Two-Lane Blacktop ---BONUS Underground Movie Double Feature ---
1971. Universal Pictures, Anchor Bay Entertainment/The Criterion Collection, Color, Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1, 102 minutes, Rated R
Release Date: July 7, 1971
Two-Lane Blacktop is available at Amazon.com as a Criterion Collection DVD and on VHS.
Movie Synopsis: This film could be the Easy Rider of race car movies, as two young auto enthusiasts (the driver and the mechanic) make their way across country in a 1955 Chevy looking for action in the early 1970s underground race car culture.
Cast: James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird, Harry Dean Stanton
Director: Monte Hellman
Thoughts on the Movie:
This is one of those early 1970s underground films that most people have never heard of... and what a shame. Its somewhat dark and moody, yet by setting a good part of the action in the Southwest, more specifically New Mexico, it lends a quality of light thats known only to this region. I enjoyed the scenes that take place in Santa Fe, although they could be somewhat obscure to viewers who are unfamiliar with that city.
The fact that the lead characters are played by two fellows from the music world make for a special kind of twist: neither the warm and cozy James Taylor or Beach Boy, Dennis Wilson, had any acting experience, but who cares? They filled the roles completely and once I started watching the movie, that fact never re-entered my mind (or altered my enjoyment of the film). I actually found it refreshing. Theres no doubt that this film has its flaws, but it fills the bill for all thats needed or expected from an independent production of its time. I highly recommend that you check this one out. Its a look back at a bygone era and well worth a viewing. ~Jean
Berts Burger Bowl, Santa Fe, New Mexico (see Map)
A long-established burger joint for over 50 years in Santa Fe, the drive-in was featured in Two-Lane Blacktop in some nighttime scenes as a hangout for local race car drivers.
Right: Berts Burger Bowl in Santa Fe, New Mexico, going strong since 1954.
Berts Burger Bowl, located at 235 N. Guadalupe Street, is a unique and popular casual eatery in the City Different. The t-shirts on the staff behind the counter boast, Since 1954: One Location Worldwide. Recently featured on Guy Fieris cable TV show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it is famous for its Green Chile Cheeseburger, that they claim to have invented.
Berts is a quick-order joint, but the food doesnt come right away. You tell them what you want, they take your money and give you a number. Then you hang around listening to hamburgers sizzle. Every one is cooked to order. A sign on the cash register advises: All our food at Berts is specially made for you and the approximate wait is 12 minutes once order is placed. If you want the real deal feel of mid-20th century Santa Fe, Berts delivers that experience. For their 50th anniversary in 2004, they rolled their prices back to 1954 with a 35¢ green chile cheeseburger, a 19¢ order of French fries, and a Coke for a dime.
About Santa Fe, New Mexico:
Santa Fe, New Mexico (population 75,764, elevation 7,000 feet; 35° 40 2 N, 105° 57 52 W) is located approximately 60 miles north of Albuquerque on I-25. The Santa Fe area, currently one of the top tourist destinations in the world, offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, skiing, river rafting, hiking, camping, cycling, and horseback riding, just to name a few. This is high desert country, with four distinct seasons showing off the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the clear, blue New Mexican sky. The City Different is also the third largest art market in the U.S. (after New York and Los Angeles), boasting hundreds of galleries, with the majority located on picturesque Canyon Road, one of the areas largest tourist attractions.
To learn a lot more about Santa Fe, New Mexico, see our Santa Fe Information page.
Right: Dennis Wilson and James Taylor wait for shooting to resume on the film, Two-Lane Blacktop, in the desert outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Lodging & Dining:
For Recommended Hotels, Motels and Lodges in Santa Fe, see: Santa Fe Lodging
Scenes for Two-Lane Blacktop were also shot near the Santa Fe Plaza and at a motel in Santa Fe. The car race scenes were shot on Airport Road.
Right: A nighttime scene from Two-Lane Blacktop," shot at Berts Burger Bowl in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This would be Laurie Birds film debut. She would only star in two more films, Cockfighter (1974) and Annie Hall (1977), before taking her own life in New York in 1979.
Dennis Wilson (drummer for the rock band, The Beach Boys) gave his only acting performance in this film. Its interesting that the Beach Boys not only sang songs about surfing, but also recorded many songs about cars and racing.
This was James Taylors only performance as an actor in a movie. He is the only one of the main actors in the film still alive today (2011).
Three 1955 Chevrolets were used as the street racer in the film; both vehicles were built by Richard Ruth. One of the cars used in the film, with the twin carburetors, was driven by Harrison Ford in American Graffiti (1973), and the car that was seen at the gas station in the film (the 210 coupe, aka the #2 vehicle) was recently located in Canada, intact and untouched. The #3 car had a full rollcage installed and was to be used in a rollover scene for Two-Lane Blacktop that was not filmed, but it was later used in the rollover scene in American Graffiti.
Right: The film crew rides on the 1955 Chevy during a road scene in 1971s cult classic, Two-Lane Blacktop.
According to director Monte Hellmans commentary on the first DVD release, the reason the movie took so long to release on DVD was Jim Morrison. The soundtrack for Two-Lane Blacktop has scenes where The Doors music is playing in the background. Hellman and the producers had trouble initially securing permission from Morrisons estate to release the film with The Doors music. For obvious reasons, permission for use on DVD format was not part of the original agreement with The Doors in 1971. Eventually, the studio worked out a deal, and the DVD was released.
Character Quote: Performance and image, thats what its all about. ~G.T.O (Warren Oates)