BLOW OUT (1981)
Written and directed by Brian De Palma
BLOW OUT is an incredible piece of cinema from one of my favourite directors, Brian De Palma. As a huge fan of Michaelangelo Antonioni’s thriller Blow Up, it’s safe to say Blow Out was most likely inspired by it and both are quite similar in the fact that the central character ends up accidentally ‘recording’ evidence that points to a crime committed and the lengths gone to try and prove the theory to others. With the initial introduction to Jack Terry as a soundman working on movies, instructed to get some unique sounds for a new horror movie instead of re-using stock audio, the film engages the viewer instantly, especially if the viewer is a film fanatic. Stood out in the light of the moon with the wind blowing through the trees and two lovers smooching near the water, Jack is doing what he does naturally – recording the various sounds to complete his work. Little does he realise just how important it actually is that he’s there complete with recording equipment. Not only is his presence valuable but also life-threatening, as both he and Sally become loose ends that need to be taken care off having been key witnesses in the suspected assassination.
The cast of Blow Out are absolutely superb in their roles in this suspenseful thriller. John Travolta as Jack Terry is extremely likable and believable as the soundman, who works on low budget teen slasher films and accidentally gets embroiled in the plot. Joining John is his Carrie co-star Nancy Allen who’s naive Sally works as the key victim which Jack develops feelings for. Bringing a sinister edge to the proceedings is John Lithgow in the most disturbing and frightening role I’ve ever seen him in, especially as I’m so used to his comedic and dramatic characters. It’s clear his character is psychotic but at the same time, he’s calmly in control and has a different political agenda and method of execution to the people who hired him, essentially going rogue.
The film might not have been successful theatrically and received mixed reviews at the time, but since then, Blow Out has garnered critical acclaim and a cult following, hence the superb Blu-Ray and Steelbook release from cult film distribution company, Arrow Video. As with all the Arrow features I’ve reviewed, the transfer is crisp with clear audio and an array of extras. There’s a great interview with Nancy Allen on her character, working with Brian De Palma, John Travolta and John Lithgow, changes to the script and the subtle improvisation that adds to the chemistry and completes the scenes so well. Other extras include an interview with the film’s cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who did such a tremendous job with the film and makes it such a joy and a classic to watch – even if the camera whirling scene made me a bit nauseaus; Interviews with producer George Litto and composer Pino Donaggio, a gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman and the original theatrical trailer. The Blu-Ray also comes with a Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, and a discussion between Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino, illustrated with original archive stills and promotional material.The standard Amaray Blu-ray edition features both original and newly commissioned reversible artwork.
A tense, engrossing thriller with an utterly engaging story, Blow Out is ideal for those into mystery and conspiracy plots and unlike some films, has an ending that is just as hard-hitting and laudable as the rest of it.