I saw this before, but I forgot most of the plot. It’s Blow Out, starring John Travolta as Jack Terry, a sound technician for low-budget films. The director is Brian De Palma, usually a slam dunk for the first tier. Not in this case. Some maturity in the supporting roles and also in the writing is required. This came out in 1981 from Filmways Pictures. Again, as most recently, it was Hulu to the rescue when I was looking for an odd movie. Details are from Wikipedia.
I don’t recall these opening scenes. Maybe I was watching on Sunday Night at the Movies. Anyhow, this opens to be another slasher film, as we see somebody peeking into windows where college girls are running around most nearly naked. The stalker first kills what may have been a policeman, peeking at the goodies. We don’t see the stalker, and apparently neither does anybody else, as the stalker’s view moves into the dormitory and down halls among ample eye candy. Coming to a shower, where a girl is oblivious to the intrusion, the film recreates the Bates Motel scene. The girl screams. It’s a piss poor scream. It’s not what the director is looking for. We are not watching real life but the screening of a scene from a low-budget slasher film.
Jack is supposed to provide a blood curdling scream to go with the scene, but multiple trials using professional screamers comes to naught.
Jack knocks off and goes out at night to record sound tracks for his library. Hearing a commotion on a local street, he points his shotgun microphone toward a speeding car. There is a loud bang, and the car veers out of control and plunges into a creek.
There are two people in the car, and Jack dives in, rescuing a woman. He cannot rescue the man. The man turns out to be Governor McRyan (this is Philadelphia), a presidential hopeful. Jack has trouble getting his story across to to the police, then a political handler comes along proposing that Jack cover up the whole business about the girl.
The girl is Sally (Nancy Allen), who turns out to be an escort hired by McRyan’s political opponents to cause an embarrassing situation. The embarrassment has gotten out of hand, as the person managing the setup figured it wise to shoot out a tire on the governor’s car. The plunge into the creek was fortuitous (unforeseen), but Jack has a quality recording that reveals the gunshot causing the blow out.
Jack convinces Sally to hang around and help resolve the situation.
The situation turns out to be deadly serious. The mastermind behind all this subterfuge is a man named Burke (John Lithgow), and his elaborate scheme to eliminate Sally is to create a string of serial killings and to include Sally as one of the victims. Burke taps phones, destroys copies of Jack’s tapes, and works his way up to getting the last of Jack’s copies, eliminating Sally in the process. Here Burke stalks a prostitute in train station, where she has been giving a blow job to a sailor. While she brushes the taste out of her mouth, Burke leans across the bathroom partition and loops a wire around her throat.
Burke signs his killings by first strangling, then stabbing his victims with an icepick. All the killings need to look like Sally’s murder.
Burke pretends to be the reporter who has arranged to meet Jack and review his remaining recording. Jack plants a wireless microphone on Sally as a precaution before sending her into the station to meet the supposed reporter. Burke lures Sally away from the station, and Jack frantically attempts to track down the pair, but he is seconds too late. Burke strangles Sally, but before he can stab her with the icepick Jack arrives and pounces, killing Burke with the icepick.
The scene cuts sharply. Apparently Jack has left the scene of the double killing, leaving police to conclude Sally ended the string of killings by stabbing Burke.
But Jack has the recording he has made from Sally’s wireless microphone. It is just the scream they need for the shower scene.
Yeah, that’s about it for this movie. De Palma was able to inject a load of drama and suspense, but lackluster performances from down-ticket, along with a wad of lame dialog, sink this production. Wikipedia reports the producers lost a few million dollars here.