“Got A Smoke?”

It’s been 33 or 34 years since I first saw John Carpenter‘s Assault on Precinct 13. It’s a well-admired…make that beloved Howard Hawks/wild-in-the-’hood exploitation film, of course, but is especially memorable for Darwin Joston‘s tersely sardonic Napoleon Wilson — a performance that encompassed a kind of studly melancholia, ironic machismo, flitting comic asides and a riveting aura of existential cool. And delivered with a sort of movie-conscious, wink-winky tone, but no less legendary for that.

I just watched Assault on Blu-ray last night, and was reminded what a beautifully iconic hard-boiled egg Joston and Carpenter managed to create in Wilson. I would have a guy like Joston in movies today. I really miss that steely-folksy quality of his — that steady, working-class, no-bullshit and not-too-beautiful Warren Oates vibe.

A New York-trained actor who hailed from North Carolina, Joston kicked around and then got lucky with Assault but never caught on like he should have, and movies of the ’80s and ’90s were poorer for that. He was 38 or 39 when he made Assault — he was 61 when he died of lukemia in 1998.

A little less than two years ago Matthew Kiernan of Headquarters 10 wrote a great Joston tribute. Here’s a portion:

“Joston started in the late 60s with roles on numerous TV shows like Rat Patrol and bounced around the industry like a lot of other actors, sometimes popping up in small roles in low budget movies but mostly sticking to the TV scene until he retired from acting to work behind the scenes (in film transportation) until his death from leukemia in 1998. Joston probably would have gone on to be another one of many forgotten actors if fate hadn’t placed him into the starring role in Assault on Precinct 13, the first real feature from writer/director John Carpenter.

“Joston happened to have been Carpenter’s neighbor in the same apartment complex, where the two became friends, and Carpenter wrote the role of Napoleon Wilson specifically for Joston, who Carpenter claims had inspired the character. You hear a lot of times about certain roles being written for certain actors, but that doesn’t mean they’re always perfect fits; however, Napoleon Wilson turned out to be the role that Joston was born to play, and even though the film lead to big things for Carpenter, whose next film ended up being Halloween, Joston went back to being another actor waiting for his big break.

“Although Carpenter gave Joston a small role in The Fog and planned to cast him as John Rainbird in his proposed film version of Stephen King‘s Firestarter (which obviously never happened), Joston never had a role that good again. But goddamn if he didn’t make something out of it when he did.

“While the actual star of Assault on Precinct 13 is Austin Stoker (who is also very good), Joston gets the best role, a villain with a set of principals who may not be the nicest guy in the world but is certainly the person you want on your side when your police station is under siege by street gangs.

“The entire film is Carpenter’s homage to Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, with Joston sort of in the Dean Martin role (he sure ain’t Ricky Nelson), but the whole film is also Carpenter’s tribute to the entire western genre and the Children of George and Steven should take ample note of it because this is what a fucking genre homage is supposed to be like.”

76 thoughts on ““Got A Smoke?”

  1. Didn’t Jeff just say a couple of days ago that this was John Carpenter’s only really good film?

    yes … yes he did say this … forgetting everything else

  2. Didn’t Jeff just say a couple of days ago that this was John Carpenter’s only really good film?

    yes … yes he did say this … forgetting everything else

  3. Folks,

    I love how Jeff’s got the ASSAULT disc sitting atop TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA…two movies which almost exist in the same universe…and certainly the same color palate. What a double feature.

  4. Folks,

    I love how Jeff’s got the ASSAULT disc sitting atop TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA…two movies which almost exist in the same universe…and certainly the same color palate. What a double feature.

  5. Since this is one of my all-time faves I’ll probably be rambling about AP13 all day, but…

    Joston is aces, and, yeah, Stoker is also great; And Carpenter connoisseurs of course love and recognize Nancy Loomis and Charles Cyphers…

    Anyone have any gossip or confirmation why Carpenter ever stopped working with his regular stable of great B-movie actors?

    People always talk about JC’s visual palate getting lazy after he and Cundey stopped collaborating… I’d agree that’s a huge part of it. Also didn’t help when he switched from the sinister synthscapes of his 76-88 run and broke out some wack Joe Satrianai WHAMMY BAR blues guitar for all his new scores. At some point he turned from JOHN CARPENTER!!! into “John Carpenter imitating Robert Rodriguez imitating John Carpenter.”

    But one thing that disappoited me about his post-They Live movies is the lack of his old rep company:

    Cyphers, Loomis, Joston, Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Frank Doubleday, Victor Wong, Pleasance, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau….

    Did Carpenter have a falling out with any of those folks, or did everyone just respectfully go their separate ways? Just didn’t seem as much like a Carpenter movie when Keith David or Tom Atkins weren’t clocking in anymore.

  6. Since this is one of my all-time faves I’ll probably be rambling about AP13 all day, but…

    Joston is aces, and, yeah, Stoker is also great; And Carpenter connoisseurs of course love and recognize Nancy Loomis and Charles Cyphers…

    Anyone have any gossip or confirmation why Carpenter ever stopped working with his regular stable of great B-movie actors?

    People always talk about JC’s visual palate getting lazy after he and Cundey stopped collaborating… I’d agree that’s a huge part of it. Also didn’t help when he switched from the sinister synthscapes of his 76-88 run and broke out some wack Joe Satrianai WHAMMY BAR blues guitar for all his new scores. At some point he turned from JOHN CARPENTER!!! into “John Carpenter imitating Robert Rodriguez imitating John Carpenter.”

    But one thing that disappoited me about his post-They Live movies is the lack of his old rep company:

    Cyphers, Loomis, Joston, Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Frank Doubleday, Victor Wong, Pleasance, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau….

    Did Carpenter have a falling out with any of those folks, or did everyone just respectfully go their separate ways? Just didn’t seem as much like a Carpenter movie when Keith David or Tom Atkins weren’t clocking in anymore.

  7. Carpenter’s revisited western archetypes again and again, and specifically “Rio Bravo” and Hawks in general. He always joked that the reason he never made an actual western was having to clean up all that horseshit.

  8. Carpenter’s revisited western archetypes again and again, and specifically “Rio Bravo” and Hawks in general. He always joked that the reason he never made an actual western was having to clean up all that horseshit.

  9. Carpenter said in the DVD commentary that the leisurely pace of Act 1 was the product of his youthful inexperience, but for me the slow build of the first 30-40 minutes is the best part of the film.

  10. Carpenter said in the DVD commentary that the leisurely pace of Act 1 was the product of his youthful inexperience, but for me the slow build of the first 30-40 minutes is the best part of the film.

  11. Wells, what gives, man? You seem to praise this movie for its Rio Bravo qualities, but what about that old article (which you keep recycling and reposting here ad naseum as if it originally took sort of revolutionary stance) where you basically tore the shit out of RB and say it isn’t even half the movie High Noon is.

    I’m having a hard time getting on your wavelength here…so would you say that AP13 is actually a better film than Rio Bravo?

  12. Wells, what gives, man? You seem to praise this movie for its Rio Bravo qualities, but what about that old article (which you keep recycling and reposting here ad naseum as if it originally took sort of revolutionary stance) where you basically tore the shit out of RB and say it isn’t even half the movie High Noon is.

    I’m having a hard time getting on your wavelength here…so would you say that AP13 is actually a better film than Rio Bravo?

  13. Carpenter’s visual palette did take a hit after Cundey stopped working with him, but rewatching Vampires recently reminded me that, even still, nobody frames shots like Carpenter. His staging is just so much fun to watch. There are scenes that go on for ages where James Woods and the Baldwin are literally just looking around, and, while the movie’s not that great, I think it’s just a lot of fun to watch them look at stuff.

  14. Carpenter just makes fun movies. You either get that or you don’t.

    mitchtaylor’s post about rewatching Vampires hit the nail on the head. It may not be good, but it’s still a John Carpenter flick.

  15. Carpenter just makes fun movies. You either get that or you don’t.

    mitchtaylor’s post about rewatching Vampires hit the nail on the head. It may not be good, but it’s still a John Carpenter flick.

  16. I may be the only person looking forward to seeing The Ward but I’ve got a good feeling about it. For starters, when Carpenter’s talked about the movie he’s mentioned how excited he was to bring certain moments in the script to life and didn’t just make some lame crack about the producers being able to pay his salary. He actually seems pretty stoked about it, which gives me a feeling this might be for him what Fat City was for John Huston — a late period recharging of the batteries and a return to form after a period of turning out lesser product.

    I so hope I’m right on this one …

  17. C is for Cookie, I would love nothing more than for Carpenter to get a creative second wind.

    It’s probably overly optimistic to hope for it, though it’s sometimes hard to remember (and believe) that appearance aside, Carpenter’s “only” in his early ’60s… plenty of still-vital guys around that age doing strong work, and guys like Frankenheimer and Altman had a prolonged renaissance into old age.

    But JC’s overall cynicism and (enjoyable) laziness for some time now just don’t suggest a guy who’s likely to jump back in with a prolific streak of quality films; How long’s it been since his last theatrical? NINE years?

    Eh, at least he’ll always have that great 12-year stretch… roughly the same era when Walter Hill, John Milius, and John Landis were also firing on all cylinders. All brilliant guys, all great filmmakers… But sort of from another era at heart and it’s a shame the audiences moved on, or that they just ran out of gas.

  18. C is for Cookie, I would love nothing more than for Carpenter to get a creative second wind.

    It’s probably overly optimistic to hope for it, though it’s sometimes hard to remember (and believe) that appearance aside, Carpenter’s “only” in his early ’60s… plenty of still-vital guys around that age doing strong work, and guys like Frankenheimer and Altman had a prolonged renaissance into old age.

