Oozing cool from first second to last, Two-Lane Blacktop is one of those rare movies that reels you in, unwinding in an almost hypnotic manner.

Given the full-scale Blu-Ray treatment by those clever guys at Eureka, this slice of 70s low-budget cinema is an absolute must-see for lovers of cars, road movies and, to be perfectly honest, cinema itself.

With minimal dialogue, beautiful scenery and a poetic, at times sombre, mood flowing through the piece, director Monte Hellman’s effort shows just what can be done when everything falls into place.

Hellman clearly set out to make something memorable here, casting music legends James Taylor and the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson as the Driver and the Mechanic respectively.

The pair travel the US in a souped-up ’55 Chevy, stopping off at race tracks along the way to issue a few challenges and win a bit more spending money to enable them to keep drifting.

The need for speed is very much in evidence, as Taylor himself admits in one of the film’s memorable lines – “You can never go fast enough”.

While traveling through Arizona and Texas, the pair meet both a hitchhiker (Laurie Bird) and a rival driver (70s hardman Warren Oates), who is desperate to test out his flash GTO against the boys.

They agree to a low-key ‘race’ across the country to Washington DC, with the rest of the film documenting their respective journeys across the nation.

With as much of the footage shot inside cars as out, dialogue is at a premium, and anyone who expects a full-blown narrative should steer well clear.

In fact, most of the film has a real tone of ambiguity to it, with the characters (Oates especially) difficult to fathom.

But that merely adds to the ambience, with the film about as far removed from your typical Hollywood fodder as you can imagine.

There is plenty of burning rubber and screeching tyres to delight petrolheads, but anyone expecting a balls-out action movie will be disappointed.

Yes, there are chases and plenty of high-octane segments, but overall this film is more concerned with the mood it creates than giving cheap thrills.

The acting, as you would expect, is obviously not high-quality (Taylor even trips over his lines a couple of times), but there is no denying the two male leads are perfect for their roles and do still exude charisma.

Shot for less than $1 million, director Hellman wrings ever last cent out of that budget, producing a flick that has more ideas, more depth and more ingenuity than those with plenty of money thrown at them.

In the shadow of Easy Rider, and a precursor in many ways to the likes of The Driver, Vanishing Point and even this year’s Drive, Two-Lane Blacktop is an absolute must-see.

EXTRAS:  Audio commentary, three documentaries, screen-test footage, trailer and 36-page booklet


About The Author

Avatar photo

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle