Blow Out Blu-Ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Blow Out (Blu-ray)
    Directed by  Brian De Palma

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1981
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p  AVC codec  
    Running Time: 108 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English
    Subtitles:  SDH

    Region:  A
    MSRP:  $ 39.95


    Release Date: April 26, 2011

    Review Date: April 21, 2011

     

     

    The Film

    4.5/5

     

    Director Brian De Palma has sometimes been called a derivative filmmaker or a minor league Hitchcock, but there is nothing derivative or minor league about Blow Out, a tantalizing and taut thriller which is a unique achievement in the filmmaker’s canon. Filled with excellent performances, a terrific script with several startling twists, and masterful direction that really shows De Palma at the apex of his career, Blow Out, like Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation¸ is a technology-based film which uses its mechanics brilliantly and always in service to its story.

     

    While recording some fresh nighttime sounds for his audio library, Philadelphia sound technician Jack Terry (John Travolta) witnesses and records a car crashing through barriers on a bridge and sinking into a river. Diving in, he rescues the rather simple-minded Sally (Nancy Allen) though the driver, a rising political candidate being touted as the next President, dies. While being treated in the hospital, he’s approached by the candidate’s political spokesman (John McMartin) to keep it quiet that the candidate had a woman who was not his wife in the car with him. Thinking that odd, Jack begins listening carefully to his audio recording and notices that it was a gunshot that blew out the tire and caused the accident. Synching his audio to a shot by shot series of photographs filmed by an on-scene cameraman leads him to believe that he witnessed a murder rather than an accident. Little does he know that the powers that be who wanted the candidate eliminated have now sent a hit man (John Lithgow) to clean up any lingering traces of the crime which means both Jack and Sally are in danger.

     

    De Palma’s film is a textbook example of how a facile variety of directorial techniques can make for a gripping, unforgettable movie. The film is filled with split screen effects (sometimes obvious ones with the screen split in two; sometimes with two different shots melded into the widescreen frame seamlessly as if in one), overhead and low-level shooting at appropriate moments (a climactic shot involving fireworks never fails to take one’s breath away), a mesmerizing sequence where the camera circles 360 degrees as Jack discovers that his sound studio has been burglarized, tracking shots, slow motion shots, and a creative manipulation of previous images (using a directional mic) with current ones (reliving his experience using a pencil instead of the mic). The unending assortment of techniques to tell his story (De Palma also wrote the script) makes it the very definition of auteur cinema. What could have been a stale, simple stalk and slash movie in the wrong hands turns into something deeper and more meaningful as the director constantly surprises us with unique revelations about motives and modus operandi. And he also doesn’t resort to a typical romance developing between his two leads either which films of this type would generally embrace. Instead, we get a grown up emotional bond between the protagonists tied as they are to the event and its aftermath. Perhaps the lack of these clichéd elements prevented the film from capturing a large, enthusiastic audience during its initial release, but it certainly plays like a masterwork now.

     

    John Travolta gives one of his strongest, warmest, and most heartfelt performances in the movie as the lone wolf professional who finds himself caring for someone else’s well being. Nancy Allen effects a singsong, hippy-dippy airhead accent to her Sally that’s perfectly in keeping with her persona as someone who’s accustomed to being used with someone else calling the shots. As the sleazy person-on-the-scene, Dennis Franz etches another wonderful character in his De Palma filmography while John Lithgow proves at even this early stage of his career he could play sinister and menacing exceptionally well long before his Emmy-winning turn as the Trinity Killer on Dexter.

     

     

    Video Quality

    4.5/5

     

    The film is presented at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is showing 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Apart from the soft, murky rushes of Co-Ed Frenzy which opens the movie, sharpness and color saturation is really first-rate with plenty of detail in clothing, hair, and facial features. Flesh tones may be just a bit rosy, but it’s not a major handicap. Black levels are the transfer’s weakest element. Again, they aren’t a deal breaker in the least, but they prevent the transfer from earning an optimal score. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

     

     

    Audio Quality

    4/5

     

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix features quite impressive recording of the dialogue with some directionalized speech making a very good impression. The music score by De Palma regular Pino Donaggio has nice resonance, and sound effects are crisp and nicely delineated, important for a film concerning the efforts of a sound man to get impressive, unusual sounds for his library. At no time do the dialogue, music, and sound effects clash with one another, and the mix is absent of any truly distracting artifacts such as hiss, crackle, or hum.

     

     

    Special Features

    4/5

     

    All of the video featurettes on the disc are presented in 1080p.

     

    Filmmaker Noah Baumbach conducts a 57 ¾-minute interview/discussion with director Brian De Palma about this film and other monumental films in his career. The interview was conducted in 2010.

