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When I saw Brian De Palma's "Dressed to Kill" upon its release I said to myself: "This man (De Palma) is so talented that if he really put his mind to it he could move on from these shallow potboilers and create a masterpiece." "Blow Out" was his next film and it IS his masterpiece - the De Palma film I had been waiting for. It's a dark, winding tale of a movie sound man (John Travolta) who goes out to record the perfect scream for a cheesy horror flick. He eventually gets that scream, and it's how he gets it that is the substance - and tragedy - of the story. A conspiracy thriller, a lurid pulp melodrama, a meditation on the artifice of film-making and the elusive nature of truth - "Blow Out" is all this and more. De Palma gives full vent to his powers and his imagination and the results are electrifying. He perfects his use of the wide split screen and uses it to great dramatic effect, so much so that my usual objections to this technique went right out the door. The production design makes frequent allusions to the colours of the American flag - red, white and blue - all the better to reflect, with utmost cruelty, the heart-breaking corruption of the American Dream for the sad-eyed protagonist. Travolta, playing a sound effects artist, and Nancy Allen, as a make-up artist, make a sweet and likable couple. They bond convincingly, partly because they're both so down-to-earth, and partly because they're both experts in artifice. John Lithgow chillingly portrays an assassin who really, really loves his work. The murder in the train station, with the camera tracking along the floor and the monotonous drone of the train announcer's voice - the voice of doom - echoing in the background, is one of the most horrific scenes I have ever experienced in a movie.
What a cinematic triumph for De Palma and his loyal fans. A sterling piece of work from Brian coupled with stupendous characterisation from the entire cast guaranteed me a thriller of magnetic proportions. Pino Donaggio's gritty underlying score highlights the sheer magnitude of the indispensable 'Blow-Out' climactic moment. Travolta and Allen keep things moving in this thought-provoking masterpiece, not to mention John Lithgow who without a shadow of a doubt, is perfectly suited to be the ultimate villain. One could say that it really is bemusing why this movie didn't rake in a lot at the box office because this is clearly Oscar-worthy material. A must-see movie for all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For my comment #150 here in IMDb, I have chosen Brian De Palma's "Blow
Out", a less talked film of his career but at the same time, one of my
favourites of him. Although I haven't watch yet Michelangelo
Antonioni's "Blowup" I know that this film is a sort of a
"reinterpretation", now using sounds instead of photos. Anyway, this
film has Jack Terri (Travolta) as the main character; he works as the
sound-man for a little film company that produces low-budget horror
films. Working one night near a lake, looking out for some sounds, he
is witness of a car accident that ends with the car inside the lake.
Jack saves a girl that was inside the car, Sally (Nancy Allen), with a
currently candidate for the presidency. Suddenly Jack will find the
truth about that accident through his recorded tapes but also he will
be witness of a conspiracy that nobody wants to hear about it.
I love how this film start with a rare sequence of a horror film that ends with a funny scream, just to see the type of bad films in which Jack works. But although he failed in his job with the police and now works only for bad films, his abilities as a sound technician are really great. Soon as he gets involved with the car accident, there is going to be just mystery first with the possible fact that the candidate was with a prostitute and later with an entire murder conspiracy. Even the film involves a politic factor, l love how it focuses into Jack's obsession for finding the truth because, finally, there are many cases like that but now the witness is a citizen tired of the same endless stories that eventually will be forgotten. The other main character, Sally, is the opposite of Jack, always wanted to stay out of the conspiracy and maybe having too confidence to other people not seeing their real intentions. Eventually Jack will be the person who shows to her how things are really but also who puts her closer to the conspiracy and closer to her end. The conclusion is brilliant but of course not satisfactory for any of characters, maybe just for the director of the horror film, leaving a question for Jack that will stay in his mind: it was worth to look for justice?
Cast: John Travolta here is great, of course this is not going to be mention as his roles in "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever" but definitely is one of his bests performances. Nancy Allen is also pretty good just like the support cast.
