“I think you’ve got a tape, Jack — and I think it’s the real thing.”
A sound recordist (John Travolta) who accidentally records a car crashing into a river rescues a young woman (Nancy Allen) from drowning, but is asked to cover up his heroics when it turns out the car’s driver was a presidential hopeful (and Allen a prostitute). Soon Travolta becomes obsessed with sharing his audio evidence that the car tire’s blow-out was from a bullet shot, and that the politician’s death was anything but an accident — but the killer (John Lithgow) behind the plot wants to get rid of all witnesses.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Amateur Sleuths
- Brian De Palma Films
- John Travolta Films
- Nancy Allen Films
- Political Conspiracy
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this film “allowed Brian De Palma to combine his obsessions with the Kennedy assassination-conspiracy, the themes of Antonioni’s Blow-Up, and the visual style of Hitchcock.” He notes that the “first half of the picture is prime De Palma, but then the picture becomes bogged down with self-conscious camera work”, and he adds that at least “if you don’t care about the characters, you’ll be intrigued by the editing in the final sequence.” I’m in agreement with Peary’s tepid assessment of this atmospherically shot (by DP Vilmos Zsigmond) but disappointing thriller in which De Palma “refuses to develop Allen’s character” — or more accurately, fails to provide her with much of a meaningful presence other than as a bubble-headed foil. Travolta’s character comes across much better, and his lengthy audio-investigation sequence is impressively shot:
… but it’s not enough to redeem this film over-all as must-see.
Note: It was interesting watching this hour-long discussion between De Palma and Noah Baumbauch about the making of Blow Out, and hearing De Palma describe movies in this way:
“We create illusions for you to fall in love with. That’s something totally unique to cinema: beautiful women doing unusual, interesting, exciting things. We follow them, we look at them, and we get involved with them. It’s one of the basic tools of movies… It’s a gun and a girl. With a gun, when’s somebody going to fire it? With a girl, when’s somebody going to undress it?” (bold mine)
If “girls” (not women) are viewed simply as beautiful objects for audience members to watch and enjoy, it’s no wonder that Allen (De Palma’s wife at the time) — as well as the other females in this film — come across literally as pretty pawns in the bloody proceedings. Thank goodness Travolta is such a sympathetic male character.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
John Travolta as Jack
Fine location shooting in Philadelphia
No, though it’s worth a one time look.