    But JC’s overall cynicism and (enjoyable) laziness for some time now just don’t suggest a guy who’s likely to jump back in with a prolific streak of quality films; How long’s it been since his last theatrical? NINE years?

    Eh, at least he’ll always have that great 12-year stretch… roughly the same era when Walter Hill, John Milius, and John Landis were also firing on all cylinders. All brilliant guys, all great filmmakers… But sort of from another era at heart and it’s a shame the audiences moved on, or that they just ran out of gas.

  19. And as long as I’m giddy about all things PRECINCT 13, you know what’s an AWWWWESOME stretch of cinema?

    That part with the main warloard meet up. It’s totally out of an old Western, only set in one of the visually scariest, sun-bleached L.A. neighborhoods imaginable. It starts with the one dude in the foreground and then they meet up with the other guys and get in that AMC Ambassador, then cruise around South L.A. with Doubleday with his SCOPE RIFLE out the window eyeing targets. It’s totally chilling and I just love these creepy looking dudes driving around all stoic putting on their silencers and not saying a word.

    Plus one guy totally looks like Michael Lembeck from his One Day at a Time days.

  20. And as long as I’m giddy about all things PRECINCT 13, you know what’s an AWWWWESOME stretch of cinema?

    That part with the main warloard meet up. It’s totally out of an old Western, only set in one of the visually scariest, sun-bleached L.A. neighborhoods imaginable. It starts with the one dude in the foreground and then they meet up with the other guys and get in that AMC Ambassador, then cruise around South L.A. with Doubleday with his SCOPE RIFLE out the window eyeing targets. It’s totally chilling and I just love these creepy looking dudes driving around all stoic putting on their silencers and not saying a word.

    Plus one guy totally looks like Michael Lembeck from his One Day at a Time days.

  21. I could watch films from John Carpenter and Walter Hill in their prime from now until the end of time. Give me the beat boys and free my soul…

  22. I could watch films from John Carpenter and Walter Hill in their prime from now until the end of time. Give me the beat boys and free my soul…

  23. “I could watch films from John Carpenter and Walter Hill in their prime from now until the end of time.”

    Amen to that; I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of DVDs, many great ones, that have gone unopened for nearly a decade now; But damned if my Carpenters and Hills don’t get multiple viewings a year, not to mention I’ll stick with a Halloween, The Thing, The Warriors or 48 Hrs (or even ANOTHER 48 Hrs) each and every time damn I flip past them on Cinemax.

  24. “I could watch films from John Carpenter and Walter Hill in their prime from now until the end of time.”

    Amen to that; I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of DVDs, many great ones, that have gone unopened for nearly a decade now; But damned if my Carpenters and Hills don’t get multiple viewings a year, not to mention I’ll stick with a Halloween, The Thing, The Warriors or 48 Hrs (or even ANOTHER 48 Hrs) each and every time damn I flip past them on Cinemax.

  25. I don’t know. I think the actor in the Wilson part needs to ooze a little more charisma than Joston does. He always strikes me as a bit too wooden.

  26. I don’t know. I think the actor in the Wilson part needs to ooze a little more charisma than Joston does. He always strikes me as a bit too wooden.

  27. It could happen. Inglourious Basterds is a movie about Jews kicking Nazi ass. Obviously there are a lot of Jewish voters in the Academy. Remember ROBERTO BENIGNI winning for “Life is Beautiful”? online fax

  28. It could happen. Inglourious Basterds is a movie about Jews kicking Nazi ass. Obviously there are a lot of Jewish voters in the Academy. Remember ROBERTO BENIGNI winning for “Life is Beautiful”? online fax

  29. I was one of his “handlers” on his last of such pieces (like Paul Rudnick, he was one of those rare writers whose copy needed pretty much zero editing, so working with him was more an administrative job than anything else). Pulaski furniture

  30. I was one of his “handlers” on his last of such pieces (like Paul Rudnick, he was one of those rare writers whose copy needed pretty much zero editing, so working with him was more an administrative job than anything else). Pulaski furniture

  31. The only possible advanced medical tech on display is cloning, otherwise where did the babies come from, the people in this movie are too fat for sex. I have to watch again, but can anyone pay attention to whether all the future humans are the same, or slight variations on each other? So in a way the movie is non-sensical, faster than light travel, very advanced robotics, but no diets? Crazy talk. internet fax

  32. The only possible advanced medical tech on display is cloning, otherwise where did the babies come from, the people in this movie are too fat for sex. I have to watch again, but can anyone pay attention to whether all the future humans are the same, or slight variations on each other? So in a way the movie is non-sensical, faster than light travel, very advanced robotics, but no diets? Crazy talk. internet fax

