Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
March 25, 2016 6:42 AM - Subscribe

A story of two men drag-racing across the U.S. in a primer grey '55 Chevy. Dennis Wilson is the mechanic, James Taylor is the driver.

"Two-Lane Blacktop is a 1971 road movie directed by Monte Hellman, starring singer-songwriter James Taylor, the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, and Laurie Bird.

Esquire magazine declared the film its movie of the year for 1971, and even published the entire screenplay in its April 1971 issue, but the film was not a commercial success. The film has since become a counterculture-era cult classic. Brock Yates, organizer of the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash (better known as the Cannonball Run) cites Two-Lane Blacktop as one source of inspiration for the creation of the race, and commented on it in his Car and Driver column announcing the first Cannonball." (wikipedia)
posted by valkane (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We'll be screening this tonight (Friday, March 25) at 9:00 pm ET at:
posted by valkane at 11:30 AM on March 25, 2016

Director Monte Hellman was second unit director on Robocop.

He was also a producer of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.

The Girl, Laurie Bird, committed suicide at 26 in the apartment she shared with Art Garfunkel.
posted by valkane at 6:15 PM on March 25, 2016

The mechanic, Dennis Carl Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best remembered as their drummer, as the middle brother of bandmates Brian and Carl Wilson, and for his brief association with murder-conspirator Charles Manson.
posted by valkane at 6:19 PM on March 25, 2016

Harry Dean and War & Oats. Both Kentucky boys. Bet they had a lot to talk about.
posted by valkane at 6:42 PM on March 25, 2016

I love this movie so much, it's half soapy battle, half documentary. I have it as a VHS rip from an old A&E broadcast, and I don't think I want it any other way unless significant things were cut. I should probably look into that.

Ignoring The Girl until she starts talking about racing. The clip-on trunk. High Test gas. Spotting potential opponents at the drive-in.

After the drive-in, the resulting race is shot so that the glare of the headlights is the only thing you see until the very last second when the cars pass by and you get a flash of each car's shape, revealing The Driver's win. One of my favorite shots in any movie. So elegant. I have to think that they used a T Bucket for the opponent so that the flashed images were different enough shapes to register to the viewer. Lots of background action in static shots, too.

All of that in the first 20 minutes and GTO hasn't even shown up yet.

"She's got a hard pull doesn't she?" Unctuous from beginning to end. "I could suck you right up my tailpipe" has to be a an age-old video store worker meme.

One of the cars just sold at auction for $160K.

Harry Dean was already 45 when this came out.
posted by rhizome at 1:08 AM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

This particular '55 was later repurposed as Harrison Ford's whip in American Graffiti, and, much more recently, provided the inspiration for Roadkill's 'Blasphemi'.

Also, the very idea of James Taylor softly and casually calling someone 'motherfucker' brings me such joy.
posted by MarchHare at 6:46 AM on March 26, 2016

Wow, rhizome. Looks like I was wrong; the American Graffiti connection is a piece of almost pre-web lore I remembered almost reflexively. It's fascinating how few gear heads I know have time for the film, though.
posted by MarchHare at 6:52 AM on March 26, 2016

I had to double-check and do a little of my own research because I had remembered the car being, like, The Original Hot Rod (absurd for a 1955) that was borrowed for the movie from the original owner. Not sure how that worked its way into my brain, but I bet there's a lot of lore floating in this movie's wake.
posted by rhizome at 1:42 PM on March 26, 2016

Gotta clean the carbs and jets.

First seen at an outdoor cinema night in, uh, '92. Like a drive-in for people without driver's licenses. A year later I met my wife, who grew up in Orange County. She still claims to not understand what I mean when I point to this film as a monument to her culture.
posted by mwhybark at 11:42 PM on March 27, 2016

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