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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Undervalued DePalma and Travolta

Author: Jerry-93 from Milwaukee, WI
6 May 2000

All of DePalma's early movies that he wrote and directed pay quite a bit of "homage" to other, greater directors. Dressed to Kill from Psycho; Obsession: Vertigo; Body Double: Rear Window and Vertigo (see a pattern?). Well, Blow Out is no different (though it does break the pattern): it's an audio take on the photography of Antonioni's Blowup.

Travolta plays a b-movie producer's sound man. One night, while recording some outdoor sound FX for his latest film, he witnesses, and records on audio tape, what appears to be an auto accident that takes the life of Pennsylvania's governor (the movie takes place in Philly, so I assume it's the governor of that state). By the time he reaches the car, the governor is dead, but the girl (not his wife) that he was with is still alive. As Travolta develops a relationship with the girl, he comes to believe that what he hears on his audio tape is not a tire blowing out, but a gun shot. When he "makes" a film of the incident from still pictures to accompany his audio track, his suspicions are confirmed. And then the trouble starts.

I'd guess not a lot of people have seen this movie in recent years. It's a shame, because it's really a great movie. Travolta is good, and this movie doesn't seem any of his tampering that most of his recent films do (these were the days when you could get Travolta for peanuts instead of 1/3 of the budget). Nancy Allen essentially plays the same role she plays in all of her then-husband's movies: the dumb blond. NYPD Blue fans may find the appearance of a thin, fully coiffed Dennis Franz worth a look. DePalma is very sharp in this one, using a lot of his quirky directorial touches to full effect (especially the scene where Travolta makes the movie of the accident; who would think to do that?). Clever wrapup, too. Well worth a look.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful style, wobbly plot

Author: Sandcooler from Belgium
31 October 2014

Many consider "Blow Out" to be the highlight of Brian De Palma's career, but to be honest I was pretty underwhelmed. It starts of great though. De Palma gets to show of his amazing knack for style in a brilliant opening scene that provides a hilarious pastiche on the slasher genre. The faux-sleazy look, the clever winks at genre classics, the genuine suspense even though you know it's a movie-within-a-movie, it's genius at work. There are more of those beautiful stylistic touches spread throughout the movie (the fireworks during the climax would be an obvious example), but the plot is just contrived and the final act demands more than a little suspension of disbelief. And while John Travolta puts in a strong lead performance, obligatory damsel in distress Nancy Allen never really manages to make her character likable so you don't really care whether she lives or dies. That's why the obvious Hitchcock influence isn't as effective as it could have been, Hitchcock gave us characters we deeply cared about and then did awful things to them. Sally is no Marion Crane to say the least, making it more difficult to stay interested in her story. "Blow Out" looks fantastic, but doesn't go very far beyond that.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

what a way to wind down

Author: skian31 from Japan
19 May 2006

Home from work after a busy week...sit down and see a spry John Travolta playing some desperate sound man in a movie from the early eighties. Turns out to be one heck of a film. Very stylish, I think the review says. Check out the shot of John's jeep going through Philly's old district. It's so cool...from a helicopter. The old train station with John Lithgow stalking is fantastic. The characters of the T.V caster and of Manny are also perfect, especially Manny. He's such a scumbag it's perfect for the deal going down. The final 10 minutes are really mesmerizing. The desperate run of Jack through the crowds, the bands, the fireworks. Liberty Day? The symbolism is overwhelming. Is that my ten lines? Just wanted to let you know that I thought it was worth watching. I can't wait to see the first half of this film!

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

1 of the Best from America's 2nd favorite scientologist.

Author: bluessingger from United States
6 May 2006

OK, so I always hated Travolta. I hated Welcome Back Cotter in general, and Travolta in particular. I hated greasers, disco and rednecks, which eliminated most of his best known stuff. I did a lot of hating in those days, but I'm not such a hard ass that I can't admit when the boy done good, as he did in this case. I lived in the City of Lovely Brothers when this came out, so I have a soft spot in my heart for it. I had already seen Antonioni's "Blow Up", (at Philadelphia's Theater of the Living Arts no less,) and I think Blow Out was the much better film. There's more suspense, and I loved the ironic ending. DePalma did a great job, and all the cast was wonderful. Yes, I admit it, Travolta was particularly excellent.

