Blast of Silence


1h 17m 1961

Brief Synopsis

A hit man loses his nerve after allowing himself to feel emotion--and pays the price.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Release Date
Jul 1961
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Alfred W. Crown; Dan Enright
Distribution Company
Universal--International Films
Country
United States
Location
Staten Island, New York, USA; Brooklyn, New York, USA; New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 17m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

Frank Bono, a professional gunman from Cleveland, is hired by a New York City syndicate to kill local racketeer Troiano. Bono arrives in town on Christmas Eve, collects half of his payment, and methodically trails his victim. As he maps out his murder method, Bono arranges to acquire a gun and silencer from Big Ralph, a repulsive, overweight fence. That night Bono encounters Lorrie, a woman he dated years earlier and accepts her invitation for dinner, only to discover later, when he tries to kiss her, that she was being kind to him only out of pity. Big Ralph learns that Bono's victim is an important racketeer, and he demands more money from Bono, threatening him with blackmail. Infuriated, Bono murders Big Ralph. In a moment of panic, Bono tries to back out of killing Troiano, but he is warned that the deed must be done. Bono finally corners Troiano and kills him. He goes to collect his fee and is instead ambushed and killed by syndicate thugs.

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Release Date
Jul 1961
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Alfred W. Crown; Dan Enright
Distribution Company
Universal--International Films
Country
United States
Location
Staten Island, New York, USA; Brooklyn, New York, USA; New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 17m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Articles

The Gist (Blast of Silence) - THE GIST


In the relatively short amount of time that people have been talking about Allen Baron's Blast of Silence (1960), the long-unseen but recently resurfaced film noir footnote has been compared to everything from early Godard to vintage Scorsese, with a jigger of neorealismo thrown into the mix. Visually, those observations are spot on but the film's use of an omniscient narrator (an unbilled Lionel Stander) to taunt out-of-town hitman protagonist Frankie Bono (Baron himself, acquitting himself well) as he stamps around New York City at Christmas on a working vacation might put viewers of a certain vintage in the mind of the old E.C. Comic Crime SuspenStories. In that bi-monthly anthology of "jolting tales of tension" (hardboiled cousin to Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror), venal tough guys and unlucky greenhorns alike were led to their doom by the siren call of unseen narrators/commentators who were not only good character judges but juries and executioners to boot. (Baron had worked as a young man as a comics illustrator, although he never collected a paycheck from E.C.) Lionel Stander's goading voiceover may also remind horror fans of the smudgy cult item Dementia (aka Daughter of Horror, 1955), in which a mentally unstable young woman is prodded to acts of desperation and violence by an off screen Greek chorus (future Tonight show second banana Ed McMahon). Though Blast of Silence eschews Dementia's Gothic blandishments, the release posters did promise moviegoers "an unforgettable experience in horror."

Baron had wanted drinking buddy Peter Falk to play the assassin antihero of Blast of Silence but had to take the gig himself when Falk jumped at the chance to star as Abe "Kid Twist" Reles in Twentieth Century Fox's Murder, Inc. (1960). The negligible dimming of star wattage in the passage of the role from Falk (who at the time had only a couple of films and some live television to his credit) to Baron (by any standards, a nobody) paid posterity a rather handsome dividend. While traces of vintage George C. Scott (circa 1961-1965) and Robert De Niro (circa 1980-1988) can be discerned in Baron's lidless gaze, nobody would mistake Baron for a movie star. With his gas pipe leak of a voice, Baron's Frankie Bono would be at best a minor character in anyone else's film but the fact that he is allowed to be Blast of Silence's focus of attention gives his film an undeniable power, a You Are There immediacy and urgency that makes even the great docu-drama noirs like The Naked City (1948) and He Walked by Night (1948) seem stagy and theatrical by comparison. Future movie loners, from Alain Delon in Le Samouraï (1967) to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976) were given moments (however fleeting) of grace that mitigated their more unattractive tendencies but Bono gets little sympathy from Baron. When Frankie Bono submits, as he must, to his third act bullet stitching, he doesn't even have a gun to defend himself and dies rather poorly in the icy backwash of Jamaica Bay.

His illustrator's eye for framing might explain why Blast of Silence is so eye-catching for a film shot on the fly with all of $20,000 in folding money and some deferred lab payments. It remains a toss-up as to whether Baron or producer-cinematographer Merrill S. Brody (a protégé of Curt Courant, who had shot Jean Renoir's La bête humaine in 1938) deserves the lion's share of the glory for Blast's visionary consistency, an existential POV never more acute than during the sustained long shot of Frankie traversing a frigid East 34th Street, appearing at first like a dot on the vanishing point and growing steadily larger in the frame as street lights pop on about him like accusing eyes. The feeling of doom that hags the film isn't restricted to its main character.

Native New Yorkers might well feel pangs of remorse at the sight of such landmark locations as The Village Gate and Penn Station. (On the other hand, seen in passing is Greenwich Village's Café Reggio, setting for a key scene in Shaft[1971].) Footage grabbed on the East River waterfront, with its fleet of tugboats and clapboard shacks, preserves a time in the city's history when such industrial space was considered moribund, before these same parcels were repurposed for shopping malls, music stadiums, condominium living and sea-air-space museums. Part time capsule, part tombstone for a New York that was and will never again be, Blast of Silence is a portrait in unalloyed urban loneliness, film noir's "Eleanor Rigby."

