A soundman accidentally records the evidence that proves a car accident was murder, and consequently finds himself in danger.
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I was planning a comment about De Palma's deft eye. I've mentioned itelsewhere, but this is the film of his most concerned with film-makingas an element of the story.However, in true De Palma fashion, I'll ask you to imagine what I mighthave said while I focus on something else: Nancy Allen.This is my 430th or so IMDb comment, but the first for which Isolicited MessageBoard help. My theory was that sex ruins vision. Itclearly did in this case. Film often presents dreadful performances,but rarely when some other element is top flight.But my IMDb comrades gave many examples of off-set sex enhancing theresult (Mamet-Pidgeon excepted). That raises an even more interestingquestion: Here is De Palma who presumably encountered many of theworld's most beautiful; and seductive women in his work and leisure.Yet the one that beguiled him was Nancy. She must have beenextraordinary in person.
I picked up a VHS tape for $2.99, not having seen the film on cable forseveral years. There it was again, that 70's color, as if much of thefilm has been shot through a pink/red Kleenex. My copy of Long GoodFriday looks like that too. And there are all those show-off cameraangles too. When I see dePalma I always think of that mirror in theceiling feature that supposedly was the norm of most German andViennese bordellos.What was fascinating is watching the techniques of 1980 being used byTravolta and the movie makers, the splicing and the lack of specialeffects we would have today.Everyone mentions Blow Up, The Conversation and The Parallax View, whenwriting about this film, and of course, the obligatory references toHitchcock. To my mind the plot line goes back to The 39 Steps, theinnocent man who happens to get involved. Hitchcock borrowed fromhimself many, many times, so I guess we can forgive dePalma here, butit is hard to forgive needless padding.The scene with the hooker has nothing to do with advancing the plot orratcheting up suspense, but is there to give dePalma another ceilingshot, or peeping tom shot. We know what Lithgow is; it does not have tobe reinforced.What follows takes the film from a suspense thriller into something weclearly recognize today: an ending so out of kilter with what couldhappen that it spoils the film. It is 5pm, rush hour, and 30th StreetStation is practically empty. dePalma has the inspired notion to haveLithgow ape the statue in the walkways above the floor of thestation....and here comes Travolta and Allen, neatly finding a parkingspace in the short term spots used for pickup.Of course, Lithgow sees the drop off and decides to take Allen to thesubway to kill her, rather the trolley line that runs undergroundalongside the subway tracks. To be accurate, the station dePalma showsis actually 15th Street, two miles east, but only a Philadelphian willknow that. Travolta is also actually at 15th Street/30th Street....hesees Allen on the trolley and heads for the Wrangler.Through City Hall Courtyard he drives; even then I believe that areawas blocked off. He crashes the jeep into Wanamakers window, is knockedout but comes to. It's dark so time has passed but Lithgow is stillmessing around with Allen down by the river, two miles away. JT leapsout of the ambulance and magically is 8 blocks closer at IndependenceHall. Did he take the subway? Catch a bus? Now he has another mile toreach the waterfront but he gets there, but too late.As long as we suspend our belief that the Philly cops were that bad andthat one nut could veer out of control, the earlier part of the plot isexcellent, but that ending drags the film down.
Because Travolta became a bona-fide star again, and John Lithgow and DennisFranz are always hot commodities, I figured I'd check out Brian DePalma'sassassination thriller from yester-year. Quentin Tarantino is a big fan ofthis film, which parallels Michelangelo Antonioni's `Blowup' (1966), sothat'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 windfor an upcoming film. He jumps into a stream, saves a call girl fromdrowning, but is unable to save the man, who turns out to be a presidentialcandidate. Jack thinks the `accident' was an execution-call for thegovernor (a Chappaquidick-type political scandal), and checks his audio-tapefor evidence. Meanwhile, a sleazy photographer (Dennis Franz) on the scenehas a roll of pictures of the accident and sells them to a magazine. Jackeventually uses his editing skills to link his sound to the photos -- whenthe two are put together, Jack discovers evidence of a cover-up, thusputting himself in grave danger.Travolta is awesome, and really looks like he knows what he's doing in thestudio. Likewise, Lithgow turns in a psychotic performance as Burke theassassin (and serves as a model for his later, better role in `RaisingCane'), while NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz is the same as he is now seventeenyears later. The end is a brilliant piece of black-humor Â let's just sayJack's boss finally gets the heart-stopping scream he's been hopingfor!
