4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Road to Nowhere
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...
Published on Oct. 5 2002 by Chris K. Wilson
3.0 out of 5 stars Good movie about outlaw drag racers
I saw this movie for the first time 22 years ago on a late-night TV show and was not impressed with it right away. Several years later I caught it on TV again and found the movie more enjoyable to watch. I found the movie more appealing the second time I watched it because I had seen numerous other car flicks which were just plain silly. This movie provides characters...
Published on Sept. 23 1999
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Road to Nowhere,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Literature on film!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Lane Blacktop (DVD)
Two-Lane Blacktop is literature on film! At first viewing, it may seem stylistic but plotless, as the casual observer without proper frame of reference will miss some subtle subplots.
The first subplot is the contrast of the genuine versus the wannabe, as revealed in the cars and their owners. There has always been a street-race rivalry between the the home-built hotrod and the checkbook-aquired factory musclecar (fellow gearheads will nod knowingly). This contrast extends to The Driver, who is earthy and real, and GTO, who is always playing a role. At first, GTO tries to stand toe-to-toe with The Driver, but he is eventually subjugated by the horsepower of the '55 and the mechanical know-how of Driver and Mechanic.
The second and more interesting subplot is the tension within The Driver, who feels more comfortable with machines than with people (perhaps machines are easier to control). Believe me, this type of personality exists - confirm with any gearhead or IT professional. His machine zen is interrupted by the hitchhiker, to whom he opens himself up (barely). The hicthhiker eventually leaves, and at the end of the movie he slides shut the window of the '55 Chevy, symbolically shutting out human emotion/interaction and returning to his mechanical world.
Watch this movie looking for these subplots, and you may have a whole new viewing experience.
5.0 out of 5 stars Waiting for Godot....with Burning Rubber,
By A Customer
Great exploration of American angst....and American existentialist non-answers. Rudy Wurlitzer's script is a gem. Here's a clue for you Beach Boys fans out there. It ain't supposed to be fun fun fun 'til her daddy takes the T-Bird away. The acting is supposed to be "flat," emotionless (with the exception of Warren Oates' role as "GTO" and Laurie Bird's role as "The Girl"). The characters are supposed to be from nowhere and going nowhere. They are characters who have stripped away all "extraneous" elements from their lives. Hellman, given big-studio backing for the first and ultimately only time in his career thus far, was an exceeding brave man to make this film. Read some Camus and some Sartre and some Beckett, then talk to some serious gearheads for a while, then take a long road trip on some two-lane highways in my home turf, the American Southwest. Then watch this movie. You'll appreciate just what Hellman and company accomplished. By the way, James Taylor is the only leading actor in the film still living, and he made it while he was in the throes of a serious battle with heroin. Who would have thought he would have been the last left standing?
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for gearheads...,
A good friend of mine is an insanely obsessed car-freak. One day he turned on his TV and popped a DVD into the player, and we watched Two Lane Blacktop. I'm not into cars at all, but I was transfixed by this movie. When it was all over, I didn't find it pretentious or confusing or boring in the slightest. I saw it as a very simple yet compelling story; Two men live for only one thing: racing their car, which has been stripped down to its barest essentials in order to give it maximum speed. Things like heaters and rear seats have been removed... steel has been replaced with fiberglass. And as they have done with their car, they have stripped away all "extraneous" elements from their lives, and from their very selves. They have no need for conversation or music, or for love or anger or any other emotion for that matter. They're cold and dehumanized. As they make their way across the landscape, they meet an older man who has lost his life and identity, and is desperately searching for new ones. Most importantly, they are joined by a girl who wants only one thing: human contact. As I saw it, the central point of the story is how she affects the men, one of them more than the others. I believe this explains the notoriously "ambiguous" ending. It isn't a perfect film by any means. Laurie Bird's neophyte status is painfully obvious in some of her scenes. At times this film may be too subtle and understated for its own good. It seems that some of the most important and basic plot elements are left to the viewer to infer. Then again, this may again be part of the "stripped down" theme that is so prevalent throughout. Whatever the case, it's an incredibly unique and very haunting film. I can certainly understand that it isn't for everyone. Two Lane Blacktop is actually much like 2001: A Space Odyssey in that respect; some will inevitably regard it as boring and pointless. Others will, for lack of a less elitist and arrogant term, "get it." I heartily recommend that everyone sees it for themselves at least once, and find out which group you belong to.
