Thursday, 28 March 2013

Blackout (1978) Eddy Matalon

Blackout begins with criss-cross of power lines, then a traffic report with striking view of New York, glum magnificence of soaring buildings, grey sky and mist. View soon moves below to the hustle bustle of the streets, traffic and noise and rush and crime, and then to varied appartment block dwellers and their doings, a Greco-Jewish wedding, magician and his beloved pooch, kids, the elderly, the whole spectrum. But weaving through this slice of life a police transport carries some decidedly scurvy knaves, and soon things will never be the same...

It's a leisurely, smartly handled opening, dotting lightly between characters in such a way as to establish multiple threads of interest in the shortest possible time, but also building atmosphere of small crouched fragile within great, disorder lying gnarled just beneath the surface, realistic tension of city living. So when power fails, and things start to go awry there's real tension, and the film maintains higher speeds throughout, having banked plenty of steam. As far as lesser known late 70's urban thrillers go, this isn't as grotty or shocking as one perhaps might hope, but with a most able cast it makes a pretty excellent ride. Jim Mitchum makes a credible hero by not straining at heroism, his cop protagonist is just a good commited guy doing his job, no daredevil or tough guy. The baddies are the real winners though, one Don Granberry (also seen in the excellent Death Weekend) as a hyperactive, visibly, bracingly unstable pyromaniac, Terry Haig (appeared in The Pyx and Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia) as a slick but suddenly vicious rapist, one time player Victor B. Hall as (mostly) mute brute Marcus and best of all Robert Carradine as lead villain Christie, arrogance underpinned by callous intelligence and random mean streak. They have good chemistry and make for a few jolting moments (one is especially mean spirited), especially towards the end. Supporting cast is good too, especially from Ray Milland as the building owner who goes from merely grouchy to downright pissed and scowling like a champ as things go from bad to worse.

The drive of the film is pretty relentless once it gets going, while there is some downtime and levity there's no real ease and any smiles are crooked. There are a few unbelievable moments that belie its gritty attitude, and one or two spots where the intensity could have been punched up a little, but otherwise this is an exciting, high quality film of its type, well recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment