Friday, October 28, 2011

Telephone exchange names
on screen

[Frank Bono (Allen Baron) places a call from ALgonquin 5–9859. Click for a larger view.]

The story is simple: hit man Frank Bono arrives in New York City at Christmas time to do a job, and things go wrong. What makes Blast of Silence (dir. Allen Baron, 1961) compelling is atmosphere, external and internal: a bleak vision of New York and the bleaker vision of human character that unfolds in Lionel Stander’s voiceover.

In a 1990 documentary about this film, Allen Baron says that he had wanted Peter Falk to play Frank Bono. The role would have been a fitting followup to Falk’s performance as Abe Reles in Murder, Inc. (dir. Burt Balaban and Stuart Rosenberg, 1960). Baron though ended up doing the job himself: “We did the best we could with what we had. And I was the best actor available to me at the time, and I was the only one I could afford.”

Blast of Silence is available, beautifully restored, from the Criterion Collection. I think it’s one of the great low-budget films, along with Carnival of Souls (dir. Herk Harvey, 1962) and The Honeymoon Killers (dir. Leonard Kastle, 1970).

More exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Baby Face : Born Yesterday : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dream House : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Murder, My Sweet : Nightmare Alley : The Public Enemy : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : This Gun for Hire

comments: 2

Adair said...

Michael, do we just watch and love the same films? This is one of my favorite movies ever. I saw it for the first time decades ago in a cinema in Germany, where it was presented as a lost American precursor of the French "New Wave." I then obtained a VHS version, which was very rare. I am glad that it is out now in DVD. My favorite parts are the almost documentary-style scenes in Harlem as well as the Christmas Eve walk through Manhattan...

Michael Leddy said...

Seems like! The street scenes are just great. I’d add the final visit to Big Ralph.

I found the film by chance at Netflix while looking for Peter Falk films — I’d never heard of it.