Blow Out (1981)


Blow Out is a 1981 thriller film, written and directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars John Travolta as Jack Terry, a movie sound effects technician from Philadelphia who, while recording sounds for a low-budget slasher film, serendipitously captures audio evidence of an assassination involving a presidential hopeful. Nancy Allen stars as Sally Bedina, the young woman Jack rescues during the crime. The supporting cast includes John Lithgow and Dennis Franz.


While in post-production on a low-budget exploitation film, Philadelphia sound technician Jack Terry (Travolta) realizes that he needs to overdub an actress's scream. After leaving the studio to record potential sound effects at a local park, he sees a car careen off the road and plunge into a nearby lake. Jack dives into the water to help, discovering a dead man and a young woman, still alive, trapped inside the submerged car. He pulls her to safety and accompanies her to a local hospital. Jack learns that the driver of the car was the governor (and a presidential hopeful); the girl was a prostitute named Sally (Allen). Associates of the governor attempt to whitewash the incident by concealing that Sally was in the car, and they convince Jack to smuggle Sally out of the hospital with him. Jack listens to the audio tape he recorded of the accident, wherein he distinctly hears a gunshot just before the blow out that caused the accident. He sees a television report that, seemingly by coincidence, Manny Karp (Franz) was also in the park that night and filmed the accident with a motion picture camera. When Karp sells stills from his film to a local tabloid, Jack splices them together into a crude movie and syncs them with the audio he recorded, becoming even more suspicious that the accident was actually an assassination. Unbeknownst to Jack, Sally and Karp were both co-conspirators in a larger plot against the governor. The gunman, Burke (Lithgow), intended that Sally also die in the crash. He begins murdering local prostitutes bearing a resemblance to Sally, whose deaths are attributed to a serial killer, "the Liberty Bell Strangler." Jack draws Sally into his own private investigation of the incident. She steals Karp's film of the car accident, which, when synced to Jack's audio, clearly reveals the gunshot that anticipated the blow out. Nevertheless, nobody believes Jack's story, and every move he makes is immediately silenced by a seemingly widespread conspiracy. Finally, Jack attempts to gather irrefutable proof of the assassination attempt, wiring Sally with a hidden microphone and sending her off to meet a purported media contact. Shadowing her from a distance, he is alarmed to see that his supposed contact is Burke, not the reporter. Sally is the last loose end for Burke to eliminate, and her death will be attributed to the "Strangler." Immediately realizing that she is in danger, Jack attempts to warn her, but Sally and Burke slip out of range and into a large Liberty Day crowd. Jack makes a mad dash across Philadelphia, attempting to head them off and rescue Sally. He crashes his Jeep, though and is knocked out. By the time Jack awakens, Burke has taken Sally to a rooftop where he attacks her. Still listening in on his earpiece, Jack spots them. He hears Sally screaming as he rushes to save her, but he is too late. He arrives just after Burke has strangled her to death and is marking her body with the Strangler's signature bell pattern. Jack takes Burke by surprise and kills him, then, devastated and on his knees, takes Sally's lifeless body in his arms. Ironically, by killing Burke, Jack ties up the last loose end and the cover-up is a success. He begins listening to the recording of Sally's voice over and over again, becoming obsessed with it. In the last scene, Jack is back in the editing room and it is shown that he used Sally's death scream in the exploitation film. The producer is ecstatic that he found a perfect scream and plays it multiple times, forcing Jack to cover his ears.