Conclusion: "Blow Out" is a great story about obsession and paranoia with an exciting climax and a brilliant end. De Palma's direction is great, with many unique sequences, and his script too, finding in the sound a great way to explore how the things really happened. Definitely this film is in my personal favourites of De Palma. 9.5 out of 10
Brian De Palma has always gotten a bad rap for his penchant for
essaying his heroes and favourite thrillers, what often gets forgotten
is just how great he could be in crafting said thrillers.
Blow Out has John Travolta as a sound engineer for low budget horror movies, who while out recording sounds one night witnesses a car crash and dives into the river to rescue the call girl trapped in the back seat (Nancy Allen). Upon listening back to the footage of the crash, he hears two noises which point to a gun shot being fired at the car. So with the dead man in the car turning out to be a big political mover, he quickly finds himself spun into a web of intrigue, peril, paranoia and conspiracies. Can he and the girl stay alive long enough to solve the case?
Blow Out finds De Palma at the top of his game, blending the twisty plot dynamics with virtuoso technical smarts. A number of scenes are striking, both visually and in execution and the garnering of acting performances. Pino Donaggio provides an unforgettable music score to marry up to the layers of sub-plots folding together, and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond sharpens the primary colours to give the story a Giallo like sheen that runs concurrent with the emotional states of the major players.
A sprawling and bustling Philadelphia plays host to a conspiracy sandwich, with a corking side order of the film making process. Sometimes bleak and complex, but never over stuffed, Blow Out is both thrilling and smart, while Travolta has never been better and John Lithgow is tailor made as the unstoppable crack-pot unleashed into our two protagonists' world. 8.5/10
John Travolta plays a sound-mixer who tapes what he believes may be a
Blow Out is intricately crafted and full of suspense. It had me on the edge of my seat, one of Travolta's best performances.
John Travolta plays the sound technician who becomes embroiled in murderous political shenanigans when he inadvertently records an assassination, while Nancy Allen is the hooker who's seen far too many "members" of the Senate to assure her safety. Crammed with wonderful De Palma showboating and a wonderfully crackpot turn from John Lithgow as a right-wing loon.
I'm glad i unearthed this beast, it's up there with De Palma's best A forgotten Gem!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Likable audio technician Jack Terri (splendidly played by John Travolta) does sound effects for cheesy low-grade slasher horror flicks. One fateful night while recording natural sounds on a bridge Jack records and witnesses a car crash which kills the state governor who was an aspiring presidential candidate. Jack also rescues and befriends the governor's rather dumb, but really sweet mistress Sally (a beautifully endearing performance by the adorable Nancy Allen). When Jack begins to investigate the circumstances behind the crash, he finds out that someone shot out one of the tires on the car and thus caused the accident to happen. Pretty soon both Jack and Sally are put in considerable danger. Directed with tight, stylish, assured aplomb by Brian De Palma, who also wrote the ingenious script which cleverly blends elements of "Blow-Up" and "The Conversation" into an absorbing and inspired synthesis, with exquisitely fluid, slick, sparkling cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond (the occasional use of split screen is especially tasty and impressive), plenty of nerve-wracking suspense, an intricate conspiracy thriller plot, a charming and touching love story between Jack and Sally, and a rousing, pulsating, elegant orchestral score by Pino Donaggio, this crackling ripper comes on like total gangbusters from start to finish. Travolta and Allen are outstanding in the leads; they receive terrific support from John Lithgow as vicious, coldly pragmatic assassin Burke and Dennis Franz as sleazeball blackmailer Manny Karp. From its bravura dead-on opening hilarious send-up of tacky slice'n'dice schlock to its exciting climax and bitterly ironic conclusion, "Blow Out" overall rates as an absolute powerhouse that comes highly recommended.
