Assault at Last

prec13Readers may recall that my first disc purchase this year was Second Sight’s new edition of Assault on Precinct 13 on blu-ray, which I then inexplicably failed to actually watch (although I did watch the discs most interesting featurette, Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer, which was all kinds of poignant and profound and just downright fascinating).

So anyway, here we are, the end of the year, and yes, I finally got around to watching it last night. Hurrah for me. I’m pleased to say that Assault was as entertaining as ever and indeed looked finer than ever. Sure, its early Carpenter and he had better films ahead of him, but for an indie, low-budget b-movie/exploitation flick it remains just plain brilliant. It’s one of those films where the cheapness increases the films veracity; it feels gritty and real somehow, almost like a docudrama, and yet it remains a brilliantly choreographed widescreen ode to old Westerns, it is so self-consciously reverential to old Hollywood. Sure, some of it is clumsy and there are often moments when you can feel the film pushing against its limitations in budget and shooting schedule. Overall though it’s just plain cool and enriched by that throbbing, almost timeless Carpenter synth soundtrack that became such a staple of his movies.

*Whatever Happened to Laurie Zimmer?

Well I didn’t have time to watch Assault on Precinct 13 , but I did find time to watch a few of the extras on the disc. The first was an interesting interview with star Austin Stoker reminiscing about the film and talking about his background prior to appearing in it. Its a great piece; I always like these fairly contemporary interviews that look back on films wherein the subjects benefit from the perspective that the passing of time (in this case, entire decades) grants. He’s affectionate and proud regards Assault, but it’s clearly not the usual glowing EPK fluff piece that discs are usually dumped with.

laurieThe second was the documentary Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer, which suckered me in being initially unaware of its lengthier than expected (nearly an hour-long) running-time. I thought it was just a featurette but its actually an independent doc shot back in 2002. Its an elegant and quite engrossing piece and worth the price of the Assault disc alone; a fantastic edition to the extras. Laurie Zimmer of course plays Leigh in Assault, but although she was clearly beautiful and talented,  it didn’t launch her into a great career (why she never went on to star in Carpenters next film, Halloween, is a particular mystery).

Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer was made by French filmmaker Charlotte Szlovak (hence English subtitles running throughout for her narration). Szlovak had shot an ill-fated film project Slow City, Moving Fast starring Laurie Zimmer in the mid-seventies, and the documentary chiefly features footage from this project, mostly of Laurie driving a convertible through 1970s sun-drenched LA.  I’ll admit I was suckered from the start- the first sequence of the film hauntingly features a woman who certainly looks like Laurie walking from a house to a  huge 1970s-era car on a sunny morning and going out for a drive. I wasn’t sure if this was modern footage or authentic 1970s footage (it’s the latter, obviously) but something about it just pulled me in; the sense of time and place I think is quite enchanting. We learn that after shooting the film (which is inferred to have been never finished), Szlovak went back to her home country and the project was forgotten, but occasionally she would wonder whatever happened to the young actress that featured in her little film.

So, returning to LA many years later, Szlovak goes on a search for Laurie and shoots it as a film project, little realising how difficult the search would become. Cut between sequences from the 1977 film, her camera prowls the city of dreams in a fascinating journey into the past, a detective story of sorts and an exploration of the impermanence of LA’s fame and fortune. Old films, old studios and old movie theatres are like ghosts haunting the streets of this post-millennium LA and Szlovak’s search to discover whatever happened to Laurie is informed by her musings about unfulfilled dreams.

I love this kind of stuff, particularly the depth and profundity of real life set against the tinseltown legends of fame and fortune. It reminded me of the doc Searching For Sugarman that I watched a few years ago. The idea that success can be fleeting and that you can be forgotten in no time at all. That maybe you can have some kind of later validation, or that such validation means nothing anyway, that lives can have value away from wealth and fame or even being remembered.

Anyway, I won’t spoil the doc regards whether Laurie Zimmer is ever found or what happened to her, but it’s a great doc, a really fascinating and well-constructed piece. Certainly a brilliant extra for this disc, and yes, worth the money I paid for it alone- it almost relegates the Assault film to a bonus feature to be honest.  I’ll be watching this particular ‘extra feature’ again, which isn’t something I could say about many.


One thought on “Assault at Last

  1. I really need to watch this again. I didn’t dislike it, but I don’t think I appreciated it ‘correctly’. Even re-reading my review, I can’t quite put my finger on why.

    I’m tempted to see how much the disc is now, but it’s not as if I don’t have enough else to watch!

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