Blow Out/B+,C-
MGM/1981/108/ANA 1.85, PS 1.33

       Let's get this over with quickly: Blow Out looks pretty lousy. The focus is soft throughout. Colors are not sufficiently saturated. Overall, this looks like its been transferred from regurgitated source material. Shame on someone!.
     Blow Out may be Brian De Palma's most successful thriller. The key to the success of the film, much like The Conversation and Blow Up, films which evidentially inspired De Palma, is center of focus is rock solid on main character Jack Terri's profession as a sound editor. The plot, the characters, everything is subservient to the profession. 
     When Jack Terri starts repeating his sound effects a bit too much for his producer at a schlock movie studio, the sound specialist takes his tools to a midnight bridge to catch the wind and the rustling leaves. Using his telescopically sensitive pick-up mike like a conductor shaping a symphony, Jack records a bit more than just the wind. Like the whirlpool created when a massive object sinks int he water, Jack is pulled in to a mystery through the sounds on the night.

De Palma escalator fascination on view. ©MGM

    Typical De Palma visual flourishes are exercised to maximum effect in Blow Out. The peripatetic point-of-view camera stalks its victims with the intensity of a professional assassin. The bridge sequence is a beautifully staged blending of sound and visual stylization edited with beautiful precision. Slick editing is a must in a film about an editor. De Palma is more than up to the task. Blow Out moves at a snappy clip and the wind-up is a accelerates like a race car gunning to the wire..
    Paul Sylbert's production design is natural and Pino Donaggio's pulsing electronic score echoes the subject matter. Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography delivers all the De Palma signature visual flourishes.
    John Travolta is excellent as Terri. Travolta's energy gives Terri the strength to seek the truth. It's a puzzle he feels compelled to solve. Would Terri have felt the same had he witnessed the event through some other way than his profession? Nancy Allen is hilarious as the bimbo. But it doesn't dull the suspense.  John Lithgow knows his villains well. Lithgow dispatches victims with icy dispatch.  

    The mushy image and loss of detail don't prevent you from enjoying Blow Out, but they do diminish the pleasure. Clarity of sound is of paramount importance and at least the mono sound is clean and effective. 




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