Possibly the best Hitchcock picture that Hitchcock never made, BLOW OUT
is arguably Brian De Palma's best work, with only 1976's CARRIE even
coming close. Taking inspiration from Antonioni's BLOW-UP (1966) and
Coppola's THE CONVERSATION (1974), BLOW OUT is one of those rare,
intelligent thrillers that isn't afraid to take it's time to reach it's
payoff. This is a film where all of the elements come perfectly
together, and De Palma manages to merge his infamous bag of set-pieces
and camera tricks into a marvelously twisted thriller that seamlessly
blends elements of political intrigue and homicide into an engrossing
human story with fully-realized lead characters. An absolutely
air-tight plot, this is definitely one that you have to play close
attention to in order to completely appreciate the intricate
At the heart of the picture is John Travolta's great performance as the movie sound effects man who becomes swept up in the film's elaborate conspiracy. Over-worked and paranoid, Travolta's Jack is an everyman in the very best Hitchcockian tradition. In my opinion, it remains Travolta's best work. Nancy Allen (who was married to De Palma at the time) is often heavily criticized for her empty-headed, baby-voiced performance as Sally, the somewhat dim-witted hooker who is central to unlocking the mystery. While I will admit that her first two scenes are almost painfully awkward (though this was possibly intentional), her unabashed quirkiness eventually wins me over (at about the halfway mark) every time I see the picture. The impressively-demented John Lithgow and the appropriately slimy Denis Franz round out the ensemble, and they both perform flawlessly.
Unfortunately, this griping, intelligent film was not a success with the movie-going public of the early eighties, who seemed to prefer the fun house-styled thrills of DRESSED TO KILL instead. Time has been good to BLOW OUT, however, and the picture is more highly regarded today than it ever has been. The film runs the gauntlet of moods and styles that De Palma's films are known for, only this time everything works. From the hilarious opening parody of the ridiculous Friday THE 13th-styled slasher movies, to one of the bleakest, most haunting and disturbing endings of all-time - the film never strikes a false chord. Nearly 25 years after it's original release, BLOW OUT remains a true motion picture rarity - a stylish thriller for adults!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alfred Hitchcock is the best director to ever do mysteries and
thrillers. Although his shoes will never be filled, Brian De Palma has
come the closest with his most riveting movie that Hitchcock would
love. De Palma does such a good job with this that Hitchcock may not
even have done a better job if he had directed it, and this actually
beats some Hitchcock classics! I know most people will disagree with
this last statement, but it is just my opinion.
In one of John Travolta's best roles, (and the one with his best hairdo) he portrays electronics expert, Jack Terry, who earns a living making sound effects for low-budget horror movies. One night out collecting wind sounds, he witnesses a car careen into a creek. He saves the girl (Nancy Allen) and sees the driver has died. The driver was a presidential candidate. Jack listens again and realizes the tire was shot out. Trying to get to the bottom of everything, he is in store for a shocking political conspiracy, the girl's true identity and a psychotic madman on their trail.
As De Palma's very own creation, he perfectly captures a dark atmosphere that fits the genre. Like a Hitchcock movie, there are many twists around a complex, yet easy to follow storyline. All twists are shocking, yet all play perfectly. When all the twists finish and the movie becomes a straight thriller, the excitement grows like never before with more danger on the line that can be swallowed. Everything works to an extremely shocking end that will feel like a major hit in the viewer's stomach.
Everything about Blow-Out is so exciting and original. I have seen it many times and it always feels like the first time.
Car crashes, murder, political conspiracy, and filmmaking are what go
into Brian De Palma's thrilling crime drama Blow Out. John Travolta
stars as Jack Terry, a sound editor for a film production company. One
night he is out recording sound and witnesses and records a car crash.
But his involvement in the crash gets him into a lot more trouble than
he ever could have bargained for as Jack finds himself in the middle of
a huge government cover up, a cover up that he is one of the loose ends
to. The film is thrilling, captivating, and John Travolta does a
fantastic job in this leading role.
If you're into conspiracy films then Blow Out is the film for you. It's got all the elements you could ever want in a cover up film. You've got multiple parties involved, each willing to employ violence to get what they need. There's a hefty dose of thrills and suspenseful tension throughout the film that keep it very exciting and very watchable. Then you have your protagonist who is stuck in the middle of it all just because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The story plays out from the perfect perspective where we only know as much as Jack, and we want to know what is going on just as badly as he does. It's superb storytelling and makes for a very enticing film from start to finish.
