James Taylor is The Driver, a car-obsessed racer with stringy hair and a concentration that precludes conversation. He travels the backroads of rural America with his buddy, The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys), ... more »an equally obsessed lost soul at home only in the car or under the hood. They have no names, only designations, and no life outside of their gypsy existence, riding the unending highway in their souped-up '55 Chevy from race to race. After picking up a hitchhiking Girl (Laurie Bird), whose presence breaks the tunnel-vision focus of the two men, they challenge a middle-aged hotshot, the garrulous G.T.O. (Warren Oates) to a cross-country race. Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop is the most alienated evocation of modern America ever made, an almost abstract study in dislocation and obsession set against a vague landscape of roadside diners and rest stops. Taylor and Wilson deliver appropriately blank performances, only expressing emotion when The Girl sparks jealousy between them. Oates is a glib dynamo constructing a new persona in every scene, as if trying on characters to play as he ping-pongs between the coasts. "How fast does it go?" asks The Driver, admiring G.T.O.'s car. "Fast enough," he answers. The Driver snaps, "You can never go fast enough." These are characters on the road to nowhere who can't work up enough speed to escape themselves. --Sean Axmaker« less
Chris K. Wilson | Dallas, TX United States | 10/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 1971 film "Two-Lane Blacktop" is arguably the best of the late 60s, early 70s existential road film genre (including "Easy Rider," "Vanishing Point" and "Electra Glide in Blue"). Director Monte Hellman's stark, at times unyeilding examination of American alienation is brilliant simply because of its refusal to pander to an audience undoubtedly looking for the commercial release of an exciting car chase.There is a race in "Two-Lane Blacktop," though it seems to end almost before it begins. There are extraordinary muscle cars as well, including a souped up '55 Chevy contrasted with a new Pontiac GTO. But Two-Lane Blacktop is a character study, even though the characters are not people we would particularly like to know.The three main characters, haunted lost souls void of identity and emotion, are played by James Taylor, Dennis Wilson and Warren Oates. Taylor and Wilson silently cruise the backroads of America looking for the next race in their 55' Chevy. They eventually meet Oates, a chattering, nervous man involved in some kind of middle-age crisis while picking up hitchikers in his GTO. These men decide to race cross country, but eventually lose interest. Throw into this uneasy mix a young hitchiker played by Laurie Bird. She jumps back and forth between these three men, holding off their awkward advances, eventually realizing their emotionless lives are headed down an endless highway without destination."Two-Lane Blacktop" is a morose study of men perpetually lost on the backroads of a nameless American landscape. They are hovering ghosts, void of identity, forever searching for a meaning which cannot be found. There are no easy truths or answers in Hellman's complex odyssey. These men are trapped, their cars serving as rolling coffins, redemption seemingly around the next bend, inexorably moving further and further away.The time period of the early 1970s and the scratchy period music moaning from the AM radio, combined with the faceless gas stations and roadside diners of numerous small towns, all contribute to the overall effect of Hellman's dark character study. "Two-Lane Blacktop" is one of the finest American films no one has ever heard of."
ALONG THE WINDING ROAD
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 10/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When I decided to purchase this DVD, I was just attracted by the name of the director of TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, Monte Hellman, who directed two excellent westerns in the sixties. I didn't know at all this movie and expected the worse. God ! How was I wrong ! TWO-LANE BLACKTOP is a divine surprise for those who, like me, long for titles of the quality of the american movies of the 70's.Two pop stars of that period, James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (Brian's brother), as the driver and the mechanic, race against Warren Oates in a journey through the heart of America. While Taylor and Wilson hardly speak, Warren Oates has a convulsive need to talk to the numerous hitch-hikers he accepts to take for a ride in his GTO.TWO-LANE BLACKTOP is a road movie, in the tradition of EASY RIDER and THE VANISHING POINT, but the characters don't have to prove anything, they don't even care if they make it to their final destination, Washington D.C. They cannot either be considered as rebels because they don't have an ideal to defend or an authority to face. They are tragic figures without any ideals.The DVD presented by Anchor BAY is sumptuous with top-notch images and sound ( vraoum, vraoum...). A trailer, a commentary and a very informative featurette about Monte Hellman directed by George Hickenlooper.A DVD for the road."