Director: Allen Baron
Writer: Allen Baron, Waldo Salt (narration)
Producer: Merrill S. Brody
Cinematography: Merrill S. Brody
Camera Operator: Erich Kollmar
Film Editing: Merrill S. Brody, Peggy Lawson
Art Direction: Charles Rosen
Music: Meyer Kupferman
Cast: Allen Baron (Frankie Bono), Molly McCarthy (Lorrie), Larry Tucker (Ralph), Peter H. Clune (Troiano), Milda Memonas (Troiano's Girl), Danny Meehan (Nightclub Singer), Charles Creasap (Contact Man on Ferry), Don Saroyan (Lorrie's Boyfriend), Ruth Kaner (Building Superintendent), Lionel Stander (Narrator).
BW-77m.

by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
Film Noir by Alain Silver and James Ursini
e-mail from Allen Baron, March 29, 2009
The Gist (Blast Of Silence) - The Gist

The Gist (Blast of Silence) - THE GIST

In the relatively short amount of time that people have been talking about Allen Baron's Blast of Silence (1960), the long-unseen but recently resurfaced film noir footnote has been compared to everything from early Godard to vintage Scorsese, with a jigger of neorealismo thrown into the mix. Visually, those observations are spot on but the film's use of an omniscient narrator (an unbilled Lionel Stander) to taunt out-of-town hitman protagonist Frankie Bono (Baron himself, acquitting himself well) as he stamps around New York City at Christmas on a working vacation might put viewers of a certain vintage in the mind of the old E.C. Comic Crime SuspenStories. In that bi-monthly anthology of "jolting tales of tension" (hardboiled cousin to Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror), venal tough guys and unlucky greenhorns alike were led to their doom by the siren call of unseen narrators/commentators who were not only good character judges but juries and executioners to boot. (Baron had worked as a young man as a comics illustrator, although he never collected a paycheck from E.C.) Lionel Stander's goading voiceover may also remind horror fans of the smudgy cult item Dementia (aka Daughter of Horror, 1955), in which a mentally unstable young woman is prodded to acts of desperation and violence by an off screen Greek chorus (future Tonight show second banana Ed McMahon). Though Blast of Silence eschews Dementia's Gothic blandishments, the release posters did promise moviegoers "an unforgettable experience in horror." Baron had wanted drinking buddy Peter Falk to play the assassin antihero of Blast of Silence but had to take the gig himself when Falk jumped at the chance to star as Abe "Kid Twist" Reles in Twentieth Century Fox's Murder, Inc. (1960). The negligible dimming of star wattage in the passage of the role from Falk (who at the time had only a couple of films and some live television to his credit) to Baron (by any standards, a nobody) paid posterity a rather handsome dividend. While traces of vintage George C. Scott (circa 1961-1965) and Robert De Niro (circa 1980-1988) can be discerned in Baron's lidless gaze, nobody would mistake Baron for a movie star. With his gas pipe leak of a voice, Baron's Frankie Bono would be at best a minor character in anyone else's film but the fact that he is allowed to be Blast of Silence's focus of attention gives his film an undeniable power, a You Are There immediacy and urgency that makes even the great docu-drama noirs like The Naked City (1948) and He Walked by Night (1948) seem stagy and theatrical by comparison. Future movie loners, from Alain Delon in Le Samouraï (1967) to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976) were given moments (however fleeting) of grace that mitigated their more unattractive tendencies but Bono gets little sympathy from Baron. When Frankie Bono submits, as he must, to his third act bullet stitching, he doesn't even have a gun to defend himself and dies rather poorly in the icy backwash of Jamaica Bay. His illustrator's eye for framing might explain why Blast of Silence is so eye-catching for a film shot on the fly with all of $20,000 in folding money and some deferred lab payments. It remains a toss-up as to whether Baron or producer-cinematographer Merrill S. Brody (a protégé of Curt Courant, who had shot Jean Renoir's La bête humaine in 1938) deserves the lion's share of the glory for Blast's visionary consistency, an existential POV never more acute than during the sustained long shot of Frankie traversing a frigid East 34th Street, appearing at first like a dot on the vanishing point and growing steadily larger in the frame as street lights pop on about him like accusing eyes. The feeling of doom that hags the film isn't restricted to its main character. Native New Yorkers might well feel pangs of remorse at the sight of such landmark locations as The Village Gate and Penn Station. (On the other hand, seen in passing is Greenwich Village's Café Reggio, setting for a key scene in Shaft[1971].) Footage grabbed on the East River waterfront, with its fleet of tugboats and clapboard shacks, preserves a time in the city's history when such industrial space was considered moribund, before these same parcels were repurposed for shopping malls, music stadiums, condominium living and sea-air-space museums. Part time capsule, part tombstone for a New York that was and will never again be, Blast of Silence is a portrait in unalloyed urban loneliness, film noir's "Eleanor Rigby." Director: Allen Baron Writer: Allen Baron, Waldo Salt (narration) Producer: Merrill S. Brody Cinematography: Merrill S. Brody Camera Operator: Erich Kollmar Film Editing: Merrill S. Brody, Peggy Lawson Art Direction: Charles Rosen Music: Meyer Kupferman Cast: Allen Baron (Frankie Bono), Molly McCarthy (Lorrie), Larry Tucker (Ralph), Peter H. Clune (Troiano), Milda Memonas (Troiano's Girl), Danny Meehan (Nightclub Singer), Charles Creasap (Contact Man on Ferry), Don Saroyan (Lorrie's Boyfriend), Ruth Kaner (Building Superintendent), Lionel Stander (Narrator). BW-77m. by Richard Harland Smith Sources: Film Noir by Alain Silver and James Ursini e-mail from Allen Baron, March 29, 2009

Insider Info (Blast of Silence) - BEHIND THE SCENES


Peter Falk had agreed to act in Blast of Silence but withdrew from the project for the promise of "a few dollars a week and a bag of peanuts" acting in Twentieth Century Fox's Murder, Inc. (1960). The role of "Kid Twist" Reles made Falk's film career.

