Blast of Silence. By the end of the 1950’s, the film noir genre’s golden age was coming to an end as many of the great movies had well-worn many of the tropes that the genre had established. However, the genre didn’t have to wait long for a revival, as the 1960’s ushered in the next phase of the genre, the neo-noir. The newly minted phase of noir’s evolution got one of its first notable films, courtesy of a Brooklyn born actor, cartoonist and director named Allen Baron called Blast of Silence. Previously released on DVD by Criterion, the label has finally given the movie its long-awaited Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 4/5
“Remembering out of the black silence, you were born in pain…”
Cleveland based hit man Frankie Bono (Allen Baron) arrives in Manhattan during the Christmas season, but he’s not there to take in the sights or take part in the festivities. He’s there to carry out a hit on a capo in an unnamed New York crime family, and while he’s tailing his mark, Frankie starts to finally sense the end of his days of carrying out murders for hire. When he meets an old acquaintance, Frankie vows to make this assignment his last, but the fates have other plans for the lone wolf, and a hit man losing his killer instinct can put him in serious trouble.
One of the first films in the neo-noir genre, Blast of Silence is also one of its most underrated. Shot for under $200,000 and utilizing camera equipment used in Errol Flynn’s final film Cuban Rebel Girls (1959) – the equipment had to be smuggled out of Cuba following the Cuban Revolution – Allen Baron fashioned one of the genre’s most bleak yet poetic looks at New York City; one of the more impressive scenes of the film – the final twist – was shot during Hurricane Donna at a noted dumping site for the bodies of mob hits. In addition to directing, Baron also starred as Frankie Bono and wrote the film’s stripped down yet effective script; Waldo Salt – under the blacklist nom de plume “Mel Davenport” – wrote the film’s ragged yet poetic narration (spoken by fellow blacklist victim Lionel Stander) while the producer Merrill Brody also served as the film’s cinematographer and Baron’s friends and family (with the exception of Larry Tucker – who would later earn an Oscar nomination for co-writing the script to Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) – much of the cast here have faded into obscurity) appear in the film as actors. The end result is an amazingly swift yet blackhearted noir tale that’s ever put on film, as Baron brings all the elements together to create pulp poetry that’s both polished and rough at the same time. With its recent rediscovery over the past decades, Blast of Silence is an important link between the classic film noir era and the neo-noir subgenre the film would help give birth to and would come into full flower in the 1970’s.
3D Rating: NA
This Blu-ray release presents the movie in two aspect ratios: the original 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and a 1:33:1 director-approved aspect ratio used from the movie’s revival screenings in the 1990’s and 2000’s; both versions are taken from a new HD transfer created from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. Film grain, fine details and gray scale are all presented faithfully with only minor cases of scratches, tears and dirt present on the transfer. This release bests the previous Criterion DVD and is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a track for this release. Sound mix, dialogue and Meyer Kupferman’s music score are all presented faithfully with only minor cases of distortion like crackling, popping and hissing present. Overall, this release bests Criterion’s previous DVD release and is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 4/5
Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence (1:00:01) – Filmed for German TV in 1990, Allen Baron revisits New York City and reflect on the making of the film in this feature-length program.
On-set Polaroids (4:43) – Rare photos of the film’s locations and behind-the-scenes details, set to Meyer Kupferman’s score and some narration by Lionel Stander from the film.
Photos of the film’s locations in 2008 (11:30) – A comparison of the film’s locations from 1961 to modern day, also set to Kupferman’s music and Stander’s narration.
Theatrical Trailer (1:44)
Foldout feat. an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty and a brief graphic novel adaptation of the movie by Sean Phillips
Rescued from obscurity and now rightfully reappraised as a hidden gem of the noir genre, Blast of Silence continues to impress those who seek it out with its mix of simple yet effective storytelling and its raggedly beautiful imagery. Criterion has bested their previous DVD release of the movie, with a great HD transfer (including the option to see it in the director’s preferred aspect ratio for the first time on home video) and carrying over all of the previous special features. Very highly recommended and absolutely worth upgrading from the DVD.
Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.
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