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The Driver and The Mechanic are two car freaks driving a 1955 Chevy throughout the southwestern U.S. looking for other cars to race. They are totally dedicated to The Car and converse with each other only when necessary. At a gas station, The Driver and The Mechanic, along with a girl who has ingratiated herself into their world, meet G.T.O., a middle-aged man who fabricates stories about his exploits. It is decided to have a race to Washington, D.C., where the winner will get the loser's car. Along the way, the race and the highway metaphorically depict the lives of these contestants as they struggle to their destination.
For more about Two-Lane Blacktop and the Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray release, see Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Monte Hellman
Starring: James Taylor (I), Warren Oates, Laurie Bird, Dennis Wilson, Harry Dean Stanton, Katherine Squire
» See full cast & crew
Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 16, 2011
Monte Hellman's "Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; audio commentary by by director Monte Hellman and associate producer Gary Kurtz; video piece in which director Monte Hellman revisits the film's locations; video interview with director Monte Hellman and singer-songwriter-actor Kris Kristofferson; screen tests; and more. The disc also arrives with a lavish 36-page illustrated booklet featuring essays by Brad Stevens and Shelley Benoit. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
They barely talk. The Driver (rock singer-songwriter James Taylor) drives their souped-up '55 Chevy while The Mechanic (the late Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys), occasionally fixes things that need to be fixed. They don't stop unless they absolutely must - like when they have to eat, change tires, or buy gas. They are heading back East, to do something, somewhere.
A girl (Laurie Bird, Cockfighter, Annie Hall) quietly joins The Driver and The Mechanic, but they don't seem to care much about her. She is also heading somewhere. Occasionally they exchange a few words, but mostly when the girl tries really hard to have a conversation, usually a meaningless one.
At a gas station somewhere on Route 66, The Driver, The Mechanic and their passenger meet GTO (Warren Oates, Badlands, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia), a middle-aged man who may or may not have won his car in Las Vegas. They agree to race for each other's 'pink slips'. The first car to reach Washington D.C. wins the race.
The race begins but soon it becomes clear that no one really wants to win it. It also becomes clear that none of the racers are who they pretend to be. The tiny bits of information about their past that they occasionally share with the people they meet in bars and diners along Route 66 are always different.
The deeper the racers go into the South, the closer they become to one another. They help each other, speculate about the future, make love and get jealous. The Driver and The Mechanic also race other racers, for money, and the occasional naive cops, who have no idea that they can't be caught.
There is an obvious desire in Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop to imitate Dennis Hopper's legendary Easy Rider. The film is imbued with the same beautiful fluidity and poetic melancholy that made Hopper's film a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. Its moody soundtrack also enhances the visuals in a familiar fashion, though it is hardly as influential as that of Easy Rider.
Even though the speed is different, the journey is also familiar. The country the racers are driving through is the same confused, suspicious, disoriented and ultimately extremely dangerous America where some Americans must look and act in a certain way in order to stay alive.
There is plenty of talk about cars and car problems, but the focus of attention is on other much more serious issues (alienation, rootlessness, and problems of identity). Yet this isn't a political film seeking to produce an important political message; rather it is a period film that offers the viewer the opportunity to feel the unique pulse of a strange era. Needless to say, neither the identities of the racers nor their journey and its end need to be overanalyzed.
Two-Lane Blacktop was shot on the Techniscope format (not anamorphic), which was preferred by many directors who had to work with limited budgets during the late '60s and early '70s. Because of its superior depth of field, the many nighttime sequences in the film look enormously sharp and well detailed despite being unusually dark. The framing - and close-ups in particular - is also handled with terrific precision.
The unusual, and for years very problematic, soundtrack features tracks by The Doors, Kris Kristofferson, Chuck Berry, and Arlo Guthrie.
Note: After a number of studios, including Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers and MGM, showed little interest in Two-Lane Blacktop, director Hellman was eventually able to secure funding from Universal Studios. The film was made for approximately $875,000.
Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.36:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
Some minor noise corrections have been performed. While some of them are rather easy to spot on a few of the screencaptures we have included with our review (see the girl's face in screencapture #17 and the edges on the blue shirt in screencapture #10), in motion they are hardly noticeable. In fact, the nighttime scenes convey very good depth and pleasing clarity, and detail does not appear compromised. During the daylight scenes, however, occasionally color reproduction appears somewhat weak. Contrast levels are stable. There are no large cuts, damage marks and warps, or serious stability issues to report in this review. All in all, considering the fact that the new high-definition transfer was supervised and approved by director Monte Hellman, I think it is fair to say this is the very best Two-Lane Blacktop has ever looked. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (music & effects track). For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I chose to watch the film with the original mono track and was not disappointed. The lossless track has a very good dynamic amplitude that effectively opens up the film during key scenes. Screeching tires and roaring engines, in particular, get a strong boost. The dialog is also far clearer and easier to follow when compared to the dialog from the Criterion R1 DVD release of the film.
I tested only a couple of different scenes with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The dynamic levels are definitely elevated during the racing scenes, but surround activity is fairly modest.
Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Maverick American auteur Monte Hellman's cult Two-Lane Blacktop is a beautiful melancholic film about the end of an era and a country looking for a new identity. Thanks to British distributors Eureka Entertainment, the film is now available in a Limited Edition Blu-ray for the first time ever. RECOMMENDED.
Two-Lane Blacktop: Other Editions
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Two-Lane Blacktop Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Two-Lane Blacktop and Punishment Park Detailed - November 29, 2011
Independent British distributors Eureka Entertainment (Masters of Cinema) have detailed their upcoming Blu-ray releases of Monte Hellman's cult film Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Peter Watkins' Punishment Park (1971). The two releases will hit retail shelves on ...
• Pasolini, Melville, Imamura, Watkins, Cox, McCarey, and Hellman F... - October 4, 2011
Eureka Entertainment have revealed that they are getting ready to release a number of classic and cult films on Blu-ray: Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Silence de la Mer (1949), Pier Paolo Pasolini's Accattone (1961) and The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), Shohei ...
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