4.0 out of 5 stars Street Racer Cult Movie,
James Taylor and Dennis Wilson star in an interesting low-budget movie about outlaw drag racers traveling the United States. They scratch out a living and get their thrills suckering local street racers into risky high-stake drag races on backcountry two-lane roads. Taylor is the "Driver" and Wilson is the "Mechanic;" partner owners of a dingy-looking 1955 Chevy coupe packing formidable running gear, capable of blowing the doors off most challengers' hot rods in quarter-mile duels. The Driver and the Mechanic pick up the "Hitchhiker," played by Laurie Bird, and embark on a cross-country race with "GTO," played by Warren Oats, an eccentric adventurer driving a factory Pontiac GTO. While the story is interesting, Taylor's, Wilson's and Bird's performances are stoic to say the least. The late Warren Oates however, turns in an excellent performance as a character going through his mid-life crisis, spinning far fetched tales to hitchers he picks up along the highways. The movie conjures up a parallel to "Easy Rider" with several people traveling across the country and taking each day as it comes with no identifiable goals in their lives. In the end there are no surprises, the story portrays a unique event in the lives of four people for a short period of several days. Car enthusiasts will appreciate the portrayal of outlaw drag racing in this movie with no gimmicky tricks or special effects, just good old 1970's muscle car madness with huge V8 engines and gutsy driving.
Since the late 1970's, this movie could only be caught on late-night TV broadcasts if a viewer paid close attention to program guides. Two Lane Blacktop recently gained cult status with its outlaw drag racing story and the fact that this is the only movie featuring singer-composer James Taylor and the late "Beach Boys" Dennis Wilson, as well as the remarkable performance by Warren Oates. Another interesting tidbit is the 1955 Chevrolet sedan in this movie that also served as Harrison Ford's ride in "American Graffiti." The DVD edition is a treat with the imagery, screen format and several deleted scenes restored to original 1971 specifications.
5.0 out of 5 stars Existential Road Trip,
This review is from: Two Lane Blacktop (DVD)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars ALONG THE WINDING ROAD,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars A pure slice of Americana,
This is one of the great 70's American road movies. Warren Oates, in his 1970 Pontiac G.T.O, challenges a 1955 customised Chevy to a cross country road race. Some great camera work, music and scenes follow. It features a weird ending too. The DVD is excellant. The picture is in widescreen 2.35:1 ratio and clear. The sound is in Dolby digital 5.1 and Dolby surround 2.0, and is good. The extras are good. They include an informative commentary from director Monte Hellman and associate producer Gary Kurtz. There's a documentary about director Monte Hellman. The rest are comprehensive talent bios and a trailer. The menus are superb. The main screen is a view of the two guys in the car from the backseat looking out on the road in a zoomed out blur shot, and has the radio playing and the engine ticking over. The other menus have music from the film, and when they change the engine of the car roars and the screen shoots forward. Impressive. Overall, a great film, given a great DVD transfer. Buy it now.
5.0 out of 5 stars Color me gone, baby!,
I've just made my fourth trip down the two-lane blacktop, having recently caught this film on the Big Screen. (Do not--repeat, DO NOT--miss a chance to see this in a theatre.) This film gets better ever time I see it. Part road movie, part travelogue of America circa 1970, part existentialist tragedy, it's a strange, fascinating hodgepodge with no real precedent--not even "Easy Rider"--that I'm aware of. "Two-Lane Blacktop" is what it is; if you're expecting just another car chase movie, you will likely be disappointed. It's a movie for anyone fascinated by the mystique of lonely gas stations in the middle of nowhere, of long, quiet rides down the highway with nary another soul in sight.... I've never seen a movie that has so effectively communicated the extraordinary vastness of America. It manages to be sad, pathetic, funny, and haunting all at once. You can criticize it for its sometimes shaky acting (Warren Oates, at least, is fabulous), but I think the sum effect of the movie precludes serious complaint. And what an amazing ending....
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Lane Black Top,
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.
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Two-Lane Blacktop by Monte Hellman (DVD - 2007)