Blackout (1985 film)

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VHS released by Fox Hills Video
Screenplay byDavid Ambrose
Story byRichard Smith
Richard Parks
Les Alexander
David Ambrose
Directed byDouglas Hickox
StarringKeith Carradine
Richard Widmark
Kathleen Quinlan
Composer(s)Laurence Rosenthal
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Roger Gimbel
Freyda Rothstein
Producer(s)Richard Smith
Richard Parks
Les Alexander
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Editor(s)Michael Brown
Running time94 minutes
Production company(s)Lee Rock Industries Ltd.
Peregrine Entertainment Ltd.
Roger Gimbel Productions
Alexander Smith & Parks Inc.
HBO Premiere Films
Marquee Entertainment Inc.
NBC Universal Television Distribution
Original networkHBO
Original releaseJuly 28, 1985 (1985-07-28)

Blackout is a 1985 American made-for-television psychological thriller film directed by Douglas Hickox, and written by Richard Smith, Richard Parks, Les Alexander, and David Ambrose.


A veteran police detective suspects that local realtor and father Allen Devlin---who underwent full facial reconstruction because of injuries received in a near-fatal car accident, and married the nurse who tended him during his recuperation---may actually be the same man who committed the quadruple murder of his adulterous wife and their children several years earlier.



While John J. O'Connor of The New York Times opined that Blackout was "never entirely convincing" and not even remotely memorable, he still admitted that it did manage "to build up a steady stream of scary suspense" and attain "maximum mileage" out of its "top-flight cast."[1] A score of 2/5 was awarded by Joanna Berry of the Radio Times, who wrote that the film was an "average thriller" with "no real surprises in store for the detective or for the audience."[2] In a review written for Ozus' World Movie Reviews, Dennis Schwartz gave Blackout a grade of B+ and labelled it a "fun watch" in spite of its predictable and "murky" plot that culminated in a "bland" ending.[3] Horror News's Todd Martin was also frustrated and disappointed by Blackout's "bland and vanilla" conclusion, expressing the view that it and the director's apparent aversion to taking risks turned what could have been "a brilliant film" into "an overall fumble."[4]

Real-life murder[edit]

Blackout gained notoriety following Ed Sherman's murder of his pregnant wife Ellen on 3 August 1985 in Connecticut[5] due to it possibly being inspired by the film, which was submitted as evidence at Sherman's trial.[6] Like a character in the film, Sherman killed his wife and used an air conditioner to try and slow decomposition of her remains in an attempt to establish an alibi. Sherman was sentenced to fifty years in prison in 1992, but died of a heart attack after serving almost four years.[7] The case was featured in the Forensic Files episode "Dinner and a Movie."[8]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (26 July 1985). "TV Weekend; Two New Movies on Cable, Murder in Space and Blackout". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  2. ^ Berry, Joanna (1985). "Blackout". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Dennis (25 February 2016). "Blackout (Made for TV)". Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  4. ^ Martin, Todd (10 May 2013). "Film Review: Blackout (1985)". Horror News. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  5. ^ Kranhold, Kathryn (8 February 1992). "Sherman Guilty Of Killing Wife". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  6. ^ Luanne Rice (1992). "A Kiss After Dying". Glamour. United States: Condé Nast. Retrieved 21 January 2017. Ed shared with Wayne's daughter Heather a passion for movies, and that morning they discussed Blackout, an HBO film they had just watched. Mr. Satti showed Blackout to the jury. Starring Richard Widmark, Kathleen Quinlan, and Keith Carradine, it tells the story of a man named Ed who kills his entire family and leaves them in an air-conditioned basement to confuse the time of death.
  7. ^ Mahony, Edmund (12 January 1996). "Man Who Killed Wife Dies Of Heart Attack". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  8. ^ Aquillano, Kate (17 March 2016). "Forensic Files follow-up: 'Unusual' relationships can turn violent". HLN. Retrieved 13 April 2016.

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