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Blow Out
The Criterion Collection
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz

Written and Directed by: Brian De Palma

 

 

Studio: Criterion

Retail Price: $39.95

Features: Noah Baumbach Interviews Brian De Palma, Nancy Allen Interview, Garrett Brown Interview, Louis Goldman Photographs, Murder A La Mod, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.40:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Surround, English Subtitles, Chapters (17 Chapters)

Released: April 26th, 2011







Blow Out is presented in a 1080p High Definition transfer, with the aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and which was supervised by director Brian De Palma. There's a lot going on in the movie, and the picture quality certainly keeps up. Black levels are outstanding, as is shadow detail — crucial given the film's moody atmosphere. Detail in general is well-refined, while fleshtones come off as accurate. There is a little shimmering, but the amount of film grain that appears feels just right. Color saturation is fulfilling too without going overboard. This is a fine transfer that wonderfully represents the film's enrapturing visuals.


Blow Out features a 2.0 Surround track in DTS-HD Master Audio. Sure, it'd be great if it was possible to make this a full-bodied remix, but the track here does justice to a movie that has such a strong emphasis on sound. Surround effects go a long way in this track: they are crisp, clear and build tension. They're crucial, and come through as dynamic and pulsing when they need to be. The sound puts you with the characters and their brushes with danger, making for a very engaging listening experience. Dialogue is also easy to hear, while the music score from Pino Donaggio — which is heavy on the bass — sounds rich. This is a well-rounded track that does not disappoint.

English subtitles are included.

 


There's no commentary on the disc, but the 58 minute Noah Baumbach Interviews Brian De Palma makes up for that. Utilizing clips from the film to make points during the discussion, Baumbach asks good questions to the filmmaker about the film's creation and production. De Palma talks about his initial inspirations for the movie, and lets us in on some of the challenges of the shoot. There's a lot of detail about the film's visual style and use of Steadicams, which is quite interesting. De Palma is a friendly and open presence here. It's an intelligent and easygoing conversation, while De Palma does conclude it was a fun film to make. 

Coming in at 25:25 is the Nancy Allen Interview. Like her ex-husband, Allen also comes off as a warm and friendly presence in her discussion. Allen talks about originally meeting John Travolta during auditions for Carrie, her initial thoughts on the script and her character. Allen admits to struggling in "making the character work" for her early on, but her approach to Sally comes off as rather thoughtful. She talks about Travolta getting involved in this movie, other reservations and shares her own array of production stories. This is another wonderful watch, as we learn about the movie's production from the perspective of a performer.

Running 15 minues is the Garrett Brown Interview. Brown is the inventor of the Steadicam system, and shows off his invention and what makes it so special. Brown is quite passionate here, to the point where it is infectious. He shows recent innovations with his system, including an iPhone handle. Besides that, Brown talks about coming into Blow Out from The Shining, and takes us through making the "Co-ed Frenzy" scene that opens the movie, complete with his own entertaining stories. This plays like a master class, and if you're into the technical aspect of filmmaking, it's utterly fascinating. Too bad this interview does not run even longer.

A treat for De Palma fans is the inclusion of his 1967 movie Murder A La Mod. There are elements in it similar to Blow Out, and "Murder" even makes a cameo in Blow Out. The 80 minute movie is in full frame and divided into 10 chapters. 

There are also several Louis Goldman Photographs to view that were taken during the production, and the film's original Theatrical Trailer. d

The booklet includes an essay by critic Michael Sragow, and Pauline Kael's review of the film that appeared in The New Yorker.

 


Blow Out
is a surprising-but-superb choice for The Criterion Collection: this is a somewhat forgotten 1980s gem that is ripe for re-discovery. This Blu-ray is nothing short of fantastic: a visual and sonic tour-de-force from De Palma, the film's presentation is terrific. And while there are only a few extra features, they offer a solid look at the making of the movie (plus you get a bonus De Palma feature). This is another high quality release from Criterion, and well worth seeking out.