Brian De Palma has always been a favourite amongst film fans, he was at first passed off by critics as a Hitchcock wannabe but soon proved himself to be one of the best and unique director’s working in Hollywood. Blow Out made in 1981 stars John Travolta as Jack in one of his best roles of a sound recording engineer working for a low budget film company.
One night while outside recording some sounds to add to his library, he witnesses an accident in which a car veers off a bridge and overturns into a deep river. He immediately jumps into the cold water and rescues one passenger, a blonde woman named Sally (Nancy Allen).
After finding out that the driver of the car who died was a respected Governor McRyan, he is told in no uncertain terms to keep quiet about it and to say that the governor was alone. But curiosity takes the better of him and after listening to the audio recording he made at the time, suspects that the accident was more than a blown out Tyre. With the help of Sally, he begins to uncover a conspiracy which puts not only his life but Sally’s in grave danger.
The great thing about the film is that it unfolds the mystery layer by layer as you, along with Jack, see the true story of what really happened and why he is trying to be silenced. The direction of the widescreen image, with use of split screen, is superb and is helped out enormously by legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond’s (The Deer Hunter).
Sound as you can imagine plays a big part in the proceedings and it’s fascinating to watch Jack piece together what he recorded and what was filmed that night, the equipment used may be now outdated but it is used to great effect. The one weak point in my view is the performance of Nancy Allen as Sally. She just does not seem very convincing as the dumb blonde who is being used unwittingly by those around her. Look out for a great performance by John Lithgow as a cold callous killer who follows orders without the hint of remorse or feeling.
The Blu ray released by Arrow has a very good presentation, Clarity and contrast are perfect, grain is distributed evenly, this is a top-notch presentation. Audio is served by an English LPCM 2.0. track and is clear and solid, no problems whatsoever in the clarity of the soundtrack.
Special features as usual from Arrow are excellent and it should be noted that they are different from those on the Region A Criterion release.
- Black and White in Color: Fascinating interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond in which he talks about his relationship with the director, the directors fascination with the films of Hitchcock and what it was like working on Blow Out.
- Return to Philadelphia: producer George Litto discusses the origins of the film, his working with Brian De Palma on this film as well as Dressed To Kill and others.
- Rag Doll Memories: Here Nancy Allen discusses her role in the film, working with John Travolta (They also worked on De Palma’s Carrie) and how the film was received when it was first released in the early 80’s.
- Multitracking Blow Out: Composer Pino Donaggio discusses his contribution to Blow Out and professional relationship with director Brian De Palma.
- Booklet: Essay on the film by critic Michael Atkinson, as well as a discussion between director Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino, illustrated with original archive stills and promotional materials.
The retail version also comes with reversible cover art (A Steelbook edition is also available).
A great release from Arrow, a great transfer with good extra features for one of the best thrillers of the 80’s.
FILM: 7.5 OUT OF 10
PICTURE: 8 OUT OF 10
AUDIO: 8 OUT OF 10
EXTRAS: 8 OUT OF 10