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BLOW OUT
(directed by Brian De Palma, 1981)



Films of Brian De Palma that I remember seeing are Carrie, Hi, Mom! and Wise Guys (which I saw for the first time this month.) I still haven't seen all of Scarface, so I don't fully understand the thuggish obsession people have with the film, which you can find on t-shirts at any ghetto mall clothing store in XXL size. I used to have a poster of the movie, though.

Blow Out, a 1981 Brian De Palma thriller, reminded me very much of Carrie, the 1976 horror film starring Sissy Spacek as a lonely, bullied teenage girl in a small town who discovers that she has telekinetic powers. It's not the same kind of story, but it's told in a very similar style. Powerful, jarring, aggressive, with split screens and dizzying effects. This is my kind of movie. Blow Out is adrenaline fueled, surprising, technical, masculine, with a burning rage and an interesting story and colorful characters and a sexy lead star (a young John Travolta.)

John Travolta plays Jack Terry, a sound effects guy who works on low budget horror movies. The movie begins with a movie within a movie -- the current horror film project that Jack is working on. A bimbo lady about to get stabbed naked in a shower scene has an awful scream. Throughout the film, in very funny scenes, we later see women who are auditioning to replace the original actress' bad scream via automated dialogue replacement. Blow Out is wonderfully funny in a lot of ways -- I suppose that's why De Palma made the Wise Guys comedy (which, however, didn't make me laugh a lot, but it wasn't a bad movie.)

Later in Blow Out, Jack Terry is out in some park recording outdoor noises to be used in the movie and he happens to see a car plunge deep into a lake after the tire has a blow out. He rescues the damsel in distress inside (Nancy Allen) but her companion, who turns out to be a governor running for president, does not make it. The plot of Blow Out gets going, though, when Jack hears clearly on the playback of his outdoor recording session that someone shot the car and this was no accident. Suddenly, John Travolta and Nancy Allen are in danger as the gunman himself -- played by one of my favorite actors, John Lithgow (TV's 3rd Rock from the Sun) -- starts making sure he cannot be traced to the crime and that his assassination plot never gets revealed.

My one complaint about Blow Out is that once the plot gets going, you really have to keep your fullest attention on the movie or else you might miss something. There's still some things that I need to go over again on a second viewing. Nancy Allen's portrayal of Sally, the woman rescued by John Travolta, was also annoying in that her character talks high pitched all the time, but in a way it added to the movie and created a more sympathetic companion for John Travolta -- plus, I had just watched Days of Heaven. At least she didn't talk like the narrator of that movie, a little girl who spoke in a deep, croaky voice, like a guy. It was a nice change from that.

But anyways, yes, a few complaints about Blow Out, notably the fact that you really can't let your mind slip. I was tired while watching Blow Out and while it was certainly worth staying up to watch, I think I must have dozed off or had my mind wander a few times and I payed for it. The middle portion of Blow Out is kind of slow. But I deeply enjoyed this fun, obsessive, horror in Philadelphia showcase. The third act of Blow Out became a horror movie -- a slasher type horror film. I loved that. Loved that John Lithgow was the madman. The movie ends with fireworks and celebration and an almost ridiculous one last jolt that didn't seem quite believeable, yet it's totally forgiveable, thanks to the tone and movie-within-a-movie themes. The very last scene was a perfect emotional surprise that moved me and really made me love this film. It's one of director Quentin Tarantino's top favorites. I can see why. I also really love a scene where John Travolta's character is where he works (or was it where he lives?) -- anyway, the point is, something happens and you see all of his audio equipment and his tapes just lying around and we circle and circle and get all dizzy and everything's spinning out of control. I loved that. There's lots of noise and it makes the film feel great, like a ride. Like something different -- at least, to me.

I must give Blow Out a
. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and how much I liked it. I'm glad, too, because it was a blind buy -- Criterion, again -- and I dreaded the movie being something awful, but it wasn't. This, to me, is a movie.