Thursday, June 05, 2008

Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, 1961)

Because of where I first read about this movie (the RE/Search Incredibly Strange Films book), I assumed Blast of Silence would be one of those cinematic oddities produced from a mixture of vision and incompetence that gains a cult audience over time. I was intrigued to finally see it, but I wasn't expecting a full-on noir masterpiece, which is what this film is.
The key fact to be gleaned from the documentary included on the disc is that Allen Baron, the writer/director/star of the film, was formerly a comic book artist. And you can see it in every frame. The story is told through a series of storyboard shots, each inky, black and white image a piece of art. There's an incredible sequence where the hitman kills one of his contacts, shot as a sequence of fantastic images, one after another. In comic book fashion, the story is accompanied by a constant narrator, translating the protagonist's inner dialogue in the second person ("You enter New York in darkness, whatever time it is"). As a result, this film looks more like a comic book than any of the current wave of live-action comic book movies.
While we're on the subject, TCM played Sam Fuller's Underworld U.S.A., another noir that's been on my list for a long time, and that easily met my expectations. It is hard as fuckin' nails, and a film that can stand next to Fuller's Pickup On South Street and Shock Corridor. It's playing again at 3 in the morning or something on June 13. And on June 24, another Fuller rarity, The Crimson Kimono, will play as part of this month's Asian Images in Hollywood program.


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