Blast of Silence's running narration was written by blacklisted screenwriter Waldo Salt, signing himself as "Mel Davenport."

For his services as a narrator, actor Lionel Stander offered Baron the choice of a $1,000 fee if his name was used and only $500 if the narration were anonymous. Baron opted for the cheaper price.

Going into production, Baron had $2,800 and a reel of film he had salvaged from the production Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), in which Baron had played a small part.

Baron's hope was to get into the can fifteen to twenty minutes of film that he could use to attract investors.

Baron and his crew agreed to use a raw film stock from Eastman Kodak provided they could "test" a reel. Baron used all of the test footage in Blast of Silence.

The entirety of Blast of Silence was filmed without permits. Only Lorrie's apartment was a set, mocked up in an unused midtown firehouse.

At one point during principal photography, Baron and his crew were stopped by officers of the New York Police Department, who suspected them of performing surveillance on the NYPD.

The storm seen in the film's climax is Hurricane Donna, which affected the entire eastern coast of the United States in September of 1960.

In addition to playing his death scene and performing his own death stunt, Allen Baron had to play one of the gunmen shooting at himself.

After shooting his death scene, Baron retired to Downey's for a steak dinner and by chance met the men who would finance Blast of Silence.

Once they had seen his footage, Alfred Crown and Dan Enright offered Baron $18,000 to finish the film.

Blast of Silence was completed and ready for exhibition two weeks too late for the Cannes Film Festival.

Universal-International acquired the film, which it distributed briefly in the summer of 1961 as a second feature.

In 1990, Blast of Silence was heralded at the Munich Film Festival.

That year, a West German TV crew followed Baron through a return to New York to visit the film's existing locations, and the ensuing documentary was titled Allen Doesn't Live Here.

In 2006, documentary filmmaker Robert Fischer repurposed that film as Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence.

In 2007, Blast of Silence was included in the esteemed Criterion Collection.

by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
"Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence", Blast of Silence DVD

Insider Info (Blast of Silence) - BEHIND THE SCENES

Peter Falk had agreed to act in Blast of Silence but withdrew from the project for the promise of "a few dollars a week and a bag of peanuts" acting in Twentieth Century Fox's Murder, Inc. (1960). The role of "Kid Twist" Reles made Falk's film career. Blast of Silence's running narration was written by blacklisted screenwriter Waldo Salt, signing himself as "Mel Davenport." For his services as a narrator, actor Lionel Stander offered Baron the choice of a $1,000 fee if his name was used and only $500 if the narration were anonymous. Baron opted for the cheaper price. Going into production, Baron had $2,800 and a reel of film he had salvaged from the production Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), in which Baron had played a small part. Baron's hope was to get into the can fifteen to twenty minutes of film that he could use to attract investors. Baron and his crew agreed to use a raw film stock from Eastman Kodak provided they could "test" a reel. Baron used all of the test footage in Blast of Silence. The entirety of Blast of Silence was filmed without permits. Only Lorrie's apartment was a set, mocked up in an unused midtown firehouse. At one point during principal photography, Baron and his crew were stopped by officers of the New York Police Department, who suspected them of performing surveillance on the NYPD. The storm seen in the film's climax is Hurricane Donna, which affected the entire eastern coast of the United States in September of 1960. In addition to playing his death scene and performing his own death stunt, Allen Baron had to play one of the gunmen shooting at himself. After shooting his death scene, Baron retired to Downey's for a steak dinner and by chance met the men who would finance Blast of Silence. Once they had seen his footage, Alfred Crown and Dan Enright offered Baron $18,000 to finish the film. Blast of Silence was completed and ready for exhibition two weeks too late for the Cannes Film Festival. Universal-International acquired the film, which it distributed briefly in the summer of 1961 as a second feature. In 1990, Blast of Silence was heralded at the Munich Film Festival. That year, a West German TV crew followed Baron through a return to New York to visit the film's existing locations, and the ensuing documentary was titled Allen Doesn't Live Here. In 2006, documentary filmmaker Robert Fischer repurposed that film as Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence. In 2007, Blast of Silence was included in the esteemed Criterion Collection. by Richard Harland Smith Sources: "Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence", Blast of Silence DVD

In the Know (Blast of Silence) - TRIVIA


Blast of Silence writer/director/star Allen Baron was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927.

As a child, Baron made pocket money by announcing incoming calls to the corner candy store payphone for his neighbors on New Lots Avenue.

Prior to becoming involved in film and television, Baron was a comic book and magazine illustrator.

Baron supplemented his artist's income by working as a New York cabbie.

