DVD Review: Blast of Silence (1961)
I first heard of this film from Ed Brubaker in the comic Criminal. He recommended the film and it sounded like a great piece of film noir. Unfortunately, it’s a Criterion Collection DVD, so it means I’d have to shell out a bunch of cash if I’d ever want to see it. Then a sale came by and I was able to pick it up recently.
Blast of Silence is an inspiration. It was made with next to no money and filmed on location on the streets of New York City. This caused a few run-ins with the police. At it’s heart, the film is a typical film noir story. You’ve got the loner gunman, Frank Bono who rolls into town for a job. Things don’t go according to plan, regardless of how professional Frank acts and things end in tragedy. But I felt like this film was just more than that.
What I found unique about Blast of Silence was mostly how it was told. Lionel Stander narrated the film in this hard man’s voice. His narration made up at least 70% of the film’s dialogue. At first I was a little skeptical because it felt like a book with moving pictures, but the voice grew on me. It became a sort of conscience for our protagonist. Granted, he was no Jiminy Cricket, but he became this little voice, almost like another personality that spoke to Franky and in turn, us. I feel like if any other movie tried to do this, it just wouldn’t work. On the surface it sounds like a horrible way to direct a movie, but it just worked in this one.
The characters are perfect and for a low-budget film, surprising well played. Frank is this lonely professional hitman who always does things by the book. Somehow returning to New York City is the equivalent to throwing a monkey wrench into his world of rules. Throughout his entire journey he’s thinking of things that he could have done or could have been. Is this all that he’s amounted to in life? A well-payed, lonely hitman? Joining Frank is the skeevy and oddly disturbing Big Ralph whom Frank hits up for a much needed gun. Larry Tucker is just so…odd in this role. I sort of like Ralph, but at the same time, I despise him. I love that effect.
Included on this hoity-toity Criterion release is a cool booklet with some more info about the movie. There’s also an hour long documentary where director/writer/actor Allen Baron returns to the streets where he made the film 30 years later. It’s interesting and a little heartfelt as he literally takes a stroll down memory lane.
Blast of Silence is an achievement in low-budget film-making. It’s far from the greatest movie ever made, but it’s just good, gritty film noir that I can get behind. Sure, the effects are far from spectacular and the gunfights can be a little silly, but that doesn’t matter. This is a good movie that gets under your skin. Frank is nothing but professional, but things get quickly out of hand with this job when he’s shown glimpses of what he could have had if his life was just a little different. I can easily recommend this film to any fan of film noir.