In the world that is my mind, there are only three great Travolta films. This one, Pulp Fiction, and Phenomenon. Carrie was great, and even though I hated him, I must admit John was superb in his rather limited role. But Carrie wasn't really a "Travolta" movie was it? I was really happy for John when he made his big comeback in Pulp fiction, (his best,) and really loved Phenomenon, but it was this movie that changed my opinion about Travolta, making the other two movies intimately more enjoyable.

I recently bought the DVD at WalMart for $4.88, along with the movies Valley Girl, and Flawless. They are the pride of my legal DVD collection. I have viewed Blowout twice already, and plan on watching it for many years to come. Thanks John!

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: Bill Treadway ( from Queens, New York
14 July 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Brian DePalma's "Blow Out" is a smart and suspenseful thriller that is probably his most original. It owes more to Antonioni than to Hitchcock, especially the former's "Blow Up", which starred David Hemmings as a photographer who thinks he is a witness to a murder. "Blow Out" starts with that, but DePalma has his own agenda. He loads this film with so many nice surprises that he manages to surpass his previous work (which includes "Dressed to Kill", "Sisters" and "Obsession")

The story this time:(WARNING:SPOILERS AHEAD, BUT NOT MANY)John Travolta plays Jack Terri, a soundman working on a Philly based B-movie. He is out recording night sounds when a "blow out" occurs and forces a car into the river. Jack dives in and saves the girl (Nancy Allen), but is unable to save the man. Looks like a normal accident, right? Well, the girl turns out to be a high paid call girl (This is Allen's third call girl in a row in a DePalma film, following "Home Movies" and "Dressed to Kill"; no wonder the marriage didn't last)and the victim is a powerful Presidential candidate.

That's all I can describe without spoiling it for you. What I described is the first 15 minutes of a 108 minute labyrinth. "Blow Out" is less explicit and bloody than DePalma's previous film "Dressed to Kill", but it is more intelligent and dignified. The technical credits are absolutely tops. Vilmos Zsigmond's Panavision photography (which will be ruined on TV; the tape is cropped to show a 2.35:1 image in a 1.33:1 screen)has all sorts of nuances and surprises that you might not catch on initial viewings. A lot of this movie is dark, but Travolta's character is thrown into the dark side of Philly (and life, come to think of it),so the visual scheme is appropriate. Best of all is Pino Donnagio's score. As in "Dressed to Kill", "Body Double" and "Carrie", the music doesn't give away DePalma's surprises, but it creates additional suspense and mood, as all great scores do. This is the best work Donnagio has done on a film and he deserved an Oscar nomination.

The performances are also exceptional. John Travolta is finally given a smart character to play, especially after the idiots Barbarino, Tony Manero and Squash (from "Moment to Moment"). He gets to showcase his intelligence and his good looks simultaneously. It is a tight rope of emotions and Travolta pulls it off. Nancy Allen's hooker is not as smart as the one she played in "Dressed to Kill", but at least it is miles better than the glamorized Julia Roberts stereotype I'm used to seeing these days. In supporting roles, DePalma regulars John Lithgow and Dennis Franz do their usual good job as villains (Lithgow in "Obsession", Franz in "The Fury", "Sisters" and "Dressed to Kill")

Blow Out is one of the best thrillers you'll see. Check it out. Right now.

**** out of 4 stars

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A personal favourite

Author: Lucianivision from Oakville
11 July 2001

From the opening credits and cheesy slasher film setup, right to the often criticized denouement, Brian DePalma's "Blow Out" stands out as one of cinemas forgotten treasures. John Travolta gives a performance that will easily make you forget about anything he's done after "Get Shorty"-o.k. not everything; Nancy Allen takes a while to warm up to as the ditsy call girl, but she will eventually win the viewer over; Dennis Franz is perfect as a sleazy photographer, and John Lithgow shines as the abnormal assassin. All of DePalma's trademarks are here-split screen and deep focus shots, melodramatic slo-mo sequences, amd homages to past directors. Unfortunately, most of the video transfers of the film suffer in poor image quality (It's not letterboxed (widescreen)-a must for all of DePalma's, actually anybody's work) and sound quality (since this film is about a sound recordist the sound plays a major role). A DVD has yet to be released, so to this date only the beautiful widescreen laserdisc transfer of the film does it any justice. This film is a personal favourite. If you enjoy DePalma's films (forget "Bonfire of the Vanities" and "Mission to Mars") and/or political conspiracy thrillers then treat yourself to one of the best. "Blow Out" delivers. Lets just hope a DVD (a special edition would be amazing) is in the works!

