Every once in awhile I get to see a really good film that has slipped though the through the cracks, and has widely been ignored despite its quality. When this happens its always a pleasure because it feels like I’m discovering a film that almost no one has heard of. That can be easily said about the gritty 1961 film noir from writer, director, and star Allen Baron. This hard as nails crime film is a little known film and is more then worth the effort to seek out for a viewing.
The film opens with some great shots showing a man, Frank Bono, entering New York via a train. Frankie Bono is not in New York for pleasure though, he is there on business, and his business is killing. Bono is a professional hit man for hire and has been called to New York to assassinate a mid level mobster. With little time wasted Bono is on the job and begins to plot out how and when to kill his victim.
Aside from his job, Bono has more to worry about as New York is his hometown, and his hometown is filled with lots of bad personal memories. He fears being back in New York as he thinks he will have to relive his painful past and deal with people he thought were out of his life forever. Unluckily for him he runs into an old pal one night and though him runs into an old girlfriend of his. This naturally complicates things, as Bono does not know how to cope with his personal feelings and makes his time in New York even more difficult.
That’s what really makes this film interesting, it features a hit man that is not really a complete tough guy but a very troubled man. In most films featuring hit men, like Le Samourai or The Professional, hit men are cool and almost glamorized. Frank Bono is not this at all. He is a deeply troubled man whose past haunts him, and in a wonderful scene he reflects back on his troubled childhood in an orphanage. Now that he is an adult and he is scared deeply and this is made evident by his lack of communication skills. He is a loner like most hit men in movies, but he is sadder and darker then the average film hit man. He is also a hit man that is not particularly good at his job, as he often second guesses himself and makes mistakes based on emotion. That is interesting to see this different take on a hit man story, as it is often routine. There is a really human element because of that.
What is really great though about this film is that it has a great mood and a strong execution of film making by director Allen Baron. The film is a really sharp one as it makes lots of right decisions and very few if any wrong ones. It glides at a nice pace and the film never has a dull moment really. The film also has a feel to it that is just pure film noir, as it looks and sounds just like a tough crime film should. Its cinematography is effective and captures some great shots of New York city. Blast of Silence does a really good job of showing the dark side of the city and gives this film a gritty feel. Historically it also is one of the first films to be shot all on location and you get a reel sense of the city and its mood.
The film is also a very short one that has little imperfections and is a very tight piece of film. Blast of Silence clocks in at a brisk seventy-seven minuets but it is very well rounded as a whole. The film kind of washes over you and before you know it the film is already over. It ends quickly but it tells a fascinating story with a healthy dose of style. It is a genre film that hits its marks and does it well.
What is really interesting is that the film was made for nearly nothing at all in 1960 with a first time director and a leading man that was not a professional actor. The director and star Allen Baron had really no experience in filmmaking, and was widely known as a cartoonist. Baron’s lack of training though does nothing to harm the film, as he actually does a wonderful job of both acting and directing. His acting is cold and intense, yet it is very effective. He also has a face to remember, as it looks like its chiseled from stone. Baron also dominates the his scenes in the film and makes for a fascinating character to watch. His direction is very solid as well and he makes a film that seems incredibly focused. For a first time director he makes a film a seasoned pro could be proud of even.
This little haunting gem is a marvel of independent filmmaking that has lots of style and a smooth feel. It is a short, concise, and brutal genre film that leaves little to complain about. As far as a genre film goes it hits all of its marks, and makes for a moody and enjoyable film noir. It has been lost for years now but is finally on DVD, and I think it is very much worth seeking out for a view. It’s a sleek little crime film that is sure to please.
4/ 4 Strars