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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New hour-long interview with De Palma, conducted by filmmaker Noah Baumbach
  • New interview with star Nancy Allen
  • Cameraman Garrett Brown on the Steadicam shots featured in the film within the film
  • Select on-set photos from photographer Louis Goldman
  • De Palma's 1967 feature Murder a la Mod
  • Original theatrical trailer

Blow Out

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Brian De Palma
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz
1981 | 108 Minutes | Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #562
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: April 26, 2011
Review Date: April 28, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

In the enthralling Blow Out, brilliantly crafted by Brian De Palma, John Travolta gives one of his greatest performances as Jack, a movie sound-effects man who believes he has accidentally recorded a political assassination. He enlists the help of Sally (Nancy Allen), a possible eyewitness to the crime who may be in danger herself, to uncover the truth. With its jolting stylistic flourishes, intricate plot, profoundly felt characterizations, and gritty evocation of early-1980s Philadelphia, Blow Out is an American paranoia thriller unlike any other, as well as a devilish reflection on the act of moviemaking.

Forum members rate this film 8.4/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Continuing their winning streak with the MGM titles theyíve licenced Criterion again delivers a stellar new high-def transfer of Brian De Palmaís 1981 thriller Blow Out, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on a dual-layer disc. The transferís resolution is 1080p/24hz.

Certainly the best Iíve ever seen the film on home video Criterionís presentation delivers a highly detailed and stable image that rarely falters. It presents beautifully rendered colours that still manage to hold up in darker sequences with reds coming off especially impressive. Blacks are rich and deep, and skin tones look perfect. The transfer presents natural looking film grain but some darker scenes present film grain that can look a bit like compression noise in the shadows but itís mild. Other than that one area I canít recall any other sort of artifact.

The materials used have been cleaned up nicely and I only noticed a few minor blemishes. In all just a superb presentation.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Since the film really does rely a lot upon its sound design (after all the whole premise of the film revolves around an audio recording) I was pleased that Criterionís lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 surround track goes beyond what it really needed to do. Overall audio is crisp and clean, pitch perfect pretty much, and the filmís creative use of sound comes out beautifully here. The surrounds get quite a bit to do, with all sorts of activity happening in the back speakers. The most notable sequence would probably be the sequence where De Palma spins the camera around the room as Travolta looks through all of his tapes. Here you can hear the various whirrings and other noises of the equipment in the room naturally circling you as the camera turns. Just for this scene alone itís almost a shame that the track wasnít upgraded to a 5.1 surround presentation but as it stands itís still quite effective. An impressive track.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

And as one would expect Criterion loads on the special features for this film (which had previously received only a basic DVD edition from MGM) starting with a 58-minute interview with director Brian De Palma conducted by Noah Baumbach. Iím not entirely sure why Baumbach is there since he really just asks De Palma general questions or comments on what he likes about the film leading the director to talk about that particular scene or subject. But itís a nice interview in general and a strong replacement for a commentary. While the interview concentrates specifically on Blow Out, De Palma does talk about the general techniques heís become known for, particularly the split diopter effects and split screens. He deconstructs certain sequences in the film on a technical level and gets into detail about the editing. He of course also talks about the actors, the score, the clothes, and the filmís failure at the box office. He also talks briefly about Antonioniís Blow-Up. I was originally disappointed that De Palma didnít provide a commentary for the film but this discussion is an excellent replacement and covers the film and De Palmaís career thoroughly enough.

Nancy Allen talks about De Palma, Blow Out, and John Travolta for 25-minutes in the next interview recorded for this edition. She starts off the interview talking about Carrie and working with Travolta on that film and how easily they worked together during the making of that one, which carried over to Blow Out. She talks about some of their scenes together and some of the improvisations that did occur. From here she talks about actors Dennis Franz and John Lithgow and then what it was like to work with De Palma professionally. She mentions her claustrophobia and how that played into her scene in the car underwater and then addresses her performance and some of the criticisms she received because of it. I will admit Iím one of those that always had some problems with Allen in this film but after listening to her give an explanation behind her choices, in the end simply adding to the naÔve innocence of the character, I realize Iíve probably unfairly judged her in it. Overall itís a strong interview expanding further on De Palmaís, and she still looks good (not that that matters ultimately but, hey, she does.)

The next interview probably proves to be the most surprisingly entertaining one. Cameraman Garrett Brown talks about his invention, the Steadicam, and using the equipment in the film for 14-minutes. This is probably one of the more energetic interviews Iíve seen, Brown a little more animated than I was probably expecting. He begins by explaining the Steadicam and shows how it works, and then even shows off smaller versions including one for a standard personal digital camera along with one thatís been made for the Smart Phone/Flip market. He talks a little bit about why he invented it and then talks a little about shooting The Shining with Stanley Kubrick using his invention. From there he moves on to Blow Out explaining he had the understanding he was going to be filming a POV shot for a slasher film similar to Halloween. He was excited though in the end disappointed when he discovered it was actually only a parody opening and the slasher film in question was to be purposely bad. But he still got into it and talks about getting into the role of the killer and how he was basically acting while shooting the opening POV sequence of Blow Out. Great interview and I wish it was a little longer with maybe more of a demonstration of the equipment.

This is followed by a small picture gallery of Louis Goldman Photographs taken on the set during filming. Theyíre black and white and there are about 24 in total. The presentation is similar to other galleries where you use the arrows on your remote to navigate through the pictures.

And easily the coolest feature on here is Murder a la Mod, De Palmaís first feature, which also happens to briefly appear on a television screen in Blow Out. Running 80-minutes and in black and white itís an incredibly experimental film with a fairly convoluted plot of sorts that I donít think I entirely followed, gathering that a young woman is trying to help a man out in getting enough money to divorce his wife which leads to a murder with the film then presenting the event from multiple points of view. Though very early De Palma, itís stylistically all his and it looks pretty good despite the obviously limited budget. It can be frustrating, though, like many of De Palmaís films where heís easily more concerned about style over substance and not everyone will enjoy it. In the end I did like it and would probably put it in the area of guilty De Palma pleasures like Raising Cain or The Black Dahlia.

Also, the 1080p transfer looks spectacular, possibly better than the main feature. Thereís still some minor blemishes left in the source but itís sharp and the gray levels are perfect. Iíve never seen the film before but I doubt itís ever looked this good, at least on video.

The disc then closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer.

The booklet comes with a short essay by Michael Sragow covering the film, De Palmaís career, and critic Pauline Kaelís praise of his work, Blow Out in particular. This is then nicely followed by Kaelís actual article about Blow Out. Criterion then includes a reprint of the magazine that appears in the film which presented the film frames Travoltaís character reuses to recreate the car crash, followed by a collage of the poster art that shows up throughout the film.

Criterion has included some great material, and all of it is worth viewing. Iím a little let down Criterion couldnít get Travolta, Lithgow, or Franz (who have all worked with De Palma repeatedly) to provide material but they still put a strong effort into this edition.

8/10

CLOSING

For one of my favourite De Palma films Criterion delivers a stunning Blu-ray on all fronts: great audio and video transfer with some fantastic supplements. It comes highly recommended.


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