Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Ever since first watching Terrence Malick’s Badlands, I’ve been a huge fan of road movies. In 1971, Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop embraced a side of Americana you’ll have go out and discover for yourself. Shedding light on a different kind of American dream resulted in a movie that was slow-moving, where the plot didn’t really matter. It bombed at the box office.All of the cast are known purely by generic terms; James Taylor is the Driver, Dennis Wilson the Mechanic, Laurie Bird the Girl and the great Warren Oates, in the kind of role that only Warren Oates could play, is GTO. Taylor and Wilson drive a souped-up, primer grey ’55 Chevy. Oates rolls a pristine Pontiac GTO; one of the best seventies muscle cars. The cars are even listed in the credits.All players drive and drive and drive, but what are they really looking for? The characters don’t seem to know themselves. Director Hellman completely abandons the main thrust of the film, a cross-country race for pink slips, about halfway through. GTO and the trio in the Driver’s car just end up travelling together, the long stretches of open road punctuated by stops at small town gas stations and diners.What makes this film unique is its ability to tell a story with pictures and sound. You see the film several times from the Driver’s perspective as he shifts gears on the American highway. The celluloid burning in the projector is a final image that will stay with you long after the film ends. A masterpiece.



Filed under Retrospective

7 responses to “Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

  1. This sounds interesting and different. Hmmm…I’m intrigued. Thanks for this.
    Have a wonderful week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review 🙂 I really love hearing your thoughts on what I believe is a true 1970’s classic, which in this case would be Monte Hellman’s Two-Lace Blacktop. One of the many unique aspects about this film is that it feels like real life – two or more people holding a conversation while driving on the road. The use of sound is just amazing – the beginning where you hear various car radio stations and then you hear the sounds of engines rolling. How much do you want to bet that had this film either been a hit or it’s cult status was more explicit, Universal Studios would be excessively or semi-excessively promoting the cars listed in the credits as a theme park exhibit (as opposed to a ride)? As for that last image of a celluloid burn, I could not agree with you more in it’s memorability. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this John. It must be the first post ever where I didn’t mention Pfeiffer or Ryan. I’m intrigued by your idea of Universal promoting the cars as a theme park exhibit. I believe one of the 55 Chevys later featured in American Graffitti another film I mentioned on here a couple of years ago. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and sorry for the late reply, I was absolutely mowed out at work last week.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. RB

    James Taylor and Dennis Wilson? In a movie I’ve never heard of?
    How is this possible. I share your love for road trip movies Paul but why do I not know about this. Speaking as an admirer of 5$ a Day I’m going to have to check out both Badlands, and Two Lane Blacktop, because I am so thoroughly intrigued by this post from one of my favorite writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Badlands and Two Lane Blacktop are classics, interestingly both feature Warren Oates who is one of my favourite actors. I’ll look out for $5 a day, I notice Amanda Peet from One Fine Day is in the cast.


  4. This sounds an interesting film and all the more so with your enigmatic post.

    Liked by 1 person

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