Blast of Silence

Blast of Silence [1961]
Starring: Allen Baron, Larry Tucker, Molly McCarthy
Dir. Allen Baron

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I’ve become incredibly jaded about film over the past decade. It’s like I had this great love affair that lasted twenty years and then the magic somehow wore off. I know a lot of it has to do with my age. Hollywood makes movies for kids. Transformers. Hulk. Iron Man. So the movies aren’t that good and like an old grandpa I complain about the cost of admission. And don’t even get me started on concessions. Four dollars for a bottle of water! How stupid do they think I am?

So of course I turn to DVD’s and rediscover the movies that made me fall in love with that nasty mistress in the first place. And although it’s great visiting old friends, nothing compares to the old days, when everything was new and unexpected. I’m old. I’ve seen and done it all. Right?

Wrong. Blast of Silence is a brilliant movie, so good it can make you fall in love again.

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Writer/Director Allen Baron is also the star of the film, playing Frank Bono, a lonely, disgruntled, hitman on a job in New York. Baron has a great mug, something like a cross between George C. Scott and Robert De Niro. It’s a New York mug. Bono approaches his profession with simplicity. He’s alone in the world and prefers it that way. In and out, that’s the way to complete a hit. Get to the city. Make contact. Purchase a weapon. Spot the target. Make the kill. Get paid and get out. But nothing is that simple. Try as he might, Bono keeps making choices that complicate the situation. He lets his feelings interfere with the job. He starts thinking too much, feeling too much. He makes the mistake of becoming a human being, and human beings have a hard time surviving in the world of murder.

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The title of the film Blast of Silence serves several analogies, the most obvious being a .38 handgun and silencer that Bono spends most of the movie trying to purchase for the hit. But the title also refers to the moment of being born and the moment of dying. The opening shot of Blast of Silence is nothing but blackness as the narrator, mocking Bono with his New York accent, guides the hero towards his destiny, poetically recalling the pain and anguish of childbirth, as a speck of light appears in the blackness which turns into the opening of a tunnel, until the hero emerges in Penn Station. It’s a great opening, fueled with Freudian angst and a contagious energy that never lets up.

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The cinematography by Merrill Brody (who also produced) is amazing. If you’ve never been to New York, simply watch this movie and you will feel you’ve been there. You can feel the cold of December. You can feel the wind and the rain. Brody uses the theme of the film to great effect, filling the frames with long takes of Bono walking through the streets of Manhattan, stretched out moving shots of Bono following his prey, or trying to get his head together.

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The narration may have been an after thought by producers since the film has so many shots with no dialog. The narration isn’t necessary, but it’s done with humor and isn’t distracting.

Blast of Silence feels like a French New Wave film, coming out in 1961 on the heels Godard’s Breathless [1959], and foreshadowing Alphaville [1965]. Blast of Silence is a must see for movie fans. A beautifully crafted film. The simplicity of its narrative, its character, images and theme, cuts like a switchblade but with the precision of a surgeon using a scalpel. Fallen out of love with movies? Watch Blast of Silence and rediscover why you fell in love in the first place.

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2 Responses to Blast of Silence

  1. ARBOGAST says:

    I need to see this something awful. Thanks for those frame grabs as a convincer!

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