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  Blast of Silence We Wish You A Merry Murder
Year: 1961
Director: Allen Baron
Stars: Allen Baron, Molly McCarthy, Larry Tucker, Peter Clune, Larry Meehan, Howard Mann, Charles Creasap, Bill DePrato, Milda Memenas, Joe Bubbico, Ruth Kaner, Gil Rogers, Jerry Douglas, Don Saroyan, Dean Sheldon, Lionel Stander
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: His name is Frank Bono (Allen Baron), and he's a hitman. It's Christmas, and who orders someone dead at the most wonderful time of the year? Well, someone has, and he has agreed to carry out the gangland execution, on condition he is paid handsomely for the privilege. Which is why, come Christmas Eve, he is in New York City having arranged for the pickup of money that will serve as his reward: he receives the details from a hoodlum on the Staten Island Ferry, when there is nobody else around, and now has some time to kill before he has a target to kill. But Christmas in New York can have a strange effect on a man...

Blast of Silence was, until the early nineteen-nineties, a forgotten film, whereupon film festivals and revivals began to book it, and it had a deluxe home entertainment release that raised its profile significantly. Was it worth it for what was, after all, a tiny budget thriller in the film noir mould that represented what in 1961 was already a genre on the wane, mostly referenced in parody until it was revived fitfully throughout the following decades, more as tribute than anything else, evolving into the so-called erotic thriller around thirty years afterwards? Well, was it worth it? Its fans would argue fervently, yes, absolutely it was.

You can see why it picked up a cult following, as it was a perfect example of nostalgia after the fact. It had been ignored for so long that it became people's personal discovery, amassing enough attention to justify its acclaim in later life, which certainly cheered its director, star and screenwriter Baron who, while his career had not been unsuccessful by any means, had flourished in television, helming the likes of Charlie's Angels episodes but not exactly a name that sprang to mind as an auteur. Certainly there had been some big expectations from those who actually saw Blast of Silence in 1961 that he would become a major filmmaker.

But that was not to be, and his star dwindled before it had had the chance to sparkle, another reason why this late in life revival was something to cherish. Possibly the film's biggest asset was the location photography of New York and its surroundings; no, there was no snow (although one sequence was shot during a hurricane!), but the trappings of Yuletide were all about and easy to be captured by Baron's camera, from the shop windows festooned with tinsel to the department store Santa Claus welcoming in the shoppers. That Frank, the antihero, has no part of this and is here to end someone's life serves up a strong irony the movie thrives on, and that before we even clap eyes on the rat cage with tinsel decorations owned by rotund contact Ralphie (Larry Tucker, best known for Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor).

It's the appearance of unlovely characters like him that offered a grimy atmosphere at odds with the season of goodwill this was ostensibly supposed to be illustrating. But Frank, on his journey to what we quickly surmise will be doom, encounters various folks who either let him down or pose a threat, most obviously Lori (Molly McCarthy) who he meets when he is waylaid at a Christmas party. After winning a game of push the peanut with your nose (really) Frank thinks he has a chance with Lori, but in grand noir tradition she is not the woman of his dreams - she's not evil, she simply felt sorry for him for a few hours and that's all that needed to be said (also the way he tries to force himself on her puts her right off him). All the while the hit looms, and all the while Frank feels he doesn't want to go through with it, but this is the sort of film where somebody has to die, like a sacrifice to the gods of noir, so who will it be? With the requisite nightclub scenes and a remarkable narration spoken by Lionel Stander, this was something for cult fans to get their teeth into, Christmas or not. Music by Meyer Kupferman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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