Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blackout (1978)

A queasy hybrid of the crime-thriller and disaster genres, Blackout has, as its title suggests, a solid premise: When the lights go out in New York City, criminal types go on a rampage. Unfortunately, bad acting, a skinflint budget, and a terrible script make Blackout a study in monotony. The plot centers on a group of lunatics who escape from a transport van and terrorize the residents of a high-rise apartment building. Using a narrative gimmick later employed to better effect in Die Hard (1988), the hero is a lone street cop (James Mitchum) who follows the criminals into the building and tries to take them down one by one. There are a few perfunctory scenes outside the building, like drab vignettes in a power station, but the picture mostly comprises unattractively photographed interior scenes of bad people doing bad things. The main crook is Christie (Robert Carradine), an anti-corporate terrorist who inexplicably transforms into a petty thief; he enlists the less-intelligent thugs from the transport van to serve as muscle during a robbery spree, giving them license to rape and kill at their leisure. It’s safe to say that when the loveable geek from the Revenge of the Nerds movies is playing a criminal mastermind, expectations should be kept low; similarly, the presence of a leading man whose only claim to fame is being Robert Mitchum’s son doesn’t promise much elevation of the material. As in most disaster-themed pictures, some supporting actors provide momentary distraction. Dancer/singer June Allyson trudges through pointless scenes as a woman caring for her invalid husband, Belinda J. Montgomery is earnest as a rape victim, and Jean-Pierre Aumont is likeably urbane as a pauper living alone with his dog. The movie’s “big name,” Ray Milland, who had a bad habit of showing up in low-budget crap and looking ashamed for doing so, is characteristically obnoxious as a rich man who cares more about his paintings than his wife. Badly made, consistently boring, and performed with understandable indifference, Blackout represents the total waste of a good idea.

Blackout: SQUARE

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