But what really sets Blow Out apart is the context in which the story is set. Jack Terry is a sound editor and everything he does to figure out what kind of danger he is in involves sound and sound editing. It adds a layer of experimental intrigue to the film, as the sound is mixed very uniquely and De Palma does very interesting things with sound all throughout the film. Certain things are louder than others. Certain sounds are altered for one reason or another. It's all very unique and it makes Blow Out all the more fascinating to watch.
Overall, Blow Out isn't a film that will blow you away(no pun intended), and the conspiracy storyline doesn't pay off quite how you would like it to, but the whole story is very well constructed and it's certainly a dense plot that is plenty intriguing. Blow Out is no groundbreaking film but it's incredibly well made and well worth the watch. It's an excellent film that shouldn't be missed.
**SPOILERS** John Trovalta as movie sound-man Jack Terry is out in the
park one evening picking up sounds with his tape recorder for the
slasher movie he's working on. It's then that Terry witnessed a car
crashing over the railing into the lake below. What's even more Terry
just happens to record the sound of the tragic incident where the
driver of the car ends up drowning! Jumping into the lake Terry manages
to rescue the other passenger Sally Bedina, Nancy Allen, who turns out
to be a hooker and part-time cosmetic sales girl. At the local hospital
it's discovered that the driver who was DOA is non other then
Pennsylania's Governor McRyan, John Hoffmeiter. It's McRyan who's not
only a shoo in in getting the Democratic Nomination for President that
summer but also having a great shot at becoming the next President of
the United States!
Trying to cover up the circumstances of Gov. McRyan's, a very happily married family-man, death both Terry and Sally are told by everyone from the governor's chief of staff on down to forget what happened and keep quiet. But the fact that Terry had recorder the sound of the accident puts a fly in the ointment in all that. The recording has the sound of a gunshot just before the car careened off the road and plunged into the lake! Even more suspicious is this freelance photographer Manny Kemp, Dennis Franz, who just happened to be on the scene and filmed the entire incident! It now becomes apparent to Terry that all this was a set up to discredit Gov. McRyan in another Chappaquiddick like incident in order to destroy his run for president. But as things turned out it went a bit to far on the part of the planners! Instead of McRyan surviving he in fact drowned and it's Sally who together with her partner Kemp who set the guy up and now have to be eliminated before the truth comes out!
One of Trovolta's best acting efforts as Jack Terry in getting caught up together with Sally Bedina in something that can easily get the them killed. Determined to find the reason behind Gov.McRyan's death or murder Terry get's a hold of the actual film from Sally who swiped from her boss or pimp Manny Kemp to synchronize it with the sounds of the event that he recorded in order to find out the exact moment that the gun shot came. As it turns out the tire in Gov.McRyns car was shot out just seconds before it plunged into the lake! Making his death not an accident but a political murder!
As it soon turns out the hired shooter by Gov. Ryan's political opponent Burke, John Lithgow, now in order to cover his tracks is out to murder the only witness-Sally-who can place Ryan in the car with her at the time of his death! Murdering a number of look-alike hookers and carving the Liberty Bell on their bodies Burke plans to use his murderous plan as cover in eventually murdering Sally without anybody suspecting she was his only intended victim. The only thing that can save Sally's life is Terry's evidence of the incident but time is running out as Burke slowly tightens the noose on both of them!
***SPOILERS*** incredibly tense and heart dropping final with Terry desperately trying to save Sally's life in the middle of the Liberty Bell Day fireworks celebrations in Philadelphia without her knowing that her potential murderer-Burke-is just inches away from her. Having contact with Sally through a hidden microphone that he planted on her Terry finally gets to her just as Burke impersonating TV talk show Phil Donahue, Curt May, is about to murder Sally. Sad but realistic, and not Hollywood like, final sequence with Sally not making it to the closing credits but at least giving Terry what he was after at the start of the movie: The perfect scream recorded in the final moments of her life, with the hidden microphone Terry placed on her, that Terry was after for the latest slasher film he was working on.
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