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

De Palma : gets serious to the nation in a robotized society.

Author: vampyres-2 from Barcelona, Catalunya
27 April 1999

BLOW OUT established De Palma as a Major filmmaker in recent american movies in 1981, but the movie was a disaster in theaters and nobody loved it with the exception of the prestigious critic from "The New Yorker" Pauline Kael that defended De Palma and the movie saying that "it was a great movie". Blow Out is the culmination of De Palma's works saying to the audience a moral message. John Travolta as a soundman recordist, Jack Terry, does his best job until today as a mature character at 27 and Nancy Allen as Sally Bedina, a hooker, is beautiful and human. DePalma builts a political fantasy -echoes of Chappaquidick, etc.- with their cinefilic obsessions -since Hitchcock, but particularly Antonioni's "BlowUp", Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" for Burke character starring by the sadist John Lithgow- and their personal and shocked style, derivative and misogism. As others "autors" in the seventies -Lucas, Scorsese, Lynch, Cimino, Coppola,...- De Palma was a great lover of movies,in essence their favourite is "Vertigo", and for that was accused of plagiarism in all their movies, specially in "Obsession" (1975), "Dressed to kill" (1980) or "Body Double" (1984) where De Palma reworked Hitchcock traumas and their own De Palma's traumas and really obsessions over abuse of power, revenges, late capitalism, Shakespeare's theatre.

BLOW OUT is a sensitive and surrealistic mural of conspiracies and a plausible effort that we live in a corrupted society where everybody has their particular responsibilities. No one is innocent and the images of Vilmos Zsigmond cinematographer offers us an idealisitic vision of a big loser (Travolta) at the end of the film, one of the most horrific endings never shooted with Godard influences, but De Palma as a big idealistic moviegoer and "cinefile" tries to elaborate a unique and particular vision of the reality. The results were tragical in box-office after their released in 24 July when Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a big success in US and Europe, including Venice Film Festival on September '81. Quentin Tarantino rediscovers Travolta seeing and seeing Blow Out and the honest intentions of their vulnerable hero and the citizen insecurity around this controversial production, a very artistic triumph. De Palma is in United States as Truffaut is in France. They are both really obsessions about maturity, crazy loves, emotional disorders and problems of adaptation to the society. They are autobiographical and sincere with them and with the audience; they are really tragical and romantic in their charged emotional films. In essence, BLOW OUT is a true vision of a robotized society, full of circles and circles and this is the vision of a really artist, the vision of the insecurity male. BLOW OUT is a very serious, dramatic and violent movie that works in diferents levels of analisis with an strong suspense style and a very effective performances. The music score was composed by the brilliant italian musician Pino Donaggio that never appeared on records or cassettes in 1981 -what a pity!- and the visual style of the movie was composed by three colors -red, blue and yellow- with an splendid use of the scope prints. BLOW OUT is a masterpiece of the macabre with political references. All the people need to see it with a virgin mentality. brilliant italian musician Pino Donaggio

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

End of the line

Author: Raul Faust from Joinville, Brazil
19 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You know, this isn't my first time trying to enjoy a Brian De Palma movie. Taking a look at my reviews, I saw other three films he has made, and the only one I actually liked was 1980's "Dressed to Kill"-- despite that one isn't flawless at all. I don't know what happens, but his movies always have infinite conspiracies that come from nowhere. There is always someone stalking someone, a dead person and a skeptical sheriff, and, in "Blow Out"'s case, it's no different; the main character tries to find out what happened in the car accident thing, even if nobody else really cares about it. If you're interested in politicians conspiracies, I suggest you 1983's "The Dead Zone" and 2008's "Nothing But The Truth", which aren't perfect movies, but much better developed than "Blow Out". I believe that Brian De Palma's problem is the way he writers his movies. Instead of inventing lots of characters, situations and possibilities, he should make more simple stories, in order to not turn them into confusing puzzles with an over- the-top outcome, which IS the case with this picture. Regular movie and, sincerely, my last try on Brian de Palma.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

An aesthetically-sublime thriller

Author: Steve Pulaski from United States
8 March 2014

The great Alfred Hitchcock would've been delighted to see Brian De Palma's Blow Out but he would've been more satisfied with actually making the film. The film deals with many of the themes Hitchcock did in his heyday such as voyeurism, the figurative "MacGuffin," the intense mystery, the likable characters, and the slick presence of style by a tried-and-true cinephile.

