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Two-Lane Blacktop [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), English LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 103 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 8, 2013
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Looking to duplicate the success of Easy Rider (1969), Universal handed out $1 million to filmmakers to come up with a response. What we got was this 1971 road movie from the cult auteur Monte Hellman, Two-Lane Blacktop. Where Easy Rider was a psychedelic celebration of the open road and the hippie ideals of the late 60s, Two-Lane Blacktop was a melancholy meditation on a country gone astray and, perhaps, a condemnation of the naiveté of the hippie ideals.

Two drag racing friends, The Driver (singer-songwriter James Taylor) and The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys) hit the road in a customized ’55 Chevy painted primer grey, but soon find themselves in a cross-country race with a rival in a shiny yellow GTO (Warren Oates) for both the pink slips to their cars and the affections of The Girl (Laurie Bird) who’s hitched along with them.

A defining film of the so-called “New American Cinema,” Two-Lane Blacktop is like Kerouac on wheels, a revved up, wide open, big sky, looming dream that alluded to Dharma Bums or On the Road and predicted the listless malaise of the mid-70s America.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

I had the opportunity to review the UK release of Two-Lane Blacktop in January of this year (2012) from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series. The director himself, Monte Hellman, oversaw that high definition transfer himself and, apparently, this release from Criterion Collection is also a “Director Approved” high definition transfer overseen by Hellman. The two transfers are quite different, to be sure, proving once and for all that just because the original director is involved in the process, doesn’t mean that’s the last word in what the film should look like on a home video format. The film is rather grainy and, as I stated previously, it doesn’t always yield the best high definition results. This Criterion Collection release looks even grittier and grainier. While at times it does show a little bit more video noise, particularly in darker scenes, for the most part the overall appearance is more textured and three-dimensional than the Masters of Cinema transfer, which is quite a bit softer in comparison. Colors in the Criterion disc are more richly saturated as well in the midtones and primaries, and it shows stronger contrast with deeper darks and more nuanced shadow delineation.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The original monaural soundtrack has been remastered and provided in LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) It gets the job done and will please cinephile purists. It has little crackle, but also limited dynamics and sounds just a tad boxy, for obvious reasons. Just like the UK release, a brand new 5.1 mix is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit). It sounds big and warm with a lot of directional panning of sound effects across the front, and during racing scenes there is discrete use of the surrounds to help fill up the room with the roar of the engines.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

A typically strong selection of relevant and informative supplements from Criterion accompany the film in this release. A few of them are shared with the UK release as well.

The supplements:

  • Monte Hellman and Allison Anders – Audio commentary recorded by the Criterion Collection in Los Angeles in 2007.
  • Rudy Wurlitzer and David N. Meyer – Audio commentary recorded by the Criterion Collection in New York City in 2007.
  • On the Road Again: Two-Lane Blacktop Revisited (1.78:1; 1080i/60) – A 43-minute video piece in which Monte Hellman and his film students revisit the film’s locations.
  • Make it Three Yards (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:38:33) – After not having seen each other in thirty-five years, Monte Hellman and James Taylor sat down for this conversation, recorded in the fall of 2007 in Massachusetts.
  • Sure Did Talk to You (1.78:1; 1080i/60) – In this 24-minute video filmed in 2007 the director Monte Hellman interviews producer Michael Laughlin, production manager Walter Coblenz, Steve Gayedos, and his son Jared Hellman.
  • Those Satisfactions Are Permanent (2.35:1; 1080p/24) – These screen test outtakes were discovered in director Monte Hellman’s garage in 2007. The casting interviews are conducted by A.J. Solari, who also reads with Laurie Bird and appears in the film as the malcontented Tennessee hitchhiker.
  • Color Me Gone (1080p/24) – A collection of rare behind-the-scenes photos and publicity stills from Two-Lane Blacktop.
  • Performance and Image (1080p/24) – Car enthusiast Walt Bailey tracked down and, with the participation of Richard Ruth, restored one of the three ’55 Chevys used in the filming of Two-Lane Blacktop. Bailey’s account of that process and a selection of restoration photographs are provided here, as well as a look at some of the shooting locations in 2007.
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080i/60)
  • Booklet: Criterion Collection offers up a booklet featuring an essay on the film by critic Kent Jones; appreciations by director Richard Linklater and musician Tom Waits; and a reprint of the 1970 Rolling Stone article “On Route 66, Filming Two-Lane Blacktop” by Michael Goodwin.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

A roaring American road classic finally screeches its way onto Blu-ray in the US from Criterion Collection. Wonderfully rendered, this should be required viewing for anyone wanting to learn of a bygone era of open roads and the withering hopes of Americana.

Additional Screen Captures

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Two-Lane Blacktop - Widescreen Subtitle - Blu-ray Disc

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BestBuy.com:
Two-Lane Blacktop - Widescreen Subtitle - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Two-Lane Blacktop [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]




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