BLAST OF SILENCE (director/writer: Allen Baron; cinematographer: Erich Kollmar; editors: Peggy Lawson/Merrill S. Brody; music: Meyer Kupferman; cast: Allen Baron (Frank Bono), Molly McCarthy (Lorrie), Larry Tucker (Big Ralphie), Peter Clume (Troiano), Dean Sheldon (Nightclub singer), Danny Meehan (Petey), Milda Memonas (Troiano’s Girl), Charles Creasap (Contact man), Lionel Stander (Narrator/Voiceover); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Merrill Brody; Universal-International; 1961)
“Tells you everything you wanted to know about how a cautious professional hit man thinks and acts.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Allen Baron is director, writer and star of this once neglected shoestring budget hard-boiled film noir (it got some recognition during the 1990s at a San Francisco film noir festival). Baron is short and not blessed with movie star good looks, but is chillingly effective as the hate-filled loner hit man Frank Bono (he even hates Christmas). This B & W production has a non-professional cast and makes great use of its authentic NYC location shots of the Staten Island ferry, Long Island’s suburbs, and Manhattan’s Harlem and Rockefeller Center. The part filmed on the seacoast of Long Island took place during the middle of Hurricane Donna (September 10-12, 1960); the wind seen during the final rub-out was from the hurricane. Lionel Stander (blacklisted in the 1950s) is the unseen narrator who provides the voiceover, saying such noirish lines as “A killer who doesn’t kill, gets killed.” This bleak film noir sets a dark mood and follows in an original way all Hollywood’s conventions of that genre. It tells you everything you wanted to know about how a cautious professional hit man thinks and acts.
Cleveland born hit man Frank Bono arrives by train in NYC, after being away for a long time, during the Christmas season to execute a contract for the mob. His instructions are to knock off by New Year’s Eve ambitious gangster Troiano, who “runs the girls and the dope and the books and the numbers” for the mob. Frank hates Troiano’s type, who lives with his family in the suburbs in respectability and maintains on the side a high-classed girlfriend in a brownstone apartment. The hit man follows Troiano until he learns his routines, and schemes the best time to knock him off is when he ditches his two bodyguards to be alone with his girlfriend.
Frank, an orphan, is so used to being alone that when he’s not, he doesn’t feel relaxed. It upsets him that he must contact Big Ralphie to get his piece and silencer. He despises the sleazy overweight Big Ralphie, in fact he almost hates everyone as much as he hated his father, who lives in a messy apartment filled with caged sewer rats as pets. When Big Ralphie tries to shake him down for more money Frank strangles him to death in a panic, and then mistakenly tells his contact that he wants out of the contract. Frank’s warned to make the hit and that what he said will be reported to the mob bosses. Frank realizes that his career is over, as the mob regards his comment as a sign that he’s cracking and they don’t like that. He now only yearns to be alone.
Frank’s other contact during his stay, is his former girlfriend Lorrie (Molly McCarthy). At first he seems alarmed that he’s still attracted to her and she could ruin his concentration for the job. But he’s bitterly disappointed when she rejects him after he becomes sexually aggressive when she invites him over for a Christmas meal. Frank later learns Lorrie only invited him over because she felt sorry for him, as she already has a live-in boyfriend.
Warning: spoiler to follow.
The film’s conclusion shows the hit going down as smoothly as possible and then Frank going to an isolated harbor area in Long Island to collect the remainder of his fee for the contract. It ends in cold black silence (whereby the film gets its title), as the narrator explains why the execution of Frank is in accord with the belief he always had that “God moves in mysterious ways.” It ends with the narrator saying “You’re home again … alone.”
REVIEWED ON 10/20/2004 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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