Remarkable John Carpenter action thriller about the siege of a decommissioned Los Angeles police station. It received poor box office figures when first released in the US, but has since gone on to become a cult classic.
Austin Stoker plays young black police lieutenant Ethan Bishop, whose first assignment since being promoted is to assume command of the old police station in the fictional LA suburb of Anderson (based on the real-life run-down Venice district). It's the station's last operational night before being decommissioned, and it promises to be an easy job.
Two events coincide that day- a busload of three prisoners on their way to Death Row stops at the station after one of the convicts falls ill. Elsewhere, four members of Street Thunder - a street gang - gun down the driver of an ice-cream van and his small female customer. The girl's father chases after the fleeing gangsters and shoots dead the killer, but then falls into a state of catatonic shock and flees to the Precinct 13 station for refuge a gibbering wreck, unable to communicate what has happened.
That night, Street Thunder launch a violent siege of the station, killing several of it's occupants.
Filmed during the long hot Summer of '75, the film was essentially a reworked version of the John Wayne Western 'Rio Bravo' supplanted to mid-'70s Los Angeles, with some influences of Night of the Living Dead'. Numerous subtle references to it's Wild West original come up repeatedly at various points during the film. It was released in '76 and bombed in the United States, although it's rapturous reception at the London Film Festival ensured it had tremendous success throught Britain and Europe.
The chilling synthesiser music score was revolutionary at the time; minimalist but incredibly eerie, it has the power to make even fairly inocuous imagery seem sinister.
The police station used for filming was in fact the real-life station in the LA suburb of Venice- no longer in service as a law enforcement facility, it remains treasured as an art-deco classic.
A ridiculously inferior remake of this terrific movie was made in 2005, although it is the original that most people still love.