Nancy Allen (in particular) and John Travolta explode on the screen in Brian De Palma's under-rated 1981 political thriller, "Blow Out". The direction and photography mixed with the tense and windy script make Blow Out a keeper for any fan of thrillers. The supporting cast of NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz and Third Rock's John Lithgow add the extra spark needed to make this film a contemporary classic. Travolta and Allen have never been better!
Likable audio technician Jack Terri (splendidly played by JohnTravolta) does sound effects for cheesy low-grade slasher horrorflicks. One fateful night while recording natural sounds on a bridgeJack records and witnesses a car crash which kills the state governorwho was an aspiring presidential candidate. Jack also rescues andbefriends the governor's rather dumb, but really sweet mistress Sally(a beautifully endearing performance by the adorable Nancy Allen). WhenJack begins to investigate the circumstances behind the crash, he findsout that someone shot out one of the tires on the car and thus causedthe accident to happen. Pretty soon both Jack and Sally are put inconsiderable danger. Directed with tight, stylish, assured aplomb byBrian De Palma, who also wrote the ingenious script which cleverlyblends elements of "Blow-Up" and "The Conversation" into an absorbingand inspired synthesis, with exquisitely fluid, slick, sparklingcinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond (the occasional use of split screenis especially tasty and impressive), plenty of nerve-wracking suspense,an intricate conspiracy thriller plot, a charming and touching lovestory between Jack and Sally, and a rousing, pulsating, elegantorchestral score by Pino Donaggio, this crackling ripper comes on liketotal gangbusters from start to finish. Travolta and Allen areoutstanding in the leads; they receive terrific support from JohnLithgow as vicious, coldly pragmatic assassin Burke and Dennis Franz assleazeball blackmailer Manny Karp. From its bravura dead-on openinghilarious send-up of tacky slice'n'dice schlock to its exciting climaxand bitterly ironic conclusion, "Blow Out" overall rates as an absolutepowerhouse that comes highly recommended.
Sound man Jack Terry (John Travolta) is out one night recording soundsfor a movie. He witnesses a car accident--and also records a gun shotthat might have caused the accident. He saves Sally (Nancy Allen) fromthe crash but the man in the car is dead. It turns out he was in lineto be the governor and this might be an assassination attempt--and Jackand Sally find themselves in terrible danger.This was dismissed in 1981 as another attempt from DePalma to imitateHitchcock with a flimsy storyline. It was also attacked for its blatantmisogyny--even going too far for DePalma! Within the first five minuteswe see topless women dancing, another topless woman having sex with herboyfriend, another masturbating (but--surprise!--she's not topless) anda nude woman taking a shower. We also later on witness two brutalmurders of women that have nothing to do with the plot! However,considering what DePalma has given us lately, this is a pretty goodmovie.I found it boring and confusing back in 1981. I STILL think it's alittle slow in parts but that actually helps the movie as a whole. Theplot unfolds slowly but when it gets going it doesn't stop. It allleads up to a silly, but exciting, car chase through Philadelphia.There's also a genuinely funny subplot about a director of Travoltatrying to find a perfect scream for a horror movie he's doing. AlsoDePalma's excellent direction and incredible use of split screen helps.Even better, and more surprising, was Travolta's great performance. Heliterally explodes a few times and it's incredible. I also like Alleneven if she does play the role as a little TOO dumb. Unknowns DennisFranz and John Lithgow also play small but key roles. So, misogynyaside this is one of DePalma's better movies. I give it a 7.
This to me is one of the best Philadelphia and Bicentential movies thatthere is.It is set in Philly during the celebration of 1776 (in 1976) and itreally shows the sights of the city.There is a scence when Tavolata is going sown the streets of the citylooking for a suspect with the police and it seems so realistic , justlike you were in the police car yourself.Travolta as usual does a great job of acting. However, the stat of thismovie, like James Bond movies is the villain, John Lithgow. he isabsolutely manic in mission to be shoot the candidate.The ending is great.
