Two-Lane Blacktop

Two-Lane Blacktop

4.1 7
Director: Monte Hellman

Cast: James Taylor, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird


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For years, Monte Hellman's minimalist road movie Two-Lane Blacktop was one of the great cult movies that home video forgot (thanks in part to music licensing issues), but in 1999 Anchor Bay released a fine-looking DVD of the film, and eight years later the Criterion Collection have done them one better with this truly definitive video presentation. Two-Lane


For years, Monte Hellman's minimalist road movie Two-Lane Blacktop was one of the great cult movies that home video forgot (thanks in part to music licensing issues), but in 1999 Anchor Bay released a fine-looking DVD of the film, and eight years later the Criterion Collection have done them one better with this truly definitive video presentation. Two-Lane Blacktop has been given a fresh transfer to disc for this release, which was supervised and approved by director Hellman; the widescreen transfer is letterboxed at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on conventional televisions and is enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16x9 monitors. The image looks excellent, capturing the film's deep-focus camerawork and naturalistic color balance with seemingly flawless accuracy and the source materials are squeaky clean while still retaining the look of the original film elements. The audio appears in two mixes -- the original monophonic sound track mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and a remixed surround track in Dolby Digital 5.1, and though the new mix has more depth and presence, the original single-channel track sounds surprisingly lively in this edition. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. Disc one of this package includes two optional commentary tracks; Hellman is joined by filmmaker Allison Anders for a entertaining conversation about the making of the picture, working with inexperienced actors, and the story's roots in late '60s car culture, while screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer and film historian David Meyer team up for a discussion of the film's philosophical underpinnings and the relationships between the enigmatic characters. Disc two of this package is devoted to bonus materials, including "On the Road Again," in which Hellman, his daughter, his dog, and a student film crew drive from Los Angeles to Needles, CA (one of Two-Lane Blacktop's locations) as the director talks about the genesis and production of the movie, as well as in-depth interviews conducted by Hellman with actor James Taylor and songwriter Kris Kristofferson. Another featurette features interviews with producer Michael Laughlin and production manager Steven Gaydos as they talk about the nuts and bolts of the picture's production. Archival screen tests with Laurie Bird and James Taylor are also included (both screened public for the first time here), as well as Two-Lane Blacktop's original theatrical trailer and a portfolio of production stills. Finally, gearheads will appreciate a photo essay in which car collector Walt Bailey tracks down and restores one of the 1955 Chevrolets used in the film (it also appeared in another cinematic look at car culture, American Graffiti). A booklet included with the package features a new essay by Kent Jones on Two-Lane Blacktop, an article on the making of the movie which appeared in Rolling Stone in the fall of 1970, a poetic celebration of the picture from Tom Waits, and "Ten (Sixteen, Actually) Reasons Why I Love Two-Lane Blacktop" by filmmaker Richard Linklater, in which he beautifully describes it as "both the last film of the '60s -- even though it came out in '71 -- and the first film of the '70s." And finally, a 112-page perfect-bound book contains Rudy Wurlitzer's complete screenplay (which was published in full by Esquire magazine before the film was released). Two-Lane Blacktop is an intelligent and thoughtful mood piece disguised as a drag-racing picture, and it's one of the signature films of its era; it deserves to be seen, and it has never looked better or been celebrated with greater eloquence than in this DVD edition from Criterion.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
A hypnotic road trip and an ode to the lonesome highways of America, Two-Lane Blacktop follows two car-obsessed drifters who put up their customized 1955 Chevy in a cross-country race against a straight-from-the-factory 1970 Pontiac GTO. But this skeletal story quickly dissolves into a series of stops for hitchhikers, small town drag races, brushes with the law, and rest stops at an endless succession of small-town diners, motels, and gas stations. The only music is heard through car radios and cafe jukeboxes, and the sparse, nuts-and-bolts dialogue -- the two laconic drifters don't talk about much besides headers and sparkplugs -- ultimately yields to the ever-present rev of engines. No character names here, just "The Driver" (singer James Taylor) and "The Mechanic" (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys) versus "G.T.O." (a magnificent Warren Oates), with a hitchhiker, "The Girl" (Laurie Bird), along for the ride -- the principals competing for her affection. Directed by the iconoclastic Monte Hellman, Two-Lane Blacktop is a haunting reminder of the often-brilliantly conveyed sense of disaffection and alienation that pervaded American films in the 1970s.
All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
1971 was a banner year for existential road movies, as Two-Lane Blacktop and Vanishing Point hit theaters within four months of each other, but Two-Lane Blacktop has stood the test of time as the stronger, more compelling picture. Monte Hellman's deliberate pacing and sharp widescreen framings capture the drivers' wanderlust and obsession with speed with a determined casualness that allows us to look past the cars and into the minds of the men who drive them. The screenplay by Rudy Wurlitzer and Will Corry captures the characters' personal and philosophical sides while also getting their tech talk right. As The Driver, James Taylor has the determined gaze, even if he's not much on dialogue, and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson is quite good as The Mechanic, half-bright until he starts talking about engines. Laurie Bird is both confounding and charming as the chatty hippie that they pick up along the way, but it's Warren Oates who steals the show, giving one of the finest performances of his career as GTO, a brash braggart whose tall tales change depending on who he's talking to. If Two-Lane Blacktop is a sometimes puzzling film that doesn't reveal all its mysteries on first viewing, Oates's superb performance provides the incentive (and all the reward) you'll need to stick it out to the end.

