Pete’s Peek | 1970s road movie classic Two-Lane Blacktop is Top Gear for petrolheads and indie fans

Two-Lane Blacktop is one of the most celebrated road movies ever made and a key film of the 1970s’ New American Cinema. Made during a period when American cinema was experimenting with a series of counterculture offerings – most notably 1969’s Easy RiderTwo-Lane Blacktop is not your typical Hollywood movie – so Cannonball Run it ain’t folks!

Despite being a protégé of Roger Corman (the King of the B’s would also ride the coattails of Easy Rider‘s success), director Monte Hellman ended up fashioning an existential drama about lonely souls lost in transit on the long road to nowhere.

In their grey-primed 1955 Chevrolet, The Driver (James Taylor) and The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson) keep their engine running by entering into illegal car races along Route 66. Lying in the seatless back of the Chevy hot rod is The Girl (Laurie Bird), a hitchhiker with little to say and nowhere to go. Driving alongside, meanwhile, is Warren Oates’s GTO. Having traded the trappings of suburbia for a bright orange Pontiac, the middle-aged playboy coaxes the boys into racing to Washington.

Not much happens in Two-Lane Blacktop – but that’s the point. It’s a film that’s totally understated. All that counts is speed. Its the lifeblood of the characters. Unable to connect with the Chevy boys – whose only conversations concern their car – The Girl ends up hitching a ride with GTO, only to find that he too masks his feelings by boasting about his car’s prowess. And it’s this sense of distance and alienation that dominates the film as the two cars and their occupants cruise through non-descript towns, motels, truck stops and gas stations (all shot in a sad, but beautiful way) towards an inevitable, bleak conclusion.

Virtually impossible to see for years due to music copyright problems and poor distribution, Two-Lane Blacktop has been dusted off and remastered in hope of attracting a new audience – one that shares not only a passion for cars (there’s some cool vintage numbers for the car nuts to salivate over), but also a style of independent film-making that’s quite rare these days. As they say, ‘Two-Lane Blacktop isn’t a Highway, It’s an Attitude’.

Special features include commentary by director Monte Hellman and associate producer Gary Kurtz; revisiting the film locations video with Hellman; Kris Kristofferson interview; screen-test footage; trailer; and booklet.

Released 23 January on Blu-ray and limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook , through The Masters of Cinema Series