Criterion Corner: Blow Out (1981)

The Criterion Collection for years have been releasing the best versions of movies on DVD and Blue Ray.  They are hands down the ultimate praise a film can receive,and while many claim  the Oscar to be  the ultimate recognition.  Having the work and praise that goes into a Criterion edition.  Shows that it was put together by film lovers for film lovers.  This section is going to be dedicated to some of the great movies in this growing collection.


Blow Out (1981)

Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow

Writer and Director: Brian DePalma

Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a sound designer for a low budget horror studio.  One night while recording sound effects for a feature film he hears a gunshot and sees a car drive into the river.  He quickly jumps in and sees that the driver is already dead, but the lady in the back seat is very much alive.  After he saves her, he talks to the police and politicians  who want very much for him to forget her.  This is because the dead man in the driver’s seat was in line to be the next Governor of Philadelphia.   Knowing damn well that there is a conspiracy going on.  Jack enlists the help of the girl he saved named Sally(Nancy Allen) to find out the truth.

blow-outEven though this movie is over twenty four years old.  It still packs in more thrills and suspense then a lot of movies do today.  What is does best is that is plays with our perceptions of what we think will happen in a movie like this.  For example the very first ten minutes of the movie appears to be that of the slasher variety.  But played to really low standards.  It’s then revealed to be just some test footage of a movie that our main character is working on.  When we first see the accident, we believe what others tell him about the car having a blow out and that’s how it crashed.  However when Jack is back at his place and he replays the tape.  We can see things more from his perspective and hear the gunshot before the blow out of the tire.  It’s also great to watch a movie where the main character has to try different tasks in order to solve the mystery.  One scene has him linking the sounds of the crash to pictures that were taking by animating stills of them.  Plus seeing how sound was edited before the advent of computers is extremely fascinating in it’s own right.

BlowoutI urge you to please avoid any trailers of this  because it gives away too many spoliers in my opinion.  This is one of the best thrillers of all time, with a wonderful performance by John Travolta in the lead role.  This was made after “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” and at the time, the guy was a big box office draw, but people sometimes forget that the guy can act.  Nancy Allen as Sally brings in a lot of heart for a character that could easily been written off as just a good looking ditzy dame.    This was her second team up with Travolta after 1976’s “Carrie“(also directed by DePalma).  Since this movie uses sound as the main plot point. I would watch this on a really good sound system or with your headphones.  For this review I rewatched it with my headphones and got a lot more info then I have before.

I know that Brian DePalma hasn’t made a good movie since “Mission Impossible” in 1996.  But I still urge you to check out the ones he did in the late 70’s and mid 80’s.  The man has done some pretty fascinating things, and I think “Blow Out” is a certified masterpiece.



  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New hour-long interview with De Palma, conducted by filmmaker Noah Baumbach
  • New video interview with star Nancy Allen
  • De Palma’s 1967 feature Murder à la Mod
  • New video interview with cameraman Garrett Brown on the Steadicam shots featured in the film within the film
  • On-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Sragow and Pauline Kael’s original New Yorker reviewNew cover by Eric Skillman

About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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9 Responses to Criterion Corner: Blow Out (1981)

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Saw this awhile back and needless to say, it was pretty damn tense. De Palma was such a great director back in those days, that it’s such a shame to see him have fallen so far from grace. Guess once Nancy Allen left his life, he was a goner. Good review Vern.

  2. Excellent write-up! I’ve always meant to see this one. Sounds amazing.

  3. Chris says:

    It would make more sense today, that there was footage of an accident, with mobile phones everywhere. In early 80s, it was less likely to happen. I agree it’s an effective thriller.

    I did a Brian de Palma marathon a year or so ago, and Blow Out topped the list! Really got me involved as viewer.

    • The Vern says:

      ooh I agree with that statement Chris. I want to check out more of his work. I really liked Sisters, and Dressed to Kill. Hell I even liked Raising Cain What other ones are good.

  4. jjames36 says:

    A certified masterpiece? Wow, Vern, that’s high praise right there. I’ll check it out at some point.

    Great review!

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