poll was held on the official site, but response from fans was negative and the studio dropped the concept.
This is third Halloween film that Danielle Harris has been in. She first appeared in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5 as Jamie Lloyd, daughter of Laurie Strode. (Her character was re-cast in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, and then killed off.)