Out of the Past: “Blast of Silence” (1961)

Allen Baron, a former cartoonist, was hailed as the “new Orson Welles” after the release of his low budget urban noir Blast of Silence. Baron’s existential noir ran as a second feature and, despite glowing reviews from critics, the film faded away until being rediscovered decades later at the Munich Film Festival.

Baron, who directed and wrote the film, plays Frankie Bono, a hit man who travels to New York City to kill a mid-level mobster. His trip confronts his past and a life that might have been.

Immediately Baron throws us into the mind of a killer as the train barrels through a tunnel on its way to Penn Station. The raspy booming voice of the blacklisted character actor, Lionel Stander, tells us all we need to know about Frank Bono: “Remembering out of the black silence, you were born in pain,” he says as the train exits the dark tunnel and into the light. Stander’s voice is not Frank’s voice, but the voice of a dark demon that lives within him–that perhaps lives within all of us. Frank is alone, something he likes, or, at least, that’s what he tells himself.  Life has thrown him a curveball from birth after being thrust into an orphanage where he learned to hate authority in the guise of the reigning Mother Superior. Is it coincidence or fate that he runs into his orphanage pals while in the city?

The city is lit up more than usual. Christmas lights and window decorations consume the midtown stores and attractions. Frank looks up at an actor playing Santa Claus enticing the children to buy the latest toys. Frank is still a child in many ways and still has the emotional neediness and moral outlook of a five-year-old. He wants a second chance, but cannot repair the fissure that lurks between him and humanity.

Blast of Silence was given a second chance in the early 1990s. After the film’s initial release, Allen Baron grabbed a job in Hollywood, but his project’s funding was swallowed whole by the money guzzling Lavation Cleopatra that almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Baron went on to direct numerous television shows. Blast of Silence and Allen Baron are finally getting the attention they need and deserve.

Paul Gilbert is a 23 year old recent graduate student of the University of Rhode Island from which he received a BA double major in history and film studies. Originally from Philadelphia. Paul now lives in Washington D.C. He first found his passion for film in VHS stores when he was younger and has been studying, examining, and analyzing film and the history of film ever since. Paul has a second interest in the world of comics, video games and books. He is an avid connoisseur and frequent attendee at Comic Con and Wizard World events at sites around the country. His interest in those particular genres stem from the ways in which popular culture utilizes a variety of medium to convey stories, ideas, and messages.