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In the enthralling Blow Out, brilliantly crafted by Brian De Palma, John Travolta gives one of his greatest performances as Jack, a movie sound-effects man who believes he has accidentally recorded a political assassination. He enlists the help of Sally (Nancy Allen), a possible eyewitness to the crime who may be in danger herself, to uncover the truth. With its jolting stylistic flourishes, intricate plot, profoundly felt characterizations, and gritty evocation of early-1980s Philadelphia, Blow Out is an American paranoia thriller unlike any other, as well as a devilish reflection on the act of moviemaking.
For more about Blow Out and the Blow Out Blu-ray release, see the Blow Out Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 2, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Curt May
Director: Brian De Palma
» See full cast & crew
Blow Out Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 2, 2011
Brian De Palma's "Blow Out" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; director Brian De Palma's experimental film "Murder a la Mod" (1967); collection of images taken by the late still photographer Louis Goldman; and video interviews with director Brian De Palma, cameraman Garret Brown, and actress Nancy Allen. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow and Pauline Kael's original New Yorker interview. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Jack Terry (John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever) is a sound-effects specialist in a small company specializing in cheap horror films. He is handsome, self-confident and single. He is also a perfectionist.
While recording outdoor noises not too far off of a small country road, Jack witnesses a "freak accident" - a car veers off the road and overturns into a deep creek. He immediately jumps into the cold water and rescues one passenger, a beautiful blonde named Sally (Nancy Allen, Dressed to Kill). The driver drowns.
In the nearby hospital, Jack is told that the driver was Governor McRyan, an incredibly popular politician whom many believe would have been the next president of the United States. Moments later, another politician, supposedly a good friend of Governor McRyan, warns Jack that it would be best if he never ever mentioned Sally before the media or his friends.
Annoyed but intrigued by the warning, Jack attempts to talk to Sally, but she politely rejects him. He offers to buy her a drink when she gets better.
Later on, while listening to his recordings Jack recognizes a "gunshot" seconds before a tire blow-out. He begins reconstructing the "freak accident" and eventually concludes that what he witnessed is in fact a brilliantly staged political assassination.
Soon after, Jack meets Sally and warns her that unless she helps him expose the people behind Governor McRyan's assassination she is guaranteed to end up like him - in a body bag. The warning produces the desired result and Sally unenthusiastically confesses to Jack that she was part of a blackmail stunt against Governor McRyan put together by a shady photographer with a serious drinking problem named Manny (Dennis Franz, City of Angels).
But Jack isn't fully convinced that Manny's stunt was all about money - which is why he decides to put together the scattered pieces of what he is convinced is a much more elaborate plan to eliminate Governor McRyan designed by a brilliant mind. Shortly after, a man with many skills (John Lithgow, Terms of Endearment) goes after him and Sally.
Brian De Palma's Blow Out is a fascinating film that works on multiple levels for multiple reasons. It effectively builds its plot around different themes which continue to evolve right until the dramatic finale. Like Jack, the viewer gradually begins to realize the significance of the information the main protagonists convey.
There are many important clues and twice as many false leads. Naturally, separating the two isn't easy. De Palma is so good at misdirecting that even the obvious becomes incredibly difficult to see unless he points it out. And he doesn't, not until the very end.
Blow Out also works exceptionally well as a process study. Jack's analysis of the recordings and the detailed reconstruction of the "freak accident" might look somewhat dated – because of the specific equipment he uses - but his thought process most certainly isn't. On the contrary, his rationalizations are absolutely brilliant.
The cast is outstanding. Travolta is terrific as the sound-effects specialist who becomes suspicious of everyone and everything around him. Allen is just as impressive as the naive and unstable blonde who suddenly finds herself surrounded by people she cannot trust. Franz's time in front of the camera is limited, but it is more than enough to for the viewer to develop a genuine dislike for his dishonest character.
Legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond's (The Deer Hunter) lensing is excellent, while Pino Donaggio's (Don't Look Now) wonderful music score greatly enhances they sense of paranoia that permeates the film.
Blow Out Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Brian De Palma's Blow Out arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma, this new digital transfer was created on a Scanity Datacine in 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Brian De Palma, Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Joe Gawler/Deluxe New York.
Digital Scanning: Colorworks, Los Angeles."
(Note: Screencaptures 17, 18, 19, and 20 are from Murder a la Mod).
Supervised by director Brian De Palma, this new high-definition transfer offers dramatic improvements in every single area we address in our reviews. Color reproduction, in particular, is surprisingly strong, with the variety of reds, greens, blues, browns, and blacks truly popping up during a number of different sequences. Fine object detail is also excellent, while contrast levels are never problematic. Clarity is also very good, though I must mention that I noticed a few soft spots popping up early into the film (for example, right around the 30 min. mark, in the lower left corner of the image frame). Edge-enhancement is never a serious issue of concern; neither is macroblocking. I also did not see any traces of heavy noise reduction - a layer of healthy grain is present throughout the entire film. Lastly, Criterion appear to have performed a very serious cleanup and removed a number of flecks, small scratches and debris, which can be seen all over the R1 SDVD release of Blow Out which MGM produced quite some time ago. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content.).
Blow Out Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
Pino Donaggio's music score has a very important role in Blow Out. Fortunately, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track enhances it very well - the moody flute and sax solos, the stings, and the percussions truly come alive. The various noises Jack records and later on analyzes also sound great. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review.
Blow Out Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blow Out Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A lot of people like to compare Brian De Palma's Blow Out to Alfred Hitchcock's films and Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, but the film has its own identity and unique message. There are terrific subtexts in it that accurately reflect America's obsession with political scandals, conspiracies, and violence. On the other hand, it is an impressive, and very entertaining, study of idealism gone wrong. As expected, Criterion's Blu-ray release of Blow Out is of exceptionally high quality. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Blow Out Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray April 26 - May 2 - April 26, 2011
It's difficult to imagine that educational programming would represent some of the best selling Blu-ray content, but that is exactly what BBC's Natural History Unit has managed to accomplish with their epic and jaw-dropping films. Today Warner is releasing their ...
• Criterion “Three Reasons” Blu-ray Trailer: Blow Out - February 10, 2011
The Criterion Collection has created a new "Three Reasons" trailer, this time for Blow Out, which is slated for Blu-ray release on April 26. This trailer expresses three reasons why, in Criterion's opinion, Brian De Palma's 1981 thriller is a must-see.
• Criterion Blu-ray in April: Campion, Denis, De Palma, Gilliam, Lo... - January 14, 2011
The Criterion Collection has announced six titles for Blu-ray release in April. On April 12, it will release Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970) and White Material (Claire Denis, 2009). A week later, it will release Kes (Ken Loach, 1969) and Sweetie (Jane ...
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