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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Break a leg.

Blow Out (1981) on IMDb

Plot Overview

While recording “Co-Ed Frenzy,” sound effects man Jack Terry (John Travolta) is told by his Independence Pictures producer Sam (Peter Boyden) he needs “new wind” and a better scream. Getting the wind is easy enough, he takes his recorder and shot­gun mike up on Wassahickon Walk to capture the breeze.

It's a popular destination. Lovers go there for solitude and wildlife for nature. Penn­syl­vania Gov. McRyan comes driving over the bridge after attending a to-do where he was expected to announce his candidacy for president. Seated next to him is a paid escort Sally Bedina (Nancy Allen) who has upgraded from divorce entrapment to political. They're heading for a make out spot under the bridge. Hiding “in the woods” is Sally's manager Manny Karp (Dennis Franz) set to capture the illicit couple on film. Hiding in the bushes is Manny's opposition contact Burke (John Lithgow) who will cause a fatal “accident” by shooting out McRyan's tire, to make sure he doesn't become a candidate. Jack gets the gun shot cum blow out sound on tape.

Liberty Day paradePolice Detective Mackey (John Aquino) writes off Jack as a conspiracy theorist. McRyan's advisor Lawrence Henry (John McMartin) pays every­one off to save the family embarrassment (“It's better the governor died alone.”) Burke goes off the deep end tying up loose ends whether they need it or not. The city of Philadelphia takes off celebrating Liberty Day—first ringing of the Liberty Bell in 100 years. TV reporter Phil Donahue (Curt May) sets off to run an expose with Jack's material. And Sally walks off with the Liberty Bell Strangler.


Before the starting shot is fired, we find Jack taking his time capturing sounds on the bridge. He points his mike at a couple until they wander off. Then he points it down at a frog by the creek, which is making a thumping sound. Next he turns around to capture an odd zipping sound that turns out to be Burke's watch attachment—Burke is hiding in the bushes. A horned owl starts hooting in the trees, so Jack points his mike up to get it. Finally he tracks the approaching car.

We have enough time to ponder the owl, a well-designed predator with curved beak, wide eyes, sharp hearing, strong talons, and feathers for swift flight. At the shot it flies off and we see its white plumage underneath.

The frog by contrast looks like it was designed to be someone's breakfast. It can hop and swim and lie low camou­flaged in the dark mud, but it has neither scales nor claws nor teeth. Looks like it would get et by anything with a mouth and an appetite. I'm not sure if owls would bother to eat frogs, but I'm pretty sure they eat other animals that do. It's a vast food chain with some animals at the apex and others at the bottom.

As a kid I've hunted frogs in Pennsylvania, and I never heard any make a sound like Thumper's. The closest description I can give you is from neuro-scientist Seth S. Horowitz, Ph.D. “Xenopus laevis frogs live for love songs. Like all frogs, they depend on phono­tropism—homing in on the calls of the opposite sex—to be able to find each other in the murky ponds they call home in the wilds of southern Africa. … Xenopus laevis doesn't have complex singing apparati—it makes its calls by using its laryngeal muscles to snap two carti­laginous disks together to create castanet-like clicks” (56–7.) I don't know if it's the same frog in this picture, but if its ancestors came over from Africa in a bucket of tadpoles looking for a better life, well, they'll have to settle for being part of the food chain here as well.

American Bald EagleWhen Burke The Liberty Bell Strangler stalks a victim through a fish market, he steals a meat thermometer from a cold fish to use the pointy end as a weapon. That fish would have been eating frog eggs, tadpoles and young frogs. Furthermore the fish is prey to the eagle. I didn't see any American bald eagles in the picture, but Sally did discuss with Manny how they were “vultures” for doing what they were doing. And there was a mural depicting Benjamin Franklin on a building, who was known for his opposition to the bald eagle as the national bird as it was a scavenger—Ben preferred the native wild turkey. Here we have a complete food chain, and when Burke was tying up current political loose ends using the thermometer to make liberty bell designs in his victims' corpses, that tied American politics both new and old to said food chain. A psychologist is asked the significance of the bell design on the corpses. It's nothing other than politics being a dirty business of dog eat dog. Of course, Burke exceeded his mandate, but that happens. Slavery comes to mind.

Liberty BellScripture was quoted in this movie, and we'll go with that. In a speech Gov. McRyan said he wanted to proclaim a “new voice of liberty throughout the land.” That's in reference to the inscription on the Liberty Bell, which this historic city would be familiar with: “… and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: From Leviticus 25:10.” Philadelphia was celebrating a Liberty Day Jubilee. Leviticus 25 dealt with a Jewish year of Jubilee—they had one every 50 years. If a Hebrew bother had been sold into servitude, he would be freed that year (Lev. 25:39-42.) And at any rate he was not supposed to be ruled over “with rigor” while serving (Lev. 25:43-46,) but it was from “the heathen that are round about you” that the Israelites were to get their bondmen and -women as possessions who were passed down through generations. In respect of servitude of brethren vs. heathen, there wasn't any­thing said in this chapter of all men being created equal, although that was stated in other documents for other purposes.

Production Values

” (1981) was written and directed by Brian De Palma. It stars John Travolta, Nancy Allen, and John Lithgow. Travolta did a splendid job in this picture. Allen did fine as a ditsy blonde though her character wasn't particularly like­able. We saw good performances by Dennis Franz as a disreputable photographer for hire and John Lithgow as a middle man operative who disappointed his employer with his over­kill. The extras deserve mention as putting on a gay parade at Penn Square with­out any white guilt. The emergency room doctor was black with an Indian accent, there was a handsome black policeman with a mustache at the hospital, and there was an innocent-looking black youth in the parade crowd, so minorities were favorably represented without overdoing it.

The movie was rated R., in part, I imagine, because of the topless co-eds and sex acts in the B-movie production and a sailor with an off-screen prostitute below the belt in a phone booth. Split screen effects were employed to advantage, along with slow motion and excellent photography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Helicopter shots were used for the car chase. The music and sound fit the action with a pace that doesn't let up.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Since all the action takes place in Philadelphia, a state settled by Quakers who were pacifists and America's first abolitionists—they didn't believe in class—it's some­what disingenuous to make it about brutal politics, but since it's national politics, it works. Although politics are not depicted favorably, we are not told which party or opposition party is in play. The governor was supposedly very popular, but he might as well be a mugwump for all we know about his affiliation. We saw interesting technical scenes and personal inter­actions. It probably doesn't match up to Hitch­cock, but if you like Hitch­cock, you'll like “Blow Out.”

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611. Lynchburg: Jerry Falwell Ministries, American Bicentennial Edition. Print.

Horowitz, Seth S., Ph.D. The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. Print.