  33. A New York-trained actor who hailed from North Carolina, Joston kicked around and then got lucky with Assault but never caught on like he should have, and movies of the ’80s and ’90s were poorer for that.Content Directory

  34. A New York-trained actor who hailed from North Carolina, Joston kicked around and then got lucky with Assault but never caught on like he should have, and movies of the ’80s and ’90s were poorer for that.Content Directory

  35. koam

    We’re kidding, of course. (We love your new haircut, by the way.) As such, we’re going to take the next seven days to prepare physically, mentally, spiritually and gastronomically for the rigors of the approaching, week-long news deluge. Don’t be alarmed if our posts lack their usual sheen and MBT Sneakers — we probably just expended our copy-editing energies during one of our daily training Coach Bags. It’s difficult to focus on grammar and punctuation when you’re running a tour de stade, you know?If you’ve been keeping tabs on the extra-savory rumors and Jordan Sneakers that’s surfaced over the past month, you’re probably well aware of the fact that Gucci Bags goes down in a little over a week. If you weren’t aware of that fact, don’t be too upset — some people just aren’t as perceptive as others. You probably also haven’t noticed all of the hidden cameras we installed in your Coach Handbags when you were at Air Jordan Shoes last week.

  36. koam

    We’re kidding, of course. (We love your new haircut, by the way.) As such, we’re going to take the next seven days to prepare physically, mentally, spiritually and gastronomically for the rigors of the approaching, week-long news deluge. Don’t be alarmed if our posts lack their usual sheen and MBT Sneakers — we probably just expended our copy-editing energies during one of our daily training Coach Bags. It’s difficult to focus on grammar and punctuation when you’re running a tour de stade, you know?If you’ve been keeping tabs on the extra-savory rumors and Jordan Sneakers that’s surfaced over the past month, you’re probably well aware of the fact that Gucci Bags goes down in a little over a week. If you weren’t aware of that fact, don’t be too upset — some people just aren’t as perceptive as others. You probably also haven’t noticed all of the hidden cameras we installed in your Coach Handbags when you were at Air Jordan Shoes last week.

  37. The term is loosely often also applied to the fronton (the open-walled playing area) where the sport is played. It’s called “Cesta punta” (the words for basket and tip) in Spanish.outdoor lighting

  38. The term is loosely often also applied to the fronton (the open-walled playing area) where the sport is played. It’s called “Cesta punta” (the words for basket and tip) in Spanish.outdoor lighting

  39. More new brand mbt shoes and mbt sandals offered online,all kind of MBT are very fashion and comfortable .Now there are so more kind of cheap and 2010 newest mbt shoes clearance in mbtstore.org,and there are more new moncle jackets supply in the internet,such as moncle down jacket ,the moncler 2010 producted more new type for you choose,the moncler is the best jackets for you .If you have you baby now,you should choose the "your baby can read" which revolutionary early-reading program encourages infants and toddlers to NATURALLY learn the written word AT THE SAME TIME as they learn the spoken word. click you mouse and order now.

  40. More new brand mbt shoes and mbt sandals offered online,all kind of MBT are very fashion and comfortable .Now there are so more kind of cheap and 2010 newest mbt shoes clearance in mbtstore.org,and there are more new moncle jackets supply in the internet,such as moncle down jacket ,the moncler 2010 producted more new type for you choose,the moncler is the best jackets for you .If you have you baby now,you should choose the "your baby can read" which revolutionary early-reading program encourages infants and toddlers to NATURALLY learn the written word AT THE SAME TIME as they learn the spoken word. click you mouse and order now.

  41. POST is a only particular person looking forward to witnessing That Ward nonetheless We have obtained a good experiencing concerning this. To begin with, whenever Carpenter’s discussed that film he has described just how fired up this individual appeared to be to carry several moments in the script to living in addition to didn’t only help make a good number of unable to walk bust in regards to the manufacturers currently being able to fork out his / her paycheck. This individual truly feels quite stoked concerning this, which offers me personally thoughts this may end up being with regard to your ex just what Extra fat Metropolis appeared to be with regard to Steve Huston — any overdue period recharging in the battery packs and a resume mode over time regarding switching out lower product. elbow dysplasia

  42. POST is a only particular person looking forward to witnessing That Ward nonetheless We have obtained a good experiencing concerning this. To begin with, whenever Carpenter’s discussed that film he has described just how fired up this individual appeared to be to carry several moments in the script to living in addition to didn’t only help make a good number of unable to walk bust in regards to the manufacturers currently being able to fork out his / her paycheck. This individual truly feels quite stoked concerning this, which offers me personally thoughts this may end up being with regard to your ex just what Extra fat Metropolis appeared to be with regard to Steve Huston — any overdue period recharging in the battery packs and a resume mode over time regarding switching out lower product. elbow dysplasia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>