Saturday, 12 September 2015

Blow Out (1981)

A sound-recordist accidentally captures the killing of a US presidential candidate on tape.

I haven't seen Blow Out since the 80's and bought Arrow's release to pack out an order so that I got free shipping. I really couldn't remember much about it and wasn't expecting much from a re-watch. Well, that'll teach me to be presumptuous!

Blow Up is De Palma's ode to giallo and specifically the films of Italian maestro of the macabre Dario Argento. De Palma's trademark style (over substance according to some) fits hand-in-glove with giallo. We have De Palma's usual red and blue neon reflected off of rain covered streets, but this time they have a distinctly Argento feel to them. Then there's the killer POV shot, the dreamlike night-time scene with an owl and a frog, the non-police investigator (a sound recordist), the use of architecture and glass, several moronic police officers who will not listen to the investigator, the gloved killer, even J&B Whisky makes an appearance. Even the relationship between sex and death is covered with the orgasmic killing at the end of the film.

But, I hear you say, where the knife? The knife rather neatly bookends the movie in the film-within-a-film. This allows De Palma to include one of the most notable giallo devices without being tied down to a well worn cliché - remember this is post-Halloween 1981.

There are a couple of issues. Firstly a couple of the sequences are overly long and badly needed trimming; this would have tightened up the whole pace of the film. For example, the Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz near-rape scene could have done with several minutes being sliced out. Secondly, some of the music choices were pretty bad. Not Last House on the Left bad, but poor none the less.

Nancy Allen is wonderful as the young and naive honey-trap, Travolta capitalises on his good looks without coming over as smug and handles his role well, and John Lithgow plays weird and deadly so well!

And that end! Travolta's character using a woman's dying scream in the slasher film-within-a-film really is something Argento would have come up with.

Good stuff!

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