If you are a big movie buff and know about other movies and directors Brian De Palma is influenced by, you may think this movie is a joke (based on reviews I've seen here and elsewhere). I think some film buffs who aren't that critical will love it though and general audiences who just watch movies as something fun to do will love it too. A snippet of a B movie with unrealistic naked girls (perfectly B movie unrealistic girls) opens the movie, (my mother got this movie through a movie club and immediately turned it off and gave it to me), but then we see that the opening is just a set up to introduce us to the characters. Quickly we are led into a completely different type of movie which has a bit of everything, a tense underwater rescue, a political assasination, corrupt cops (in a flashback scene), a bit of romance (nicely done without any makeout or sex scenes, a bit of insight to the seedy underbelly of society, a psychotic killer, and a beginners how-to in filmaking as the real heart of the movie. Many reviews harp on mistakes, "that character should have" moments and the ending they don't like. But I believe most first time viewers will see past all that. You'll want to watch it again (and there are things many will not pick up on the first time), just don't get hung up on the what if's and how comes.
BLOW OUT is probably my favorite Brian DePalma AND John Travolta movie. Often criticized for his derivativeness from masters such as Hitchcock or others, DePalma found a niche in this film that he never really recaptured (with the exception of THE UNTOUCHABLES, but it's a different kind of film). DePalma's trademark kinetic cinematography and plot twists are evident, but they don't seem as forced or contrived as in some of his other films. I've never seen BLOWUP, and sometimes I hate it when people tend to compare similar films. Let them stand on their own for whatever their merits might be. This is a stunningly performed and hypnotic thriller, buoyed by the performances of both Travolta and Nancy Allen, who first appeared together in De Palma's brilliant CARRIE. John Lithgow is very effective in his role as the killer after our stars. Dennis Franz gives another solid performance as the sleazeball who sets Allen up with the presidential hopeful. Some of the scenes where they're trying to get a good screamer for a horror movie Travolta is working on are priceless. BLOW OUT culminates in a suspenseful finale at a Liberty Bell celebration in Philadelphia and his decision to slow mo the Travolta rush to save Allen is mesmerizing and agonizing at the same time. Flashy thought it may be, I love the scene where Travolta and Allen are in the foreground of the fireworks.DePalma was at his peak here and I have enjoyed this movie four times since its release.
DePalma shows a superb eye for shot composition and visual storytelling but left the plot details a little loosey goosey at times here. I still give it 4 stars because the acting is good and it does build suspense the way many older thrillers used to. DePalma also showed a lot of guts with an atypical ending, just as he had done with "Carrie" and would do with "Scarface."
Arguably Brian De Palma's best film. John Travolta is a B-movie soundman who may or may not have recorded a political assassination. DePalma's camera is on overdrive with this film...it never ceases moving.The plot, a rift on the classic BLOW-UP, takes plenty of twists andturns and the film does not cop out at all. Travolta is great (this washis first "grown up" role) and he's well teamed with Nancy Allen. JohnLithgow is a suitably nasty assassin and De Palma regular Dennis Franzis in it too. This is De Palma at his best as he brings together astellar cast & crew. Paul Hirsch did the editing, The creepy music isby Pino Donaggio and the cinematography is by Vilmos Zsigmond. Atriumph.
In "Blow-Out", Brian De Palma is taking his cues from Antonioni's"Blow-Up" and Coppola's "The Conversation". But instead of Antonioni'sphilosophical play on life, memory and detail, and Coppola's analysisof suburban paranoia, De Palma is only capable of directing a genericsuspense-crime thriller.The poorly-written script is too unrealistic, and the direction oftenresorts to cinematic clichÃ©s to provoke suspense (like the slow-motioncar-chase sequence), not to mention the completely melodramatic ending."Blow-Out" is a hollow film, devoid of any real substance, and it onlymakes matters worse that it was inspired by 2 masterpieces. It's onlysaving grace is the somewhat stylish direction of the second half, andTravolta's performance. But they're not enough.