De Palma casts Blow Out in a deeply bleak light. Shot on film obviously, with very dark tonalities and very dingily-lit environments to establish an effective mood, De Palma centers the film around Jack Terry (John Travolta), a local sound engineer who loves working with the wondrous and limitless medium of audio and sound. To him, regular sounds have a distinct poetry to them, bearing a natural and too often unseen realm of musicality.

One day Jack ventures outside to capture sounds of trees being rustled by the wind for a low-budget film he's working on when he witnesses a brutal car wreck right before his eyes. The vehicle appears to suffer from a blown tire before it careens off a bridge and into the water below. Without doing much thinking, Jack leaps in and is able to pull out a woman named Sally (Nancy Allen), who will later awaken in a heavily-sedated state in the hospital. The entire event is captured through Jack's sound recorder.

Jack is the only witness to the crime, and is told at the hospital room that the man who died in the accident was the governor and a possible presidential candidate. One of the governor's advisers tells Jack to remain silent about what he saw, and tells Sally that she would be best off to skip town for a few months, seeing as she is a simple escort who would never want to be seen with the married governor. However, when a frame-by-frame layout of a released video of the accident is released in a magazine, Jack goes through the meticulous effort of animating the video and adding the sound files into the video to try and recreate the event, albeit in a choppy, heavily-unpolished state.

Jack believes that someone hiding in the bushes adjacent to the road the governor was driving on and fired a shot into the governor's vehicle's tire, leading him to lose control, swerve, and crash off the bridge. He believes the soundbite of the accident he recorded that night which houses an audible, deafening bang before the sound of tires-screeching is proof in and of itself that the governor was shot off the road in an orchestrated attempt at murder. But with the safer, less edgy story of the cover-up being played and published everywhere, Jack's efforts to look deeper into the event make him seem nothing more than a ridiculous conspiracy theorist.

Travolta gives off the vibe he once did of being the young, cool-kid, yet one with a lot of brains and a lot of heart in Blow Out. Despite having a confident swagger and always seeming to be in a very assured state, the character of Jack Terry is deeply vulnerable, as he soon becomes the target of some shady figures that want to keep the governor's death look like a simple tire blow out. With Jack's professional sound engineering skills constantly being tested, the film plays like a hazy detective story that is brought to light by the use of incredible complex and unique technical equipment.

De Palma's focus on the technical aspects of the sound engineering world are what makes Blow Out truly unique. We see Jack cut and paste all kinds of equipment, operate on now-primitive sound machines that allow sounds to be emphasized as well as subdued in the background, along with seeing the remarkable coherency of everything done. These technical aspects give Blow Out an added layer to its thriller, making the film more and enticing and more of a unique experience to invest in seeing as these concepts and features are scarcely explored in a film.

Films about filmmaking can either get lost in a sea of self-referential humor or simply get lost in their own facile stories. Blow Out remains alive from the second it begins to the second the credits roll, with an unexpected final fifteen minutes that manage to house so much tension and suspense it's almost uncanny.

Starring: John Travolta and Nancy Allen. Directed by: Brian De Palma.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Good film -- a brilliant piece of black-humor!

Author: Edward Shimborske III (ES-III)
5 June 2003

Because Travolta became a bona-fide star again, and John Lithgow and Dennis Franz are always hot commodities, I figured I'd check out Brian DePalma's assassination thriller from yester-year. Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of this film, which parallels Michelangelo Antonioni's `Blowup' (1966), so that's good enough for me. Set in Philadelphia, sound-effects manager Jack Terry (John Travolta) unintentionally observes a car crash as he's recording the sound of the wind for an upcoming film. He jumps into a stream, saves a call girl from drowning, but is unable to save the man, who turns out to be a presidential candidate. Jack thinks the `accident' was an execution-call for the governor (a Chappaquidick-type political scandal), and checks his audio-tape for evidence. Meanwhile, a sleazy photographer (Dennis Franz) on the scene has a roll of pictures of the accident and sells them to a magazine. Jack eventually uses his editing skills to link his sound to the photos -- when the two are put together, Jack discovers evidence of a cover-up, thus putting himself in grave danger. Travolta is awesome, and really looks like he knows what he's doing in the studio. Likewise, Lithgow turns in a psychotic performance as Burke the assassin (and serves as a model for his later, better role in `Raising Cane'), while NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz is the same as he is now seventeen years later. The end is a brilliant piece of black-humor – let's just say Jack's boss finally gets the heart-stopping scream he's been hoping for!

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