Baron played a small role in Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), the last film of Hollywood legend Errol Flynn.

As a start-up filmmaker, Baron often met friends and contacts at Downey's Bar on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

Among the Off Broadway actors who gathered at Downey's was Peter Falk, whom Baron offered the lead role in Blast of Silence.

At Downey's, Baron also made the acquaintance of Alfred Crown, a film and theatre impresario who financed Blast of Silence with partner Dan Enright and later produced Frank Perry's Last Summer (1969) and Milos Forman's Taking Off (1971).

Playing Ralph the arms dealer in Blast of Silence is Larry Tucker. Tucker later appeared as the gum-chewing lunatic Pagliacci of Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963) and cowrote such films as I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968) and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969).

Blast of Silence leading lady Molly McCarthy had appeared previously as Steve McQueen's girlfriend in The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959) and had later roles in the cult favorite Over the Edge (1979) and in The Flamingo Kid (1984). She is the mother of WFMU disc jockey Michael Shelley.

Seen briefly in Blast of Silence as Lorrie's boyfriend is Don Saroyan, who had worked with Allen Baron on Cuban Rebel Girls and was at the time married to Carol Burnett.

by Richard Harland Smith

Source:
Just One More Thing: Stories from My Life by Peter Falk
"Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence", Blast of Silence DVD

In the Know (Blast of Silence) - TRIVIA

Blast of Silence writer/director/star Allen Baron was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927. As a child, Baron made pocket money by announcing incoming calls to the corner candy store payphone for his neighbors on New Lots Avenue. Prior to becoming involved in film and television, Baron was a comic book and magazine illustrator. Baron supplemented his artist's income by working as a New York cabbie. Baron played a small role in Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), the last film of Hollywood legend Errol Flynn. As a start-up filmmaker, Baron often met friends and contacts at Downey's Bar on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. Among the Off Broadway actors who gathered at Downey's was Peter Falk, whom Baron offered the lead role in Blast of Silence. At Downey's, Baron also made the acquaintance of Alfred Crown, a film and theatre impresario who financed Blast of Silence with partner Dan Enright and later produced Frank Perry's Last Summer (1969) and Milos Forman's Taking Off (1971). Playing Ralph the arms dealer in Blast of Silence is Larry Tucker. Tucker later appeared as the gum-chewing lunatic Pagliacci of Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963) and cowrote such films as I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968) and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969). Blast of Silence leading lady Molly McCarthy had appeared previously as Steve McQueen's girlfriend in The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959) and had later roles in the cult favorite Over the Edge (1979) and in The Flamingo Kid (1984). She is the mother of WFMU disc jockey Michael Shelley. Seen briefly in Blast of Silence as Lorrie's boyfriend is Don Saroyan, who had worked with Allen Baron on Cuban Rebel Girls and was at the time married to Carol Burnett. by Richard Harland Smith Source: Just One More Thing: Stories from My Life by Peter Falk "Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence", Blast of Silence DVD

Yea or Nay (Blast of Silence) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "BLAST OF SILENCE"


"The result is simultaneously awkward and pretentious... Even so, Mr. Baron has some interesting ideas about New York locations, and aided by the expert photography of Erich Kollmar he has made effective use of such settings as the Staten Island ferry, Rockefeller Plaza and the Village Barn night club. The outdoor scenes have a spontaneous vigor that augurs well for the director's future."
- Eugene Archer, The New York Times

"You're the end of the line Blast of Silence. You carry the full weight of film noir's history on your slender shoulders. It must be very loosely. But you suck up your courage and give it a go. And whadya know? You turn out a winner. Yeah, Blast of Silence is most definitely a classic example of what can be done on a low budget."
- The Film Noir Bible

"... offbeat and intense..."
- Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

"But for all of its pulp poetry - the picture begins in a railroad tunnel, transformed by the narration into a birth canal that will blast the silently screaming Frankie into the harsh reality of Penn Station - the film retains a down-and-dirty, documentary aspect. The studiously gray, unglamorous views of 1961 Manhattan - St. Marks Place, where Frankie takes a room at the Valencia Hotel; the blanked-out East 30s, where Frankie's mark has a girlfriend stashed in a walk-up apartment - are worth the price of admission alone. Here's what was being left out of those Madison Avenue melodramas and Park Avenue romances of the period."
- Dave Kehr, The New York Times

"... the single greatest feat of voiceover narration in history."
- Matt Prigge, Philadelphia Weekly

"With one foot planted firmly on the Kiss Me Deadly [1955] era of film noir and the other closer to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie [1976], Blast of Silence begins with a brutal, uncompromising invocation of birth and ends with an almost mystically sensitive death... What Blast of Silence gets and gets right is the sense that New York, for all its 'top of the world' potential, is also a working metropolis with accompanying concessions, mediocrities, and isolations."
- Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine

"Blast of Silence is possibly the great lost masterpiece of film noir; a twilit, deathward emanation of everything that had underlain the form from its beginnings. No American film before it, made in Hollywood or anywhere else, had trafficked so promiscuously in unadulterated nihilism, or so used the condition of Hate - constant, irritated Hate, with no coherent Other to direct it toward - as its emotional motif."

- Tom Sutpen, Bright Lights Film Journal

"Working with a miniscule budget, Baron creates charged compositions out of found locations and makes a virtue out of the film's cheapness. The soot and litter almost seem summoned by his character's mental state. Established admirer Martin Scorsese could easily have had it in mind when he made Taxi Driver [1976]; Blast of Silence shares that film's tortured philosophizing."

