Blow Out appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a killer presentation, the movie usually looked pretty good.
I suspect the imageís issues stemmed from the source photography, which I doubt was ever particularly vivid. Sharpness was an occasional concern, as some shots appeared a little soft and limp. However, those didnít create a lot of problems, as the majority of the movie demonstrated positive accuracy and delineation. Jaggies and moirť effects didnít become a factor, and I noticed no edge haloes or digital noise reduction. Source flaws were essentially absent; I mightíve noticed a small speck or two, but that was it.
Colors looked fairly vivid and accurate, though they never seemed particularly special. The movie offered a reasonably natural palette, and the tones came across as reasonably vibrant and clean. Some red lighting appeared a bit strong, but as a whole, the hues were fine. Black levels also seemed to be fairly rich and deep, while shadow detail was usually find; a couple of shots were a smidgen thick, but most demonstrated good clarity. Again, the source created some inconsistencies, but it usually provided a nice presentation.
I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of Blow Out. The soundfield offered a surprisingly broad and engaging spectrum of sound. Music showed good stereo separation, and effects spread accurately and distinctly across the front. Localization seemed to be solid, as elements appeared in appropriate places, and they blended together cleanly. The surrounds added a good sense of reinforcement to the package; they didnít present much individual information, but they seemed to accentuate the mix well.
Audio quality showed some signs of age, but it appeared reasonably positive. Dialogue sounded a little thin and reedy with a bit of sibillance, but I thought the speech was relatively natural and distinct, and I discerned no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.
Music seemed a little thin and flat, but it demonstrated acceptable fidelity. Effects lacked terrific highs, but they were fairly accurate and deep, as the low-end added a nice kick to the package. Bass could have been better defined, but it seemed strong for the era. Overall, I thought Blow Out offered a pretty fine auditory experience.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2001 DVD? Audio was pretty similar; the lossless track was a bit cleaner, but it didnít offer a tremendous boost over the original Dolby Surround mix.
Visuals provided a more obvious step up in quality. The Blu-ray was notably tighter, cleaner and more film-like than the DVD. The old DVD was pretty mediocre, so even with its inconsistencies, the Blu-ray offered substantially stronger visuals.
While the DVD provided virtually no extras, this Criterion release packs in quite a few. Conducted by filmmaker Noah Baumbach, an Interview with Director Brian De Palma runs 57 minutes, 48 seconds and discusses the movieís origins and development, influences, sets and locations, the fake movie that starts the flick, cast, characters and performances, camerawork and the use of Steadicam, music and editing, stunts, costumes and production design, and other aspects of the filmís creation and De Palmaís career.
While itís too bad we donít get a full commentary, the interview compensates nicely. Baumbach asks good questions that benefit from the insights another filmmaker brings. The pair interact well, and De Palma throws out plenty of nice notes throughout this strong conversation.
Two additional video interviews follow. The first involves actor Nancy Allen and lasts 25 minutes, 25 seconds as Allen chats about her history with De Palma and John Travolta, what led her to Blow Out, her character and performance, and aspects of the film and her career. Allen digs into her experiences well, as she makes this a consistently informative and insightful piece.
For the second interview, we hear from cameraman Garrett Brown. During his 15-minute, three-second chat, he discusses his invention of the Steadicam and aspects of its use and working on Blow Out. Brown delivers nice thoughts about camera usage in this tight, brisk featurette.
Possibly the Blu-rayís most intriguing extra, we get a 1967 film called Murder a la Mod. De Palmaís first feature, it lasts one hour, 20 minutes, and three seconds as it tells about Karen (Margo Norton), a girl dating Chris (Jared Martin), a married man who works in porn to make enough money to divorce his wife. When Karenís friend Tracy (Andra Akers) withdraws some valuables from a safe, Karen decides to steal these and use the proceeds to finance Chrisís freedom. This ultimately ends poorly.
Expect a long, slow trip to get there. Firmly entrenched in the experimental side of the era, the movie mixes cinematic pretensions with odd gimmicks and doesnít really go much of anywhere. Itís interesting in the way it hints at De Palmaís later efforts Ė obviously the themes and characters would reappear in the future Ė and it also offers intriguing experiments with chronology, but it usually tends to be amateurish and silly.
In addition to the filmís trailer, we get a Still Gallery. This presents 24 of Louis Goldmanís shots from the set. Itís not an extensive collection, but it adds some good photos.
Like all Criterion releases, this one includes booklet. In this 32-page affair, we find essays from film historian Michael Sragow and critic Pauline Kael. It also features a reprint of the frame-by-frame car accident photo article in the flick. This ends up as another fine booklet.
Blow Out suffers from De Palmaís usual lack of creativity, but it works better than most of his retreads. The movie maintains a decent level of suspense, though I feel it gives away some of its secrets too easily. A good lead performance from John Travolta makes the movie more successful. The Blu-ray offers good picture and sound along with a nice collection of supplements. While no classic, Blow Out is an entertaining thriller, and Criterion creates a fine Blu-ray for it.