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Blow Out – Criterion Collection (BluRay) 
Written by: on January 25th, 2017

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1981
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma
Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Curt May, John Aquino, John McMartin

BluRay released: April 26th, 2011
Approximate running times: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Criterion Collection
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.99

Synopsis: A movie sound engineer unwilling becomes part of a vast conspiracy when he accidently records the assassination of a prominent politician.

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.

The BluRay:

Blow Out comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Another solid transfer from Criterion. Here are my comments for Arrow Video’s transfer.

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD stereo mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio sounds, clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too.

Extras for this release include, Louis Goldman’s Photograph’s, a trailer for the film (1 minute 45 seconds), three interviews – the first interview with steady cam inventor Garret Brown (15 minutes 3 seconds), the second interview with actress Nancy Allen (25 minutes 25 seconds) and the third interview is with screenwriter / director Brian De Palma (57 minutes 48 seconds).

Topics discussed in the interview with Garret Brown include, The Shining, Blow Out and shooting the film’s opening sequence, looking back things that he would do differently shooting that scene, Brian De Palma and his use of the steady cam in his films and thorough overview of the steady cam.

Topics discussed in the interview with Nancy Allen include, the first time she encountered John Travolta auditioning for Carrie and their onscreen chemistry, Blow Out and working with John Travolta again, the original screenplay and changes that had to be made, her thoughts about the main characters, the cast, the film’s ending and critics reaction to the film.

Topics discussed in the interview with Brian De Palma include, inspiration for Blow Out, the role locations play in his films, shooting the films faux opening scene, working with frequent collaborators, the score and collaborating with Pino Donaggio, the look of the film and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, visuals techniques like split diopter, the cast and how several scenes had to be re-shoot when someone stole some of the film’s negative, suspense films and Alfred Hitchcock.

Other extras include the Brian De Palma directed feature film Murder à la Mod (80 minutes 23 seconds – 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive).

Rounding out the extras is a thirty-four-page booklet with cast & crew information, two essays – the first essay titled American Scream written by Michael Sragow and the second essay titled Portrait of an Artist as a Young Gadgeteer written by Paulene Kael. Other contents include McRyan’s Tragic Blow Out Frame by Frame Sequence and information about the transfer.

The extras included here as part of Criterion’s release are sustainably different, then the extras included as part of Arrow Video’s release. And because of this both of these release are essential for fans of this film and Brian De Palma. Overall Blow Out gets an exceptional release from the Criterion Collection, highly recommended.

Note: Criterion Collection are also releasing Blow Out on DVD.

Murder à la Mod Screenshots

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