Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 130: Blast of Silence (1961) - Rank4/5


One of the main reasons I love film noir is its such a versatile genre, because it's tough to determine what exactly makes a "film noir." Does it have to be shot at Dutch angles in black and white? Does it need a femme fatale? Does it require snappy dialogue? While all are staples, they certainly aren't requirements, which makes movies that are classified under this ambiguous categorization so diverse. It explains the unique character study I happened upon that features no name actors or writers or directors...because in this case, they are all one and the same, the relatively unknown Allen Baron.

Baron wrote, directed, produced and starred in this character study of a hitman on the days leading up to his final kill. The dialogue that takes place in the film is minimal - the majority of the focus is on the introspection of the character as he steadies his nerves, assesses possible friends and foes, works out exactly where and when he wants to kill his targets, etc. As such, the story is primarily told through narration that often sizzles, though it is occasionally prone to cliches. One of the highlights of the film is Big Ralph, a wormy thug who breeds and keeps rats for fun and who tries to double cross Baron's Frankie Bono along the way. I also love the fact that the film is set at Christmas in New York, an awesome backdrop.

"Blast of Silence" is a good film noir. What keeps it from rising to the height of a great one is Allen Baron playing the pivotal role. The guy doesn't look the part of a heartless killer and consequently, has trouble playing one as well. The role didn't have to go to a big name, but it should have gone to someone with more presence on screen. There's also way too much walking. Baron has scenes of his character walking down the street for one to two minutes at a time at numerous points in the film to allow proper down time for the narration. Unfortunately it becomes too repetitious, especially considering the film is a scant hour and twenty minutes. Nevertheless, I have to appreciate that this unknown made this labor of love and broke into Hollywood with it. Granted, he primarily guest directed episodes of television programs over the decades, but he broke in all the same.

Watch the Trailer

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