- Keith Phipps, The Onion A.V. Club

"How influential has Allen Baron's Blast of Silence been? Since it was out of circulation for decades, the answer may seem to be 'not very.' All the same, it was a crime film shot on the run in New York City, long before Abel Ferrara gained a name for doing so, and it contains scenes that could prefigure the works of David Lynch."

- Ramsey Campbell, Video Watchdog

"The beautifully executed narration by Lionel Stander is an important part of the film's effect. It provides a running description of the inner life of the character, a man who is comfortable only when he's alone and it's quiet, who has rendered himself unfit for normal discourse....Bleak, dark and strangely arresting throughout, Blast of Silence is not quite a can't-miss proposition, but one comes away from it feeling as if one has seen a minor classic of some kind. Yes, minor - but still a classic."
- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

"...fascinating, bleak tale..."
- The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film

"Arguably, Allen Baron's Blast of Silence is one of the very best film noirs in cinema history....the cinematography of Blast of Silence is so outstanding that it turns New York City into a character rather than a mere location. Even though Blast of Silence was Baron's first movie, his professional background as a comic book illustrator gave him a firm understanding of visual concepts such as framing and composition....Considering the brave and elegant aesthetics of Blast of Silence, one is left perplexed at the subsequent filmmaking career of Baron."
- Marco Lanzagorta, www.popmatters.com

Yea or Nay (Blast of Silence) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "BLAST OF SILENCE"

"The result is simultaneously awkward and pretentious... Even so, Mr. Baron has some interesting ideas about New York locations, and aided by the expert photography of Erich Kollmar he has made effective use of such settings as the Staten Island ferry, Rockefeller Plaza and the Village Barn night club. The outdoor scenes have a spontaneous vigor that augurs well for the director's future." - Eugene Archer, The New York Times "You're the end of the line Blast of Silence. You carry the full weight of film noir's history on your slender shoulders. It must be very loosely. But you suck up your courage and give it a go. And whadya know? You turn out a winner. Yeah, Blast of Silence is most definitely a classic example of what can be done on a low budget." - The Film Noir Bible "... offbeat and intense..." - Mark Deming, All Movie Guide "But for all of its pulp poetry - the picture begins in a railroad tunnel, transformed by the narration into a birth canal that will blast the silently screaming Frankie into the harsh reality of Penn Station - the film retains a down-and-dirty, documentary aspect. The studiously gray, unglamorous views of 1961 Manhattan - St. Marks Place, where Frankie takes a room at the Valencia Hotel; the blanked-out East 30s, where Frankie's mark has a girlfriend stashed in a walk-up apartment - are worth the price of admission alone. Here's what was being left out of those Madison Avenue melodramas and Park Avenue romances of the period." - Dave Kehr, The New York Times "... the single greatest feat of voiceover narration in history." - Matt Prigge, Philadelphia Weekly "With one foot planted firmly on the Kiss Me Deadly [1955] era of film noir and the other closer to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie [1976], Blast of Silence begins with a brutal, uncompromising invocation of birth and ends with an almost mystically sensitive death... What Blast of Silence gets and gets right is the sense that New York, for all its 'top of the world' potential, is also a working metropolis with accompanying concessions, mediocrities, and isolations." - Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine "Blast of Silence is possibly the great lost masterpiece of film noir; a twilit, deathward emanation of everything that had underlain the form from its beginnings. No American film before it, made in Hollywood or anywhere else, had trafficked so promiscuously in unadulterated nihilism, or so used the condition of Hate - constant, irritated Hate, with no coherent Other to direct it toward - as its emotional motif." - Tom Sutpen, Bright Lights Film Journal "Working with a miniscule budget, Baron creates charged compositions out of found locations and makes a virtue out of the film's cheapness. The soot and litter almost seem summoned by his character's mental state. Established admirer Martin Scorsese could easily have had it in mind when he made Taxi Driver [1976]; Blast of Silence shares that film's tortured philosophizing." - Keith Phipps, The Onion A.V. Club "How influential has Allen Baron's Blast of Silence been? Since it was out of circulation for decades, the answer may seem to be 'not very.' All the same, it was a crime film shot on the run in New York City, long before Abel Ferrara gained a name for doing so, and it contains scenes that could prefigure the works of David Lynch." - Ramsey Campbell, Video Watchdog "The beautifully executed narration by Lionel Stander is an important part of the film's effect. It provides a running description of the inner life of the character, a man who is comfortable only when he's alone and it's quiet, who has rendered himself unfit for normal discourse....Bleak, dark and strangely arresting throughout, Blast of Silence is not quite a can't-miss proposition, but one comes away from it feeling as if one has seen a minor classic of some kind. Yes, minor - but still a classic." - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle "...fascinating, bleak tale..." - The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film "Arguably, Allen Baron's Blast of Silence is one of the very best film noirs in cinema history....the cinematography of Blast of Silence is so outstanding that it turns New York City into a character rather than a mere location. Even though Blast of Silence was Baron's first movie, his professional background as a comic book illustrator gave him a firm understanding of visual concepts such as framing and composition....Considering the brave and elegant aesthetics of Blast of Silence, one is left perplexed at the subsequent filmmaking career of Baron." - Marco Lanzagorta, www.popmatters.com

Quote It (Blast of Silence) - QUOTES FROM "BLAST OF SILENCE"


NARRATOR (Lionel Stander): "Remembering out of the black silence you were born in pain."