Blow Out is a pretty decent thriller from the early 80's staring JohnTravolta. Travolta plays a movie sound effects technician whoaccidentally records the assassination of a governor, and has to exposethe truth while protecting himself and another witness from the peoplewho don't want the conspiracy uncovered.Â The best parts of the movie were some pretty cool camera angles, a nicesense of tension - courtesy of writer and director Brian De Palma, anda chilling performance from John Lithgow as a disturbed killer.Â If youwere surprised by his murderous turn as a serial killer on the TV showDexter a few years ago, this movie will show you that he's been good atplaying that kind of a character for quite a while. Fans of De Palma, conspiracy films, or John Travolta would be doingthemselves a favor by checking this out.Â
To me, this is a beautiful love story. I don't know why I've never seenanyone comment on that side of the film before. Sure, there are thoseelements of 'conspiracy' and 'maniac killer' in the film. But ultimately,this is a love story. Everything else, the conspiracy and slasher elements,are just plot devices to get the two people (Travolta and Allen) together.And this is where the greatness of this film comes from.It is a film of great heart. Passionate and wonderfully honest. Thechemistry between Travolta and Allen is just sublime. You might not likeAllen's character as a loopy and a bit unsure-of-herself girl, but youcannot take her sensitive and honest portrayal of the character away fromher. In fact, if you do find her annoying, then she actually did succeed inportraying the character of Sally. Right, some people might not find acharacter like that appealing, but some other people (Jack Terry, forinstance), might think that that's a wonderful quality to have. I'd want tomeet a girl like that anytime!!The scenes where Jack and Sally have their little bits of conversation aretruly magnificent. You can really feel that here are 2 people who've justmet, and kind of liked each other's company, but still not confidentenough to let their true feelings be known to the other. I'm sure you'llremember your first few dates with the one you love with the same kind offeeling. I certainly can't understand why some people have said that thesescenes are pointless. How can you say that your first few dates with the oneyou love are pointless? What do people talk about on their first datesanyway? Jack and Sally doesn't know each other yet, so what do you expectthem to say?As to why I think this is ultimately a love story, it's simple. How can yousay that this is a film about conspiracy? There is no conspiracy. Watch itagain closely and you'll see. This is not a thriller because there isnothing to be thrilled about. The 'slasher' element only serves the purposeof reaching the ending.And, that is also why this is a great movie. And an original one too. Why?Because even though it borrows from several movies and directors suchas Antonioni's Blow-Up and Coppola's The Conversation and of course, theGodardian techniques that are used, the way De Palma ultimately uses them iswithout any doubt original. This is because in every other thriller,conspiracy or 'slasher' movie, it is the love story that is used as a plotdevice to reach a certain goal of the director's. Or to make it clearer, thelove story takes a back seat. It is there only for the hero to have a loveinterest. But in this movie, it is the thriller, conspiracy and 'slasher'elements that are used to further the director's goal, that is, to tell alove story. You don't believe me? Go and see the movie. You'll see.I don't think I need to write anything about the techniques that De Palmaused in this movie. Other users have commented upon these. I just wanted togive my opinion on one side of the film that has long been neglected, a sidewhich I think elevated this movie above just about everything else. Go seethis. It's wonderful.
This would make a grand companion piece to The Conversation, as they areboth about obsessed neurotic loner sound men. (One must ask; are theyall cut from the same cloth?) DePalma does his usual bag of cinematictricks, and they all work really well here. Travolta was slim lean andhungry, and does a fine job. I'd say this and Pulp Fiction are his twofinest works, if you don't count musicals, and I rarely do. The video Isaw was quite dark, and I don't know if that was the cheap quality ofvideo tape or my tv screen. But it seemed unusually dark. However, it'sa dark film, and perhaps that was intentional. I wish they still madethoughtful thrillers like this today.
