Monday, November 23, 2009

Allen Baron's Blast of Silence

A couple friends of mine organized a minifestival last weekend: they watched, I think, twelve films on a big screen, projected from a canon (is this the right word? I'm not very savvy in these). Each participant brought one or two films with them. I brought Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors and Blast of Silence by Allen Baron that I recently purchased. (I realized I couldn't've watched it myself, since my DVD player plays only Region 2 discs, and this was Region 1.)

Now, Blast of Silence really holds an interesting place in my movie history. I still remember a tickling sensation I got out of reading the film's entry in Alain Silver's seminal book, Film Noir. This was something like 1987, and I'd lended the book from the library in Pori, my hometown. At the time, there were no copies of the film around - certainly not a film version that I could've seen anywhere and no VHS cassettes were released. It was even hard to find any information on the film and the director, Allen Baron, and I suspected I'd never see the film. When in the late nineties I acquantained Tapani Maskula, a film critic known for his liking of American film noir and gritty B-movies in general, I asked him about the film. Even he hadn't seen it, even though he'd bought every American B-movie available at the time. (Yeah, technically Blast of Silence isn't a B-movie, I know: it was an indie picture, bought and distributed by Universal. But I don't know if it was played as a feature, since it's only 77 minutes long.)

You can guess how enthusiastic I was when I noticed that Criterion had published the film on their DVD series. I bought the film the first chance I got. Watching the film after all these years was a bit of suspense for me. Would the film really be worth the wait?

I think it was, even though I think time had eaten it a bit. There's the voice-over narration by Lionel Stander, which sounds a bit comical and forced today - but it's only because we've grown so accustomed to it, in Sin City and the likes of it. It's become a parody of its self. The actors in the film weren't very good (but Allen Baron, the director himself in the lead, looks a lot like Robert De Niro!). But the cinematography and the dark mood in the film are top-notch. The ending is so dark you don't even want to know why everything happened the way they did. This is a very bleak look into a hired assassin's lone life, and you might compare Blast of Silence to, for example, Kevin Wignall's novels about lone assassins. Blast of Silence is essential to everyone who claims he/she likes film noir.

Here's a very interesting take on the film, linking it to European movements, neorealism and the New Wave of the sixties, and here's another review quoting a historical review from New York Times.

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