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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 Blow Out Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Curt May
» See full cast & crew
Blow Out Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 22, 2013
Brian De Palma's "Blow Out" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film; video interview with producer George Litto; video interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond; video interview with actress Nancy Allen; video interview with Italian composer Pino Donaggio; and a collection of on-set photographs by Louis Goldman. Also included with this release is a collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Michael Atkinson and a discussion between director Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino, illustrated with original archive stills and promotional materials, as well as a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Wilson. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "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 British distributors Arrow Video.
There is no doubt in mind that the high-definition transfer this release uses was struck from the same restored 2K master Criterion utilized for their Blu-ray release of Blow Out in the U.S. The film looks virtually identical on the two releases. The only very small, and I mean extremely small, discrepancy I spotted is in the brightness settings. As a result, some of the daylight footage looks a tad darker on the Criterion release (compare screencapture #19 with screencapture #4 from our review of the Criterion release), but the difference is indeed academic. Image depth, contrast, and clarity are identical. Grain is evenly distributed and well resolved throughout the entire film. There are no traces of problematic sharpening corrections. Lastly, there are absolutely no stability issues to report in this review whatsoever. To sum it all up, if you reside in a Region-B country, with this release you are essentially getting Criterion's presentation of Brian De Palma's classic thriller. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Blow Out Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Arrow Video have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
The lossless track is very solid. Pino Donaggio's music score enhances the dramatic atmosphere very well throughout the entire film. The sax and flute solos, in particular, are very effective. The variety of different sounds and noises Jack records and then studies also impressively crisp and clear. The dialog is always stable, free of background hiss and pops, and easy to follow.
Blow Out Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blow Out Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This Blu-ray release of Brian De Palma's classic thriller Blow Out essentially gives fans of the film residing in the United Kingdom the opportunity to own Criterion's presentation of the film. However, the Region-B and Region-A releases come with very different supplemental features. Arrow Video's release contains all of the important supplemental features from French label Carlotta Films' release of Blow Out. In addition to various interviews, the Criterion release also retains as an exclusive Brian De Palma's film Murder a la Mod. If you are a very big fan of Blow Out, I suggest picking up the Arrow Video and Criterion releases to create your own Ultimate Edition of the film. (Note: In addition to the standard release reviewed here, a SteelBook Edition of Blow Out will also be available for sale. See our listing here). VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Blow Out: Other Editions
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Blow Out Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blow Out Officially Announced - May 13, 2013
British distributors Arrow Video have officially announced and detailed their upcoming standard and SteelBook Blu-ray editions of Brian De Palma's Blow Out (1981), starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen, and John Lithgow. Using a newly restored high-definition transfer ...
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