The film shows sound technician Jack Terry while his TV is showing political news about Governor McRyan at the Bellevue-Stratford hotel in Philadelphia (site of the 1976 American Legion convention). McRyan is the likely candidate for President. This sound man goes out at night to collect sounds for special effects. A shotgun mike, which is highly directional, can pick up distant sounds. When he hears tires squeal he picks up that sound. There is a sharp noise, and the car crashes. He dives into the water to rescue the woman in the back seat. At the hospital his objective testimony is questioned. The driver in the car was the late Governor McRyan! Lawrence Henry tells Terry to forget about it. The truth about the girl must be suppressed in the national interest. [Does this remind you of a Massachusetts Senator or a New York Governor?]We see someone break into a garage and remove the tire with a bullet hole to replace it with another tire. Sally is a make-up girl at Korvettes. A local photographer happened to be filming at night and recorded the car crash. Frames are printed in a magazine (like the Zapruder film). Terry re-photographs the frames to create a movie film from the stills. Meeting with Sally, Terry tells about his past work with a commission investigating corruption. Something went wrong. Sally was paid to go away for a few months. There is a shocking event where a woman is attacked and killed on the street. Sally visits Manny at a cheap hotel, and we learn more about Manny. Back at the sound laboratory Terry is working on the audio tape to synchronize the sound to the film. There was a flash behind a fence that connects to the sharp noise. [Does this remind you of the 1977 Select Commission to Investigate Assassinations?]When Jack Terry visits his police friend his story is considered a "conspiracy theory". But they will investigate. A telephone conversation reveals the hidden hands used to remove McRyan from politics. Back at his sound laboratory Terry finds his tapes have all been erased! (But this is no conspiracy.) Reporter Frank Donohue visits Terry to get information about his tape of the car crash. Later Terry learns that Sally worked to set up men for blackmail in divorce cases. Sally visits Manny and learns more about the deal. Terry's phone is wiretapped, and the secret operative Burke asks Sally to meet Frank Donohue and hand over the film and tape. [Why didn't they go to Donohue's office?] Terry wires Sally to record her conversation. [We see the spacious railroad stations in Philadelphia, so much better than the Penn Central station in NY.]Terry realizes something is wrong, and tries to follow Sally. But they take a train to someplace. He drives through City Hall in pursuit of Sally, but crashes his car. Sally seems incredibly naive and trusting given her experiences. The fireworks distract people and the noise covers up screams. Terry sees the two and runs to stop Burke [a scene that reminded me of Hitchcock's "Psycho"]. Burke is stopped, but Sally expired. There are no witnesses. Sally's dying scream is used for dubbing a cheap porno/slasher movie. [There are problems with this story. What need is there for Burke to silence witnesses whose story can't be corroborated?] Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz did an excellent job portraying their characters. John Lithgow plays the creepy political operative. John Travolta plays a sound man whose most important work is in his past. Brian de Palma's writing and direction make this his best film.
Blow Out starts out promising enough but then De Palma ruins it withhis poorly thought-out script and hackneyed directorial choices. Whatbegins as an intriguing murder mystery and clever homage to Antonioni's'Blow Up' (with a little Hitchcock and Coppola thrown in for goodmeasure) eventually devolves into a sloppy and predictable mess by theend, as cleverness gives way to clichÃ©, and an almost complete lack oflogic seems to overtake the characters during the film's frustratingthird act.Initially I was on board for this movie, especially with the wittyfilm-within-a-film introduction and frequent references to film editingand so forth, but then came the disappointing plot development and (forthe most part) lackluster performances from the cast. Nancy Allen (whoI usually like) seems a little miscast here playing a dumb blonde, andprobably could have toned down her act a little bit to make it moreconvincing and less stereotypical, and while Travolta's performance isdecent enough, it's really nothing special in and of itself. The twodon't seem to have much chemistry together, either, but I guess thatdoesn't matter much as their characters never actually develop anythingbeyond a shallow and superficial relationship, anyway. Dennis Franzalso seems out of place playing a sleazy slob of a photographer, and asfor John Lithgow (who I've always thought to be too "hammy" in whateverrole he was playing) as a hit man turned serial killer? Forget aboutit. His actions (let alone his acting) in the film make little to nosense. Is he mad or is he just trying to cover his tracks? We neverreally find out, though one scene inexplicably shows him stalking ahooker in the subway for no good reason.Now if there's one thing you can say about Brian De Palma it's that theman certainly has his own signature style when it comes to filmmaking(seriously, who else uses split-screen technique so often, even whenit's completely unnecessary?). I swear, though, if I have to sufferthrough one more scene of his where the camera pans 360 degrees forwhat seems like an eternity I am simply going to claw my eyes out! Itwas annoying enough in 'Carrie', but this time - just plain pointless.Also, what was he thinking when he decided to shoot the climax of thefilm all in slow motion with cheesy melodramatic music playing over thetop? Not only is this scene entirely clichÃ© in the worst possible waywith Travolta running to the rescue of the damsel in distress Allen, italso happens to be extremely dull (in fact, it reminds me of asimilarly awful slow motion sequence in 'The Fury'). And while somemight have found the saw-it-coming-a-mile-away twist at the end to be alittle too morbid for their taste, I just thought it was completelyridiculous.All in all, I have to say that this is not one of De Palma's bestpictures, and I fail to see why critics have praised it so much. Muchlike the title suggests, Blow Out isn't quite sturdy enough to stay thecourse, and while it manages to wobble along alright initially despitea few bumps along the road, it's during the last fifteen to twentyminutes that the real disaster strikes. Whether you want to be awitness to this accident or not is entirely up to you.
