Saturday, February 15, 2014
Bad/Awesome Flixxx Review: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
"I don't like being crowded by a couple of punk road hogs clear across two states, I don't." - G.T.O.
"I don't believe I've seen you. 'Course there's lots o' cars on the road like yours, they all get to lookin' the same. They perform about the same, too..." - The Driver
"Make it three yards, motherfucker, and we'll have us an automobile race." - The Driver
This is one of THE classic old school 60s/70s hot rod movies. Along with VANISHING POINT, and EASY RIDER- this was one of those defining "end of an era" flicks that captured a generation that was fading fast. I always loved this one because I could easily picture my dad as "the Driver". It was also one of the last movies I watched with my dad before his passing. The movie that inspired the real life Cannonball Run (which of course inspired the two flicks of the same name) starring Warren Oates, James Taylor, Dennis Wilson and a cameo by Harry Dean Stanton in TWO-LANE BLACKTOP!!!
This movie rules. There's only one thing bad I've ever heard people say about it and we'll talk about that in a bit. Never before had James Taylor or Dennis Wilson acted. They were cast in a hurry and the experience of filming this put a bad taste in their mouths and they never acted again. The movie was shot "on the road" while they were actually traveling from Needles, California along old Route 66 across the country. The director (Monte Hellman) wouldn't let them look at the script and gave them lines to act out on the day they were shooting that particular scene. So along with the travel and the hectic schedule, and by the time the thing came out with no real push from the studio (Universal) these dudes were over it. No names are mentions, but Taylor is "the Driver", Wilson is "the Mechanic", Oates is "GTO", and an actress named Laurie Bird is "the Girl".
We have the driver and the mechanic who go from town to town earning bread by challenging rednecks to drag races at bars or restaurants or gas stations. They come into town, scope it out, shit talk and hustle as much as they can. They drive a primer gray 2 door Chevy 150 hot rod and it smokes. They are straight up motorheads and eat, drink, and sleep this car. You get me? When they get to Flagstaff, Arizona (which is a beautiful city and an oasis out of the monotonous desert if you ever get the chance to pass through there) they make a stop and a hippie hitchhiker chick basically just jumps in their rig.
Further along the road somewhere in New Mexico, the gang stops to get gas and this hot shot, complete and total scumbag liar pulls up behind them in a brand new 1970 Pontiac GTO. He is full of shit from the get go and they talk some shit back and forth. They follow along passing each other back and forth until an arrangement is made. They decide to race to Washington D.C. for "pinks" or pinkslips. Basically whoever makes it there first gets to keep the others car. So they take off. Now, its heated for a little while and we initially don't like GTO, but we come to realize he has no idea about cars and as long as the mechanic keeps the driver awake and aware of any problems, they're most definitely going to win. Then we have the girl who ends up sleeping with both the driver and the mechanic. They both act like its no big thing, but the driver actually falls for the chick. Meanwhile GTO is doggin his new ride hard and its not actually built to race across country. So the mechanic gives him some friendly advice and they even trade up for while. There's a part where they get drunk and pass out and GTO almost gets caught trying to steal the parts he needs for his car. Then somewhere along the lines the girl jumps in with GTO who is poisoning her ears against the other guys the whole time so he can hit it. He's always picking up hitchhikers and telling each one different lies that he either makes up on the spot or changes them according to whatever has just happened trying desperately to impress whomever comes with him.
So the driver freaks that the girl left them and he then goes on a mad chase to catch up with GTO. They finally catch up to them and the girl goes with them and then acts totally non chalant about the whole thing even blowing off most of the drivers suggestions about what to do when they get over to the east coast. Finally when they stop to get some food, she bails with some random dude on his motorcycle and just leaves her enormous bag in the parking lot. JUST LIKE "FUCK IT!". WOW. Anyway, the dudes are so pissed that they venture apart from the GTO who continues on picking up hitchers and lying to them. Now the reason a lot of people complain about this movie is right here: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SPOILER WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 The guys need some parts or money for gas or something around Tennessee and they go to a dragstrip around there and then they start the race. Then the sound goes out. Then the film gets eaten up like the film strip disintegrated. So... you either interpret it as arty and that's the aesthetic they were going for, or you end up pissed because (even though we don't know their names as such) we've invested time in this story, and we wanted to know who made it first to fucking Washington! Now, the when I first watched it, that's how I felt. A bit disappointed. Then I thought about it later and decided that they were going about their business living their lives and thats how shit happens anyway. That's real life. They didn't need to follow this kook to D.C. just on some dumb bet or dare. Fuck that guy! They would get there or they wouldn't. They were "living". On the road. By the balls. People say life was different then. But, not that much. You can do those things still to this day. Gas costs a lot more, but you can be a weird drifter hippie street racer if you really want. If you have no connections to anywhere, I recommend giving it a try. You never really know about a place until you've used all their public restrooms and washed your hair in sinks, and been stuck and got into adventures. That's how you find it out. Not reading blogs about it on the internet. Should you watch this? Yes. But not if you are one of those people who have to have a set ending. A good or bad. A Hollywood lie. If you think the chase is better than the catch, then this is for you.