Product Details

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Special Features

Disc 1: ; New, restored high-definition digital transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, supervised and approved by director Monte Hellman; Two audio commentaries: one by Hellman and filmmaker Allison Anders, and one by screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer and author David Meyer; ; Disc 2: ; New interviews with Hellman, star James Taylor, musician Kris Kristofferson, producer Michael Laughlin, and production manager Walter Coblenz; Rare, never-before-seen screen test outtakes; Performance & Image: A look at the restoration of a '55 Chevy form the movie and the film's locations today; Color Me Gone: Photos and publicity from Two-Lane Blacktop; Original theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Taylor Driver
Warren Oates G.T.O.
Laurie Bird Girl
Dennis Wilson Mechanic
David Drake Station Attendant
Harry Dean Stanton Oklahoma Hitchhiker
Richard Ruth Station Mechanic
Alan Vint Man in Roadhouse
Melissa Hellman Child
George Mitchell Driver at Accident
Charles Moore Texas Policeman
Don Samuels Actor
Katherine Squire Old Woman
Rudolph Wurlitzer Hot Rod Driver
Jaclyn Hellman Driver's Girl
James Mitchum Man at Race Track

Technical Credits
Monte Hellman Director,Editor
Richard Bruno Costumes/Costume Designer
Will Corry Original Story,Screenwriter
Gary Kurtz Producer
Michael Laughlin Producer
Ken Swor Asst. Director
Rudolph Wurlitzer Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Two-Lane Blacktop: Main Feature
1. Street Racers [4:03]
2. Driver & Mechanic [3:56]
3. The Girl [6:40]
4. Three Yards [8:43]
5. GTO [5:04]
6. For Pinks [10:27]
7. "Keep a Hunger On" [5:53]
8. Up, Down, or Sideways [10:34]
9. Boswell, OK [11:52]
10. No Dancing [4:29]
11. Too Much Speed [6:23]
12. Lakeland Raceway [11:31]
13. No Good [9:28]
14. Two-Lane Blacktop [3:21]

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Two-Lane Blacktop 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
KubrickerJM More than 1 year ago
Stoner cold classic! More people should know and appreciate this film and its director Monte Hellman. James Taylor is the sole surviving cast member! So is B&N going the same way Borders went? Pissed to've bought their Nook Color two years ago, now they're selling the HD one for a fraction what I paid!!! 
Guest More than 1 year ago
Released in 1971 ''Two Lane Blacktop'' stars Singer/Songwriter James Taylor as ''The Driver'', Beach Boys Drummer Dennis Wilson as ''The Mechanic'' and Warren Oates as ''GTO''. Taylor and Wilson are driving a souped up 1955 Chevy with a 454 block and are constantly being taunted by Warren Oates in his 1970 Pontiac GTO as the two are driving from California to the East Coast. Finally Oates takes up on Taylor and Wilson's idea to run for pink slips. Their final destination is Washington D.C.. Also starring in the movie is Laurie Bird as a hippy with no place to go - a wanderer. So she decides to hitch a ride with the 55 Chevy. Throughout the movie you've got stops in small towns with hotels, drive-ins, bars, and a drag strip among other things. The film also has a bit of humor thrown in with Oates picking up everyone from an old man, a guy from Texas, a old lady and a little girl as well as an environmentalist type and a gay cowboy. This movie although excellent, unfortunately doesn't quite give one the all out thrill that ''Vanishing Point'' (also released in 1971) gave audiences with it's all out cross country car chases. Nonetheless, this is a movie worth owning if you enjoy those type of movies as I do. Highly Recommneded!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
slow and stoney. terrific.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago