GORE IN THE STORE
REVIEWS BY FANS FOR FANS
5 STAR FAB - 1 STAR RUBBISH
BLOW OUT - ****
Released by Arrow Video on May 27th 2013. Blu-ray: £19.99 Steelbook : £24.99 RRP
Following the controversy generated by his graphic PSYCHO riff DRESSED TO KILL, De Palma toned down the on-screen sleaze and gore for his next movie, BLOW OUT. That doesn’t stop him having a huge amount of fun with the slasher sub-genre that was at the height of its popularity upon DRESSED TO KILL’s 1980 release.
The memorable opening of BLOW OUT takes the form of film-within-a-film “Co-ed Frenzy”, an all too credible, wryly executed faux-Dumb Slasher Movie. This accurate pastiche involves a prowling Stedicam voyeuristically observing skimpily dressed or naked sorority hotties having sex, masturbating and, of course, showering – all conveyed via extended point of view shots with knife lurching into frame and omnipresent heavy breathing. (Side Note: Ever notice how De Palma movies these days never feature beaver shots?) The punchline for this sequence features jaded movie sound man John Travolta – crafting the audio effects for “Co-ed Frenzy” - bemused by an actress with “world class tits” … and a dreadful scream. Typical of the mean-spirited cleverness of De Palma’s thrillers in this period, this throwaway film-long gag about Travolta’s quest for the perfect girlie scream ends on the grimmest possible note once the narrative has worked itself out.
BLOW OUT reunited De Palma with composer Pino Donaggio (whose beautiful main theme was utilised by Tarantino for DEATH PROOF), cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (it looks magnificent) and CARRIE co-stars Nancy Allen and John Travolta. It’s one of the director’s best-plotted movies, revolving around an absorbing mystery initiated by Travolta’s rescue of Allen from an underwater car wreck in which a key presidential candidate is killed. As our hero gets in too deep and unravels a deadly post-Watergate conspiracy, De Palma’s characteristically showy use of crane shots, split screen and the widescreen frame add to the unease: especially during one brilliantly unnerving revolving 360 degree shot in Travolta’s apartment at a major paranoid stage. Travolta’s increasingly edgy, charismatic performance is one of his very best; low budget horror fans will love the prominently displayed posters for SQUIRM, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, BOOGEYMAN, FOOD OF THE GODS, et al in his studio. Allen follows the spiteful bitch of CARRIE and the feisty hooker of DRESSED TO KILL with a refreshing turn as a sweet-natured ditz whose dream is to do make-up for Barbra Streisand movies.
Adding to the considerable fun is Dennis Franz in a dirty white vest, drinking J & B whiskey, while recurring De Palma nutjob John Lithgow is an icy identity-changing psycho in unrelenting pursuit of Travolta, prone to killing the wrong girl just because she happens to have a Nancy Allen-esque perm. His cold-blooded killing of a hooker in a train station toilet (the camera recoiling back from the scene as she kicks her legs in her dying moments a la FRENZY) is inexplicit but probably helps to explain why the movie still carries an “18” certificate in the UK..
BLOW OUT culminates with a thrilling climax at the Liberty Bell Jubilee parade that still ranks amongst De Palma’s finest 10 minutes, capped by his cruellest wrap-up: the conclusion is as un-Hollywood as they come, with Travolta’s very De Palma-ish slo-mo dash to save the heroine wholly in vain.
Arrow’s blu-ray of this undervalued gem affords the movie a beautiful hi-def transfer, gorgeous packaging and a quartet of interviews with key BLOW OUT personnel, notably the ever-appealing Nancy Allen and long-time De Palma composer Pino Donaggio. Add to this an expansive booklet and you have one of the most satisfying home-video presentations of a De Palma movie to date.