Blast of Silence: Criterion Collection
April 17, 2008
Many film noir buffs cite Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) as the last film of the genre’s classical period but an argument can certainly be made for Allen Baron’s Blast of Silence (1961). As Terrence Rafferty’s liner notes for this DVD point out, along with John Cassavettes’ Shadows (1959), it helped usher in the independent film scene in New York City with low budgets, no-frills aesthetics, and an almost documentary-like style. And like Shadows, Blast of Silence presents a New York that doesn’t exist anymore.
The film begins with solid, hard-boiled voiceover narration in the second person as the camera point-of-view comes hurtling out of a train tunnel. Hitman-for-hire Frankie Bono (Baron) arrives in Penn Station from Cleveland during Christmastime. His assignment is to take out ambitious crime syndicate boss Mr. Troiana (Clune). The catch is that Frankie has to find a moment when Troiana is away from his two bodyguards when he does the deed. Frankie spends most of his time following his prey, patiently waiting for an opportunity, a period of time when Troiano is away from his protection.
Allen plays the role with the right amount of no-nonsense efficiency. Frankie is all-business and not interested in exchanging chit-chat with Big Ralph (Tucker), his contact for getting a gun. Baron speaks like a laid-back version of Martin Scorsese with the same tone of voice and inflection and looks like a Robert De Niro. He lets us get to know this misanthropic character that hates Christmas and is a little rough with his date when he goes farther than she likes. It is nice little moments like the scene where Frankie cleans his gun and attaches a silencer (the tools of the trade), that illustrate what he is all about.
Frankie’s journey though the streets of the city is accompanied by peppy be-bop jazz. It’s great seeing New York City circa 1961 as Frankie walks by such familiar landmarks as 30 Rockefeller Plaza and window-shops downtown. There is a great shot of Frankie walking down a deserted street early in the morning. It all contributes the no-frills, documentary style of this gritty film noir that is well worth tracking down if you are a fan of this genre.
“Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence” is an hour-long retrospective look at the film. Allen Baron got his start as an illustrator but after walking onto a deserted Hollywood soundstage in 1951, he wanted to work in film. He had no formal training but discovered that he had an instinctive knack for the basics. Baron goes into fascinating detail about how the film was made. He does this while walking past the various locations used in the film.
“Locations Revisited, 2008” is a photo gallery that compares stills from New York City in 1961 with what they look like today. In some cases, little has changed, in others, the difference is dramatic.
“On-Set Polaroids” were taken during the filming on location in New York.
Finally, there is a trailer.