Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 16th, 2013
BluRay released: May 27th, 2013
Approximate running times: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £22.99 (UK)
Blow Out was written and directed by Brian De Palma, who’s output as a filmmaker in the first half of the 1980’s is arguably one of the stronger five year runs that any filmmaker has had in the last thirty five years. During this stretch he would direct Dressed to Kill, Scarface, Body Double and the aforementioned Blow Out. It is also during this era of his Career De Palma would really refine his own sense of style as a filmmaker. Another thing that this part of his career is most known for was his constant battling with the MPAA, who would time and again have him alter his visions to lesser the rating they would ultimately impose on the final released versions of said films.
Content wise, the film that Blow Out draws more from then any would be Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-up. Only where the mystery at the heart of Blow-up rested upon the contents of a photograph. Blow Out takes things to the next level by introducing the importance of sound into a similar equation.
Though De Palma’s film’s are known for their strong sense of visual style. Those who have yet to see Blow Out, but have seen many of De Palma’s other films will be very surprised by this film’s unique visual style. This film’s visuals are best summed up as film noir is color. The cinematographer on Blow Out was Vilmos Zsigmond, who’s other collaborations with De Palma include Obsession, Bonfire of the Vanities and The Black Dahlia. Other notable film’s as a cinematographer that her also worked on include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate.
As mentioned before the film’s striking visuals add to the many layers of subtext that are running rampant throughout this film. Another area in which the film’s hold up really well are they way they help sell the tremendous amount of misdirection that is employed throughout this film. Most notably the film’s opening and closing moments.
Being that one of the main factor’s that hold’s this murder mystery together is a sound recording of a prominent political figure, who has been murdered. It should not come as a surprise that this film’s sound design is rock solid. And to back up this meticulous laid out sonic experience. Is an extraordinary score that was composed by Pino Donaggio, who’s other collaborations with De Palma include Carrie, Home Movies, Dressed to Kill, Body Double and Raising Cain. In particular his motif for the film’s finale is easily his most haunting piece of music that he has ever committed to the silver screen.
Casting also reunites De Palma with several familiar faces. Most notably that of his two leading performers John Travolta and Nancy Allen, who had previously worked together on Carrie. John Travolta performance is easily the most surprising of his career and it only gets more impressive with subsequent viewings. Nancy Allen though very good in her role here, her performance often gets overshadowed by John Travolta’s. Other recognizable faces in the cast include Dennis Franz in the role of a sleazy pimp named Manny Karp and John Lithgow in the role of a sadistic killer that uses ice picks and piano wire’s to disposes of his victims. Ultimately Blow Out is a first class thriller that does not miss a beat as it moves briskly from one shocking moment to the next.
Blow Out comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Overall this is a solid transfer that is on par with Criterion’s region A Blu-Ray release. With the main difference between these two transfers being that the Arrow transfer looks slightly brighter.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD stereo mix in English. Channel separation is strong throughout, with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack superbly realized. Dialog comes through with crystal clear clarity, everything sounds balanced and robust when its needs too. Especially Pino Donaggio’s extraordinary score. Also included with this release are two subtitle options, a English and English SDH.
Extras for this release include a image gallery, a trailer for the film (1 minute 45 seconds) and four interviews / featurette’s, the first one with actress Nancy Allen titled ‘Rag Doll Memories’ (21 minutes 28 seconds), the second one with producer George Litto titled ‘Return to Philadelphia’ (18 minutes 38 seconds), the third one with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond titled ‘Black and White in Color’ (27 minutes 41 seconds) and the fourth one with composer Pino Donaggio titled ‘Multitracking Blow Out’ (28 minutes 6 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles).
Topics covered in Nancy Allen’s interview include, working with Brian De Palma, how she was considered for the lead female role in the film after John Travolta insisted on her being cast, her experiences working with John Travolta, she also discusses in depth the character Sally that she portrays in Blow Out, overcoming her claustrophobia to film a scene where a car is submerged underwater, improvising and working with John Lithgow and her thoughts on the final product.
Topics discussed in George Litto’s interview include, working with Brian De Palma, they worked together on three films, Obsession, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out, the origins of Blow Out and how he got the film’s budget solely based on the film’s outline, casting, filming in Philadelphia and the visually look of the film, how two reels of the film were stolen during filming and his overall thoughts about Blow Out.
Topics discussed in the interview with Vilmos Zsigmond include, working with Brian De Palma, the look of the film and some of the difficulties in trying to obtain this film’s distinctive visual style, key moments like the scene where John Travolta’s character reassembles images from a magazine with sound he recorded, the film’s ending and his thoughts on the final product and its overall legacy.
Topics discussed in Pino Donaggio’s interview include, working with Brian De Palma, how composing scores has changed over the years and in more recent years has become more restrictive, also throughout the interview he touches upon various other films that has composed scores for that were not directed by Brian De Palma.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a collectible booklet featuring stills and other promotional related materials and an essay about the film written by Michael Atkinson and a texted based interview / conversion with Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino. Overall Blow Out gets a first rate release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.
Note: Arrow Video are also releasing this film in a steelbook edition.