Blu-ray Review: BLOW OUT (1981)

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

Review: Blow Out / Cert 18 / Director: Brian De Palma / Screenplay: Brian De Palma / Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz / Release Date: Out Now

Brian De Palma's often overlooked classic was much maligned on its original release, but has garnered a worthy reputation as one of his best. It now receives a welcome release on HD in a transfer supervised and approved by the director himself.

Film sound-man Jack Terry (Travolta) is out late at night recording ambient and incidental sounds when a passing car suffers a tire blow out and crashes off the road into a lake. He manages to rescue the passenger, Sally (Allen), but the driver is dead. Listening back to his recordings, he discovers another sound prior to the tire blowing: a gunshot. When he finds out the driver was a prospective presidential candidate and that Sally was not his wife, he becomes convinced that something more sinister is afoot, and is compelled to investigate further.

De Palma's film is often dismissed as little more than a remodelling of Michelangelo Antonioni's brilliant Blow-Up (1966) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), but this is far from a pointless retread. The focus on the technical process adds a fascinating element to the action and suspense, which De Palma is deft at. With healthy nods to real-life conspiracy theories, De Palma constructs a film which is fluid and completely compelling but which doesn't get too bogged down in complex plot strands. Travolta shows he is more than just a song and dance man, which is how he was seen as at this point in his career, Lithgow demonstrates what a brilliant bad guy he makes, and Allen is wonderful once you get past the annoying accent.

Arrow's release is packed with some great features, as we have come to expect. The producer, composer and Nancy Allen all have brilliant insights, but it is the feature on cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond which is most rewarding, just as his work in the film is.

Extras: Black and White in Colour – An Interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond / Rag Doll Memories – Nancy Allen on Blow Out / Return to Philadelphia – An interview with Producer George Litto / A gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman / Original Theatrical Trailer / Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, a conversation between Quentin Tarantino and De Palma, and more.

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