     

    Actress Nancy Allen discusses working on the film in this video interview also recorded in 2010 and running for 25 ½ minutes. She recalls her work with Travolta previously on Carrie, how she came to work on the film, her experiences with Dennis Franz, and how it felt working with her then-husband De Palma.

     

    A 15-minute interview with cinematographer Garrett Brown (who shot the Co-Ed Frenzy sequences with the Steadicam, his invention) discusses his camerawork on the movie and illustrates with various models of the Steadicam then and now.

     

    A step-through gallery of black and white photographs by late photographer Louis Goldman features both stills and behind-the-scenes shots with the cast and crew.

     

    Murder a la Mod, De Palma’s 1967 feature film about a young director with secrets, his confused girl friend, her wealthy chum, and a mysterious assistant named Otto and juxtiposes time constantly runs for 80 ½ minutes.

     

    The film’s theatrical trailer runs for 1 ¾ minutes.

     

    The enclosed 33-page booklet features a cast and crew lists, some color plates and black and white shots, a critical essay on the movie and the career of Brian De Palma by film author Michael Sragow, Pauline Kael’s original review of the movie as featured in The New Yorker, and reproductions of the magazine photo array and movie poster layout both featured in the film.

     

    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

     

     

    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)

     

    Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is a stylish, thoughtful thriller which is rewarded by multiple viewings. This Criterion Blu-ray release now becomes the ideal way to experience the film again and again with excellent picture and sound and a good assortment of bonus material. Highly recommended!

     

     

     

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Great review. Many thanks.
     
  3. Brisby

    Brisby Second Unit

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    I hope Borders ships my copy soon (I've had it on pre-order since early March). My favorite De Palma film. "It's a good scream..."
     
  4. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Screenwriter

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    Looking forward to this one. Nice to hear it is another good title from Criterion.


    Doug
     
  5. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    One of my favorites. Probably cancel my amazon order it's still over $25. Try to use a borders coupon and borders bucks to picket up there. Also I haven't gotten to that season of Dexter so I wasn't aware of who the trinity killer is. Does that really need to be in a review of this movie. Just saying his "Emmy winning turn on Dexter" would have been enough.
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    It's really not a spoiler. He's identified as the Trinity Killer within the first episode or two. And the point I was making was that Lithgow, who won several Emmys for playing the comic lead on Third Rock from the Sun, had a history before Dexter of playing evil.
     
  7. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Cool, thanks for the review!


    I'm adding this to my list of wanted Criterion titles. I'll see if I can wait for the Barnes and Noble sale for this!
     
  8. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    One more Criterion BD to put on my B&N sale shopping list. Thanks, Matt.


    _Man_
     
  9. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    Can anyone confirm if the film opens with a Filmways logo or simply a MGM logo. I only ask since the film theatrically was not distributed by MGM. It would be cool to have the original logos but sometimes they opened without any logo intro. With Blow Out I'm not sure.
     
  10. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    I would certainly say that Blow Out is De Palma’s most original film, and my favorite of his. Having said that, I still think you’d have to stay that at the very least it borrows its premise from Blow Up.

    They are both about an artist, in Blow Up a photographer, in Blow Out a sound designer, who inadvertently records a murder. They both obsessively use their skill and technology to try and glean the truth from what they have recorded. The photographer blowing up larger and larger his photograph, the sound man listening too and then matching his sound to a film that he doesn’t have first hand access too.

    With Blow Out, De Palma borrows less obviously (and is more interested in the conspiracy than Antonioni was), but its still derivative.

    Doug
     
  11. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    I personally think this film is a lot better than Blow Up, but maybe that's just me. But I do see the influence. To me he took an idea that was only done so so the first time and did it right.


    I only saw it once, in 1981 in the theaters, but I found it to be quite intense. I think it is DePalma's best film. Great review by MattH.
     
  12. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    If I remember correctly, the FIlmways logo is there. MGM has added their own logo before it.
     
  13. Brisby

    Brisby Second Unit

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  14. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

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    It's on sale for $18.99 at Amazon right now.
     
  15. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    That is cool. I can't remember if the DVD contained it or not. I always thought United Artists did the film distribution for the film but I was checking out the original poster the other day and thought, hmmm kind definite independent film in its own way.
     
  16. gomezfan69

    gomezfan69 Stunt Coordinator

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    The DVD had a newer Orion logo in place of the Filmways.
     
  17. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Thanks - I pounced on it at that price (and love the Karl Pilkington pic)!
     
  18. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Supporting Actor

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    awright, mate. Cheers...
     
  19. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    Picked this up at Best Buy yesterday along with Criterion's BD edition of "Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas" for $30 each, which is still pretty reasonable for a pair of $40 list newly-minted Criterion titles. I plan to watch them both this weekend!!!
     
  20. Prentice Cotham

    Prentice Cotham Supporting Actor

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    Bought it off Amazon for 18.99 w/ Double Life.
     

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