Blast of Silence

April 24, 2009 at 7:21 PM (Film Noir Reviews) (, , , )


“Remembering, out of the black silence you were born in pain.” The opening line of Allen Baron’s Blast of Silence, along with the blackness of the train tunnel sets the tone for this late film noir. The movie is film noir to its core, but is not very well known. It was made in 1961 on a shoe-string budget, but that seems to be what gives it its real punch.

 

By not having the monetary backing of a real studio, Baron had to shoot the film on real location shots, without permits, and often times sneaking around to get the shots he wanted. It is these real locations, along with the cinematography of Merrill Brody that make this film an excellent watch simply for its “look.”

 

There are many other reasons to check out this somewhat hard to find classic. Director and writer Allen Baron does a good job playing the lead role of the mostly silent hit man Frankie Bono. The raspy voice of character actor Lionel Stander, one of the most recognizable voices in the history of film, narrates in a style that may at times seem too much, but the more you view the movie, the more it seems appropriate.

 

Then there is the tubby gun broker Ralphy played by Larry Tucker. Tucker, mostly a writer and producer, is also known for his brief portrayal in Advise and Consent as a sort of gay pimp. Tucker has the ability to steal a movie with only a few scenes and he certainly makes his presence known in Blast of Silence.

 

The Mise en Scene in Ralphy’s apartment; clothes and bottles everywhere, caged rates, along with Ralphy’s labored, heavy breathing, picking up raw sardines and licking his finger, the sweat on his face, you can smell the odor that must be in that room.

 

While this is a film that’s best quality is it looks, with great shadows, location shots, and camera work, it is essentially a character study of a man. Franky Bono is on an assignment: he must knock off a gangster in another city. On the surface it appears that Bono is simply just another heartless, emotionless hit man, he is anything but that.

 

He has to find a way to hate the mark before he can do the hit. Bono resorts to the most superficial hatreds such as he has “lips like a woman; the kind of face you hate.” Or “he thinks he’s a gentleman because his shoes are shined.” The hit men we have come to know in many films do there job with an absence of emotion, but Bono cannot. He must have a reason to hate the mark and that is what makes him vulnerable.

 

There are some incredible shots in this film. The orphanage kids filing out of their playground in the shape of a Swastika, walking under the Brooklyn Bridge and the shot of Bono walking down the hill toward the camera with the skyline behind him.

 

There are many reasons to watch Blast of Silence. It is a little different from the noirs of the 40’s and 50’s. It has a sort of beatnik feel to it, but the noir elements are mainly intact, the cinematography is excellent and you probably will not forget the climactic scene.

 

Spoiler Alert

 

Bono is certainly a reluctant hit man or bad guy. He tries to remove himself from the world and normal people in order to more easily justify his profession. The closer he gets to the real world, the lesser he can justify killing for money, which is his eventual downfall. The peanut pushing contest is ridiculous, but shows that he does have his silly side just like the rest of the world. But he quickly goes back to hating Christmas. Of course, against his “better” judgment, he does allow himself to get closer with the real world by taking up the offer of Lorrie for dinner.

 

In the end, with the wind howling and the snow falling, Bono is taken down by those who hired him in the first place because his sensibilities will not let him do the job. He winds up face down in an isolated muddy creek surrounded by abandoned shacks and swamp land.

 

Though you sympathize with Bono, you can only feel so sorry for him because of his murderous past. You have to question why he goes to the abandoned swamp to meet with these guys as you knew they were going to try and take him out, but like most film noirs, he really had no control. It was his fate.  

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