Blast of Silence

Blast of Silence

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With one foot planted firmly on the Kiss Me Deadly era of film noir and the other closer to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Blast of Silence begins with a brutal, uncompromising invocation of birth and ends with an almost mystically sensitive death. The story of socially isolated hit man Frankie (Allen Baron) who comes to terms with his deferred need for human connection just in time for a) Christmas, and b) a job that will require him to be especially cold-hearted, Blast of Silence is less a manifestation of the labrynthine plot trajectories of great noir than a early harbinger to the DIY moxie of the American independent movement.

Shot on a shoestring, director/writer/lead actor Baron’s blunt, almost perfunctory story doesn’t reveal much about the inner workings of its central character but instead takes advantage of the downright dull aspects of New York City, a city films (especially films noir) often depict with mythic reverence as a succession of places you’d want to visit but aren’t even sure you could live therein. So far as the movies are concerned, New York is as artificially engineered an environment as Disneyland or Stepford, Connecticut (or Hollywood). 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.

Much like Val Lewton’s unnerving The Seventh Victim, the tension of Blast of Silence doesn’t so much revolve around the antihero’s job, redemption, or ultimate fate but rather the disconnect between its mundane milieu and the grandiose flourishes they’re meant to convey. Frankie spends the entire film looking schlubbish and constipated, far from the suave operator the film’s narrator coolly informs us is in the top five percentile earnings-wise. (The film’s narration, incidentally, is often cited for its use of the rare second-person address, but my take on it is that it’s really transposed first-person from within the protagonist’s overstressed psyche, that the instructions Frankie takes his cues from are actually coming from inside the house, so to speak.)

For all the narrator’s insistence on stressing the dangers around every corner, the film’s bland images suggest the world truly couldn’t care less about Frankie’s dogged pursuit of a gun with a silencer; at one point a headline screams one of his crimes, but he’s the only character shown actually reading the article. Haunting, remote, and workmanlike, Blast of Silence may be the only film I’ve ever seen with a trip on the Station Island Ferry in which I expected a tumbleweed to flit across the deck.

Buy
DVD
Distributor
Universal Pictures
Runtime
77 min
Rating
NR
Year
1961
Director
Allen Baron
Screenwriter
Allen Baron, Waldo Salt
Cast
Allen Baron, Molly McCarthy, Larry Tucker, Peter H. Clune, Danny Meehan, Dean Sheldon, Charles Creasap, Bill DePrato, Erich Kollmar, Lionel Stander