This stylish Brian De Palma thriller plays off the theme of the unsuspecting witness who discovers a crime and is thereby put in grave danger, but with a novel twist. Jack Terry is a master sound recordist who works on grade-B horror movies.
Late one evening, he is recording sounds for use in his movies when he hears something unexpected through his sound equipment and records it. Curiosity gets the better of him when the media become involved, and he begins to unravel the pieces of a nefarious conspiracy. As he struggles to survive against his shadowy enemies and expose the truth, he does not know whom he can trust.
Blow Out is a 1981 American thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars John Travolta as Jack Terry, a movie sound effects technician from Philadelphia who, while recording sounds for a low-budget slasher film, serendipitously captures audio evidence of an assassination involving a presidential hopeful. Nancy Allen stars as Sally Bedina, a young woman involved in the crime. The supporting cast includes John Lithgow and Dennis Franz. The film’s tagline in advertisements was, “Murder has a sound all of its own”.
The film is directly based on Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow Up, replacing the medium of photography with the medium of audio recording. The concept of Blow Out came to De Palma while he was working on the thriller Dressed to Kill (1980). The film was shot in the late autumn and winter of 1980 in various Philadelphia locations on a relatively substantial budget of $18 million.
Blow Out opened to minuscule audience interest in 1981; however, it received a mostly positive critical reception. The lead performances by Travolta and Allen, the direction by DePalma and the visual style were cited as the strongest points of the film. Critics also recognised the stylistic and narrative connection to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, whom DePalma admires. Over the years since its initial theatrical release, it has developed status as a cult film and received a home media release by the Criterion Collection, a company who specialise in “important classic and contemporary film”, which re-ignited public interest in the film.
Blow Out (1981)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Curt May, John McMartin, Deborah Everton
Screenplay by: Brian De Palma
Production Design by: Paul Sylbert
Cinematography by: Vilmos Zsigmond
Film Editing by: Paul Hirsch
Costume Design by; Vicki Sánchez
Set Decoration by: Bruce Weintraub
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Distributed by: Filmways Pictures
Release Date: July 24, 1981