NARRATOR: "You were born with hate and anger built in. Took a slap on the backside to blast out the scream. And then you knew you were alive."

NARRATOR: "When the Better Business Bureau rings the Christmas bell, the suckers forget there's such a business as murder... and businessmen who make it their exclusive line. Like you, Baby Boy Frankie Bono. Out of Cleveland."

NARRATOR: "They all hate the gun they hire."

NARRATOR: "The target's name is Troiano. You know the type – second string syndicate boss with too much ambition. And a moustache, to hide the fact that he has lips like a woman. The kind of face you hate."

NARRATOR: "You don't have to know a man to live with him. But you have to know a man like a brother to kill him."

RALPH (Larry Tucker): "So how ya been. You makin' a dollar?"

NARRATOR: "He thinks he looks like a gentleman if his shoes are shined. You could kill him right now with pleasure."

NARRATOR: "You want a woman? Buy one – in the dark, so she won't remember your face."

FRANKIE (Allen Baron): "I guess I just don't mix in."

LORRIE (Molly McCarthy): "I vote we dance. Unless, of course, you'd rather push another peanut across the floor."

NARRATOR: "Troiano with his high-priced dame and Ralphie and his rats. Two of a kind. And the conga drum beatin' your head 'til you taste the hate on your tongue."

FRANKIE: "I'm warnin' you, Fatty, you're stickin' your belly where it doesn't belong."

NARRATOR: "You're relaxing now. Hands cold again. There'll be a gun in them soon and your mind's running clear and cool. Expert. As an engineer designing a bridge. You could've been an engineer."

NARRATOR: "Nothing can go wrong – no mistakes. Because this is your last job. You've got that figured out. You've faced fact. You know you're through."

NARRATOR: "Watch it, Frankie. Danger signals, like electric current, like lightning, like fire in the night and sirens screaming in your head. Don't think. Don't remember. Don't look ahead. Concentrate. You have a job to do and you're an expert. A killer who doesn't kill gets killed."

Quote It (Blast of Silence) - QUOTES FROM "BLAST OF SILENCE"

NARRATOR (Lionel Stander): "Remembering out of the black silence you were born in pain." NARRATOR: "You were born with hate and anger built in. Took a slap on the backside to blast out the scream. And then you knew you were alive." NARRATOR: "When the Better Business Bureau rings the Christmas bell, the suckers forget there's such a business as murder... and businessmen who make it their exclusive line. Like you, Baby Boy Frankie Bono. Out of Cleveland." NARRATOR: "They all hate the gun they hire." NARRATOR: "The target's name is Troiano. You know the type – second string syndicate boss with too much ambition. And a moustache, to hide the fact that he has lips like a woman. The kind of face you hate." NARRATOR: "You don't have to know a man to live with him. But you have to know a man like a brother to kill him." RALPH (Larry Tucker): "So how ya been. You makin' a dollar?" NARRATOR: "He thinks he looks like a gentleman if his shoes are shined. You could kill him right now with pleasure." NARRATOR: "You want a woman? Buy one – in the dark, so she won't remember your face." FRANKIE (Allen Baron): "I guess I just don't mix in." LORRIE (Molly McCarthy): "I vote we dance. Unless, of course, you'd rather push another peanut across the floor." NARRATOR: "Troiano with his high-priced dame and Ralphie and his rats. Two of a kind. And the conga drum beatin' your head 'til you taste the hate on your tongue." FRANKIE: "I'm warnin' you, Fatty, you're stickin' your belly where it doesn't belong." NARRATOR: "You're relaxing now. Hands cold again. There'll be a gun in them soon and your mind's running clear and cool. Expert. As an engineer designing a bridge. You could've been an engineer." NARRATOR: "Nothing can go wrong – no mistakes. Because this is your last job. You've got that figured out. You've faced fact. You know you're through." NARRATOR: "Watch it, Frankie. Danger signals, like electric current, like lightning, like fire in the night and sirens screaming in your head. Don't think. Don't remember. Don't look ahead. Concentrate. You have a job to do and you're an expert. A killer who doesn't kill gets killed."

Blast of Silence - BLAST OF SILENCE - Allen Baron's Stylish Low-Budget 1961 Film Noir


"Every breathtaking moment is a lifetime of suspense as you're swept along with a hired killer on a murder safari into the dark depths of the asphalt jungle." That's how the ad copy reads for one the original posters made for Blast of Silence (1961), directed by Allen Baron. What? You've never heard of the film, or the director? Well... The Criterion Collection just stepped up to the plate to correct that gross injustice with a DVD that does something very, very rare. It delivers a film that actually lives up to the hyperbole put on its poster. It's a film that should have been given a bigger push upon its original release but, as an independently financed production, not much weight was tossed behind and instead the film was released as a second feature with no fanfare, giving the director a calling card to Hollywood (where he did a lot of TV work) but leaving his debut work to fade into obscurity until being hailed in 1990 at the Munich Film Festival as a rediscovered masterpiece.

