Blast of Silence (Baron, 1961)

Watching Allen Baron’s riveting Blast of Silence is like experiencing the hit man sub-genre with a completely fresh perspective. Every familiar element, from the lone, anti-social protagonist on down to the stark, seedy New York City locations, feels innovative again. Baron himself plays Frank Bono, a low level assassin out of Cleveland who’s reluctantly come back to his childhood stomping grounds for an important job. By chance, Frank runs into an old friend at a restaurant, a meeting that jettisons him back into a minefield of past traumas while upsetting his impending and crucial assignment.

Through the use of a staggering, schizophrenic third person voice-over narration, Baron addresses the timeless conflict between calculated professionalism and human connection, a device that brilliantly paints Frank as a ticking time bomb of unchecked anger and guilt. As Frank traverses dark alleys, ferry terminals, and nightclubs waiting for his prey to line up in his sights, Baron highlights the complexity of his character’s conflicted decision-making, revealing an ideology driven by a deep hatred stemming from a lifetime of disappointment and abandonment.

In Frank’s eyes, the real world signifies uncertainty, false impersonal interactions leading nowhere, and to exist within such an environment is worse than death. In Blast of Silence, Frank tries one last time to understand such a place, but ultimately chooses to live and die on the fringe of society, a dirty, sadistic, and brutal place of his own making.

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