Henry Brandon

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.



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).

The Land Unknown (1957, Virgil W. Vogel)

The Land Unknown has it all—a guy in a Tyrannosaurus Rex suit (the dinosaur’s roar is suspiciously similar to Godzilla’s), lizards standing in for dinosaurs, awful rear screen projection of those lizards to make them seem large, CinemaScope, misogyny, torture, a homicidal rapist being portrayed as a sympathetic character and a cute little tarsier. The poor tarsier gets eaten by a tentacle plant, which also attacks the girl. It’s tragic when the tarsier is eaten (Land Unknown actually has some really good ideas, just no way of executing them). It’s sad when the girl survives.

Shirley Patterson plays that girl and thanks to her incredibly bad performance, some of the other weak performances are tolerable. Protagonist Jock Mahoney, for example, isn’t awful. Neither is his sidekick, played by William Reynolds (though Mahoney is far better). The film’s opening suggests the two men will be competing for Patterson’s affect (it also implies she’s going to sleep with 800 sailors… it’s a special film when it comes to how it portrays women), but it never happens. There’s just her lame romance with Mahoney.

It’s hard to find an adjective to accurately describe the awfulness of Patterson’s performance. But… even if she weren’t in the film, there’s still Henry Brandon and Phil Harvey. Both of them are atrocious too.

Vogel’s incapable of composing for CinemaScope.

Besides the surprising potential in the script, both events and concepts, the miniature settings look great. Too bad the models look bad.

It’s a laughably terrible picture.



Directed by Virgil W. Vogel; screenplay by László Görög, based on an adaptation by William N. Robson and a story by Charles Palmer; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Fred MacDowell; produced by William Alland; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jock Mahoney (Cmndr. Harold ‘Hal’ Roberts), Shirley Patterson (Margaret ‘Maggie’ Hathaway), William Reynolds (Lt. Jack Carmen), Henry Brandon (Dr. Carl Hunter), Douglas Kennedy (Capt. Burnham) and Phil Harvey (Steve Miller).

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