Blast of Silence was the low-budget directorial film debut of a young cartoonist and painter with a bit of acting experience under his belt who somehow managed to cobble together a beautiful and haunting black-and-white film shot on a 35mm Arriflex camera that is an existential story about something that is brutally universal to every man or woman born, no matter what bonds you forge with family or friends, namely; you are born alone, and you will die alone.

For professional killer Baby Boy Frankie Bono the loneliness is amplified by a misanthropic bitterness and contrasted by his delusional and wistful dreams of who he might have been instead; like an architect or an engineer. But instead of being a useful and productive member of society he's the lowest of the low: a paid killer. Baron puts on several hats for his production; director, screenwriter, and lead actor. The decision to step in front of the camera as Frankie Bono came up only after a friend who was originally meant for the part walked off to pursue a career-making role; Peter Falk was given an offer he couldn't refuse in Murder, Inc. (1960).

Several elements make Blast of Silence an exhilarating and unique ride, such as its narrative choices, eye-catching compositions, and its visual style. The omniscient and jarring second-person narration is read by the blacklisted actor Lionel Stander (who appeared in Roman Polanski's film Cul-de-sac, but will be remembered by most as Max on TV's Hart to Hart). Stander is uncredited, but not for any reason beyond the fact that Stander offered to do the narration for $500 sans credit, or $1,000 with credit, and Baron was on a tight budget. The narration itself was composed by Waldo Salt, another blacklisted talent, and the award-winning writer behind Midnight Cowboy, Serpico, and The Day of the Locust, to name a few. This narration not only sets the tone for the film, it also infuses and informs the story with an unrelenting prose of acidic pulp poetry that really wants to shake Frankie Bono by the collar and slap him around – adding a splash of coffee on the face for good measure.

Watching Blast of Silence it's no surprise that the compositions should be so thoughtfully crafted as Baron was used to working within the frame during his time as a graphic illustrator. But Baron's experience as a stage actor also helps him keep from turning other actors into simple props and he lets them inhabit their space. Witness Larry Tucker's performance as Big Ralph, and see how his greasy fingers find a way to continuously touch Frankie Bono, who is clearly repulsed at being used as a giant napkin, but still keeps his cool because he really needs a silencer that only Ralph can procure.

Baron taps into an aesthetic akin to Italian neorealism by using an on-the-fly approach to location shooting that sometimes catches the glance of a passing bystander that happened to spot the secretive camera as it made its way through the various environs familiar to the director, who was shooting on his own turf in New York City, capturing the raw energy of places like lower Manhattan, Harlem, Greenwhich Village, and Rockefeller Plaza. Working with a small crew meant things could be flexible, making it possible, in one example, for Baron to film a key shoot-out at an abandoned fishing village during a cold and windy snow-storm, even though it meant waiting for almost two weeks for the weather to be perfectly bad. Baron's independence and freedom also meant he could improvise. In one stunningly creepy shot, the camera looks out and down from an apartment window and captures something that was not rehearsed, planned or scripted as we see nuns line up a schoolyard of orphans into the pattern of a swastika, and then march them away.

And then there's Baron's protagonist, a character that many of his experienced friends in the industry warned him would be far too angry and bitter for the average filmgoer to connect with. But Baron, instead, embraced the nihilism of his anti-hero intuiting, rightfully so, that this despicable creation did something else too, it accentuated a loneliness that would be his centerpiece - especially when put up against the hustle-and-bustle of New York City during Christmas. The holiday season also allows for a few unguarded moments to occur, which remind us that Frankie Bono is very human, and not above attending (albeit reluctantly) a party, or even participating in a peanut-race where the goal is to push the peanut across the floor with nothing but your nose.

The Blast of Silence DVD, released by The Criterion Collection, is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and features a new digital transfer from a composite 35mm fine-grain master positive that was cleaned up using the MTI Digital Restoration System, and uses audio restoration to clean up the soundtrack on Dolby Mono. Extras include a 60-minute long documentary titled: Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence (which uses unedited material from the 40-minute long 1990 documentary Allen Doesn't Live Here Anymore, adding in a new interview shot in 2006 with Baron), rare on-set Polaroids, a special collection of photographs and essays that revisit the locations in Blast of Silence with Allen Baron (Photos taken in 2008 by Susan Arosteguy), a booklet "featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty and a four-page graphic-novel adaptation of the film by acclaimed artist Sean Philips (Criminal, Sleeper, Marvel Zombies)," and, of course, a trailer (which, oddly, does not use Stander's narration). Also included is an Easter Egg with some of Baron's original comic artwork.

For more information about Blast of Silence, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Blast of Silence, go to TCM Shopping

by Pablo Kjolseth

Blast of Silence - BLAST OF SILENCE - Allen Baron's Stylish Low-Budget 1961 Film Noir