This review is from: Blow Out (DVD) ***** 1981. Written and directed by Brian De Palma. A sound engineer tries to unravel a political conspiracy but nobody believes him. This lyrical thriller, which has become a cult movie, proves once again that Brian De Palma is a major director. The film is a smart comment about cinema and manipulation worth multiple viewings. Masterpiece.
*Possible spoilers*Like a lot of people, I suppose, I was interested in this film becauseQuentin Tarantino ranks it as one of his three favorite movies (along with"Rio Bravo" and "Taxi Driver"). It sure doesn't take long to seewhy--there's lots to love here for anyone that appreciates skilled directionand a tight story.Stylistically, "Blow Out" is just off the charts. Brian DePalma packs thefilm with so many unique shots and so many thrilling, tight-as-a-drumsequences that I'm almost inclined to say it's a little too much. It wasone of the only times that I've watched a film and been acutely aware thatevery single second is being Directed, with a capital "D." Which can begood or bad depending on what you're looking for.The story is basic but compelling noir: a b-movie soundman (John Travolta)records the sounds of what he believes to be an assassination of apresidential candidate, and becomes a target of a clandestine cover-upoperation in his attempts to get the truth out. What I like about the plotis that it HAD to be a movie. It could never have been a novel or a play. Sight and sound are too integral to the very fabric of the story for it towork in any other medium. This is what makes DePalma's lavish directionmore than just so much masturbation. The plot also gets an extra browniepoint for a pretty tough, shocking, anti-Hollywood ending.There's pitfalls here, too. The romantic subplot (while not tacked on as inmost films) just doesn't do it for me--mostly because Nancy Allen'scharacter is as poorly written and acted a female lead as you will find. And yes, when you get down to it, there's much more style here thansubstance.But if you have an iota of appreciation for well-orchestrated thrillers,it's tough to see why you wouldn't love this gem of a movie.
An excellent political thriller by Brian De Palma. John Travolta plays a movie sound-effects man who inadvertently records a gunshot, tire blow-out, and a car crashing into a creek off a bridge. He saves the girl (Nancy Allen) who was in the car, but another occupant, the governor of Pennsylvania and presidential candidate, drowns. It becomes obvious that the governor was being set up for blackmail, and now those involved want it covered up by getting rid of the witnesses. The acting is superb and De Palma really builds up the tension to a riveting climax (which, after the fact, feels like a letdown because Travolta is able to get the man behind the conspiracy (John Lithgow - who is actually a CIA agent and the perfect foil for De Palma's obsession with conspiracy theories [echoes of Chappaquiddick and Dallas]), but the truth may never be revealed because evidence has been destroyed - and Allen is killed at the end. Filmed in Philadelphia, De Palma has a great feel for the city. Everything (mostly) works here; the movie is of a whole. (Although I have a personal problem with why two innocent women are killed by Lithgow; there seems to be no apparent reason for it.) It's an excellent movie, and there is much to mull over after it's done rolling.