Two Lane Black Top
Fred | Denver | 02/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Two Lane Blacktop is one of those movies that you hear about long before you see it. It seems that while every car guy I have ever run across has heard of Two Lane Blacktop, few have ever seen it. Like Vanishing Point, it examines on some level the disillusionment that came at the close of the 1960's. It is a movie about outsiders; those that choose to be and those that desperately do not wish to be. The one thread that ties them together is the road.For a true gearhead, Two Lane Blacktop is a joy. To see all of the legendary sixties muscle cars in their natural environment.....it calls to mind a tradition of (illegal) street racing that still exists today, for better or worse. Anyone who has seen it or done it will instantly be pulled into the movie. Of course, the quintessential gray primer 55 Chevy, an unbeatable home-built street warrior, is the true hero of the film. You don't see this movie for the dialogue and there isn't a lot of it. Some of the gearhead lingo is kind of lame, like where the gas station attendant asks the Driver (James Taylor) if the 55 Chevy has a "Chevy block." No duh. Don't worry about it. That isn't why you are watching it. This movie is a time machine. As a 38 year old, I vividly remember those days and those cars, but through the eyes of an eight year old with Hot Wheels cars and a Dad that drove four door sedans (still does). I always wanted (and now have) fast cars. Seeing this movie for the first time 20 years ago poured even more fuel on the flame. Getting the opportunity to see it has always been an elusive pleasure, because it has been broadcast so rarely, and then often edited. This past Christmas, my girlfriend got me a copy in the collector's tin. I have watched it several times since, sometimes very loud. The movie has a deep texture, maybe even more so than Easy Rider, from which comparisons can be drawn. You aren't watching the people alone in this movie, however. Rather, you are taking in everything that is in it. The wide screen format is only way to go. If only you could smell the fuel, the oil and the burning rubber while you watch it. Every car guy has to have this video, along with Vanishing Point and Bullitt."
Existential Road Trip
Christopher J. Jarmick | Seattle, Wa. USA | 12/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Less dated than Easy Rider, this early 70's time capsule is an existential masterpiece. What the hell does that mean? It means the film is full of space. It's about absolute nothing, or everything, or somewhere in between. It's a poem that doesn't deliver what an audience expects but is utterly faithful to it's idea. It doesn't have an emotional pay-off, but instead finds a stylish way to cinematically burn rubber and fade away. It's characters are called Driver, Mechanic, GTO and Girl. Its stars are James Taylor (yeah the pop singer), Dennis Wilson (yeah the late Beach Boy), Warren Oates (in perhaps his finest performances) and Laura Bird (most won't know her, she's good). Driver and Mechanic are the original slackers. They love racing, and hustling people to keep racing and their supercharged '55 Chevy. They are not hippies, but car junkies. The meet a loud mouth middle aged guy driving a newer sportier GTO who wants to race them for pink slips. Eventually they agree to what amounts to a gentlemen's type race from New Mexico to the East Coast. There's not a lot of suspense to the race, and the film is about. . . well whatever you want it to be about. GTO pretends to be someone else everytime he picks up a new hitch-hiker. He's amusing himself with his creative imagination and re-inventing himself to escape the middle age blues. Eventually there's a little bit of a competition over a young female hitchhiker. The film was filmed on location as cast and crew drove across the country. The bare-bones script is by Rudolph Wurlitzer and Will Curry. The film becomes more and more abstract as it moves along. The story matters less and less. A circle eventually forms and we realize we've been riding along on a very unique, one of a kind film. There's a wonderful example of an utterly open ended final shot. Some are going to find this film very dull and wonder what there is to admire and respect about it. Others are going to 'discover' all sorts of things that are of course not actually present in the film itself, but are thoughts and reactions the film has sparked and triggered within them as they watched the film. Other's will enjoy the muscle cars, and late 60's cars that make sporadic appearances or rev up their engines on occassion. It's a film you watch many times and find different subtexts, moods, ideas and space within. It's a film that requires the viewer to both observe, accept and participate in, like one would a living sculpture.It's the kind of art film you would never expect from a director who made two quirky Westerns for Roger Corman in the mid 60's (The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind --with Nicholson right before Jack became a star with Easy Rider). Hellman also went on to make the very interesting Cockfigher with Warren Oates. He's appreciated by a small, growing cult of afficianado's and you'll find Hellman's name more recently as executive producer of Reservoir Dogs.For something really unique I suggest you find a way to watch the DVD of Two-Lane Blacktop.The film was long out of circulation because of disputes over music rights. They were resolved and the film has been beautifully transferred to DVD and actually looks better than it ever did since the contrasts in light were carefully boosted during the DVD transfer. Chris Jarmick Author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder - A steamy cyber thriller available January 2001. Please order it today. Thank You"
Quick FYI on the reviews for *both* DVD releases of this sem
The Amazonian King | Amazon.com, Amazonia | 03/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A painlessly quick FYI by a longtime Amazonian on his biggest pet peeve of Amazon reviews: No matter how many DVD releases there are for a particular film, Amazon lumps them all together.
As such, the first 84 reviews are for the *initial* (and now waaaaaaaaay OOP) DVD release of this seminal film by Anchor Bay. The reviews for the *Criterion* release begin with the one on November 24, 2007, which is entitled, "Two-Lane Blacktop: an existential road movie."
Ok, I'm stepping off my titanium soapbox now.... d'oh!!!!"