"Every breathtaking moment is a lifetime of suspense as you're swept along with a hired killer on a murder safari into the dark depths of the asphalt jungle." That's how the ad copy reads for one the original posters made for Blast of Silence (1961), directed by Allen Baron. What? You've never heard of the film, or the director? Well... The Criterion Collection just stepped up to the plate to correct that gross injustice with a DVD that does something very, very rare. It delivers a film that actually lives up to the hyperbole put on its poster. It's a film that should have been given a bigger push upon its original release but, as an independently financed production, not much weight was tossed behind and instead the film was released as a second feature with no fanfare, giving the director a calling card to Hollywood (where he did a lot of TV work) but leaving his debut work to fade into obscurity until being hailed in 1990 at the Munich Film Festival as a rediscovered masterpiece. Blast of Silence was the low-budget directorial film debut of a young cartoonist and painter with a bit of acting experience under his belt who somehow managed to cobble together a beautiful and haunting black-and-white film shot on a 35mm Arriflex camera that is an existential story about something that is brutally universal to every man or woman born, no matter what bonds you forge with family or friends, namely; you are born alone, and you will die alone. For professional killer Baby Boy Frankie Bono the loneliness is amplified by a misanthropic bitterness and contrasted by his delusional and wistful dreams of who he might have been instead; like an architect or an engineer. But instead of being a useful and productive member of society he's the lowest of the low: a paid killer. Baron puts on several hats for his production; director, screenwriter, and lead actor. The decision to step in front of the camera as Frankie Bono came up only after a friend who was originally meant for the part walked off to pursue a career-making role; Peter Falk was given an offer he couldn't refuse in Murder, Inc. (1960). Several elements make Blast of Silence an exhilarating and unique ride, such as its narrative choices, eye-catching compositions, and its visual style. The omniscient and jarring second-person narration is read by the blacklisted actor Lionel Stander (who appeared in Roman Polanski's film Cul-de-sac, but will be remembered by most as Max on TV's Hart to Hart). Stander is uncredited, but not for any reason beyond the fact that Stander offered to do the narration for $500 sans credit, or $1,000 with credit, and Baron was on a tight budget. The narration itself was composed by Waldo Salt, another blacklisted talent, and the award-winning writer behind Midnight Cowboy, Serpico, and The Day of the Locust, to name a few. This narration not only sets the tone for the film, it also infuses and informs the story with an unrelenting prose of acidic pulp poetry that really wants to shake Frankie Bono by the collar and slap him around – adding a splash of coffee on the face for good measure. Watching Blast of Silence it's no surprise that the compositions should be so thoughtfully crafted as Baron was used to working within the frame during his time as a graphic illustrator. But Baron's experience as a stage actor also helps him keep from turning other actors into simple props and he lets them inhabit their space. Witness Larry Tucker's performance as Big Ralph, and see how his greasy fingers find a way to continuously touch Frankie Bono, who is clearly repulsed at being used as a giant napkin, but still keeps his cool because he really needs a silencer that only Ralph can procure. Baron taps into an aesthetic akin to Italian neorealism by using an on-the-fly approach to location shooting that sometimes catches the glance of a passing bystander that happened to spot the secretive camera as it made its way through the various environs familiar to the director, who was shooting on his own turf in New York City, capturing the raw energy of places like lower Manhattan, Harlem, Greenwhich Village, and Rockefeller Plaza. Working with a small crew meant things could be flexible, making it possible, in one example, for Baron to film a key shoot-out at an abandoned fishing village during a cold and windy snow-storm, even though it meant waiting for almost two weeks for the weather to be perfectly bad. Baron's independence and freedom also meant he could improvise. In one stunningly creepy shot, the camera looks out and down from an apartment window and captures something that was not rehearsed, planned or scripted as we see nuns line up a schoolyard of orphans into the pattern of a swastika, and then march them away. And then there's Baron's protagonist, a character that many of his experienced friends in the industry warned him would be far too angry and bitter for the average filmgoer to connect with. But Baron, instead, embraced the nihilism of his anti-hero intuiting, rightfully so, that this despicable creation did something else too, it accentuated a loneliness that would be his centerpiece - especially when put up against the hustle-and-bustle of New York City during Christmas. The holiday season also allows for a few unguarded moments to occur, which remind us that Frankie Bono is very human, and not above attending (albeit reluctantly) a party, or even participating in a peanut-race where the goal is to push the peanut across the floor with nothing but your nose. The Blast of Silence DVD, released by The Criterion Collection, is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and features a new digital transfer from a composite 35mm fine-grain master positive that was cleaned up using the MTI Digital Restoration System, and uses audio restoration to clean up the soundtrack on Dolby Mono. Extras include a 60-minute long documentary titled: Requiem for a Killer: The Making of Blast of Silence (which uses unedited material from the 40-minute long 1990 documentary Allen Doesn't Live Here Anymore, adding in a new interview shot in 2006 with Baron), rare on-set Polaroids, a special collection of photographs and essays that revisit the locations in Blast of Silence with Allen Baron (Photos taken in 2008 by Susan Arosteguy), a booklet "featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty and a four-page graphic-novel adaptation of the film by acclaimed artist Sean Philips (Criminal, Sleeper, Marvel Zombies)," and, of course, a trailer (which, oddly, does not use Stander's narration). Also included is an Easter Egg with some of Baron's original comic artwork. For more information about Blast of Silence, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Blast of Silence, go to TCM Shopping by Pablo Kjolseth

Quotes

Trivia

Part of the movie was shot during the middle of a real hurricane - the wind seen during the fistfight is not artificial. It was filmed on Long Island during Hurricane Donna (September 10-12, 1960), the only hurricane of the 20th Century to strike the entire East Coast from south Florida to Maine.

Notes

Filmed in New York City.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer August 1961

Released in United States 1990

Shown at Munich Film Festival June 23-July 1, 1990.

Released in United States Summer August 1961

Released in United States 1990 (Shown at Munich Film Festival June 23-July 1, 1990.)