A hitman comes to the city at Christmastime. He carefully stalks his victim, ruminates in hotel rooms, haggles over weaponry, courts an old flame and eventually undertakes the job.
Allen Barron wrote and directed this anxious thriller, and also plays the hitman. His 77-minute 1961 noir is slim in plot, running time and budget, but rich in the inspiration it clearly offered to Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola.
"Blast" feels like a movie that's dated by today's standards but was probably unlike anything else around in 1961, at least this side of French New Wave ~ though it's interesting that Godard's "Breathless" was being filmed at the exact same time as "Blast."
Barron uses stark black-and-white photography and on-the-fly New York locations to great effect: The storm that serves as a backdrop to the climax is apparently real and is reportedly the only hurricane to strike the east coast during the entire 20th century. On the other hand, one scene shot in the Village Gate features a man who may possibly be the most abrasively monotonous nightclub singer ever committed to film.
The tiny apartments, narrow hallways and buildings of blank windows predict "Taxi Driver," and one tremendously awkward date smacks of Travis Bickle. The clubs and cars and gangsters seem a little like outtakes from "Raging Bull," and one particular assassination could've served as a test sketch for a later killing that appeared in "Godfather Part II." One nearly expects to spot Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes, or the gang from "Who's That Knocking at My Door," bickering in the background during other scenes.
But what makes this movie truly unusual is the narration, written by Waldo Salt and delivered by Lionel Stander, who's probably best known for playing the faithful driver Max on "Hart to Hart. Stander's voice sounds like something cranked out of a tarpit with a hand winch. Salt wrote the narration in second-person present tense, which gives it the sound of a sympathetic and schooled observer, or possibly even an imaginary friend. It may be a little too hard boiled (the yolk is fairly bursting through the shell) but it's occasionally haunting and gives "Blast of Silence" a unique voice to match its inky tones and Barron's eyes, which always appear to be shakily resisting total despair.