A decidedly bizarre mix of horror, noir and surrealism, David Lynch's 1997 picture Lost Highway begins with the story of a man named Fred (Bill Pullman) and his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette). He's a saxophone player in an avant-garde jazz band. They share a nice house together in Hollywood. Things seem okay on the surface but Fred has strange nightmares and doesn't seem to quite trust Renee, even when he's having sex with her. Their life gets rocked a bit when, one morning, she finds an envelope outside containing a video tape. They put it into their VCR and realize that it's footage someone shot of the exterior of their home. They're weirded out, but don't panic. When a second tape is delivered and shows not just the exterior but the interior too, as well as footage of them sleeping, they call the cops who can find no evidence of anyone trying to break in.
The next day at a party Fred meets a strange, pale faced man (Robert Blake) who tells them that they've met before. He hands Fred his cellphone and has him call his home number, where the pale faced man, who is standing right in front of Fred at the party, answers from within the home. Fred grabs Renee and heads home where he thinks he seems someone in the house. He explores and finds no one. That night, Renee is murdered, Fred is convicted of homicide and subsequently put on death row.
While in his cell one night, Fred gets sick. When the guards come to check on him, they find that he isn't there but instead has been replaced by a younger man named Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) with a rather large wound on his head. They call his parents (Gary Busey and Lisa Butler) to come get him and shortly after, he's back at work repairing cars for Arnie (Richard Pryor). Here he's visited by a gangster named Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), a rough and tumble type who has taken a liking to the young mechanic. After fixing Eddy's car one night he's visited by Eddy's beautiful girlfriend, Alice (Arquette again). Eddy is clearly attracted to her and she's soon using him to get out from under Eddy's thumb, which causes a whole new round of problems for the young man and things go in much darker, stranger territory as the film barrels towards its conclusion.
A dark, trippy and definitely strange film, Lost Highway is, like the best of Lynch's work, a bit of a fever dream. Nightmarish visuals and a plot that is at times undecipherable combine with some fantastic cinematography, excellent performances, a great score and some very tight direction to create a movie well worth seeing, even if you might not necessarily ‘figure it all out' before the end credits hit the screen. At two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes in length, it never feels to long and it manages to easily hold our attention and capture our imagination from the opening to the close.
The visuals, of course, are key. This is a film that is quite literally shrouded in darkness at times. There's very little that takes place out of doors during the day, the vast majority of the picture playing out either at night or inside (of often times both). Yet, it never feels like ‘too much' because the camera work is just that good. It's stylish, slick and polished yet able to add to the unravelling of the mystery in addition to just looking good. Clever reveals like someone handing someone else a knife very quickly or a glance from the white faced man standing in the background are easily noticeable without feeling crammed in and little details like this help to hold our attention and build out feeling of unease.
Performances are great across the board. Bill Pullman has never been cooler than he is here and he plays his part well. The sequence where we see him wailing on his saxophone might feel a little hokey but otherwise, he does excellent work here. Patricia Arquette is also very well cast, oozing seductiveness and sex appeal in pretty much every frame she's in, playing the double role very, very well. We can easily see why all of the men in the film are attracted to her, she's magnetic. Balthazar Getty also does great work here, good enough that even when we know he's clearly making a big mistake we can understand why he'd do what he does. Robert Blake is genuinely chilling in his role, and Robert Loggia perfectly cast as the scenery chewing heavy. Supporting work is also great. Look for some small but noteworthy appearances from Gary Busey, Lisa Butler, Richard Pryor, Henry Rollins (as a prison guard), Lynch regular Jack Nance as one of Pete's coworkers and even Marilyn Manson and Twiggy Ramirez (we won't spoilt their parts).
The soundtrack, put together by Trent Reznor, features not only the expected Nine Inch Nails contributions but also work from Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Rammstein and David Bowie. The score from Angelo Badalamenti and Barry Adamson (the occasional Nick Cave/Birthday Party cohort) is fantastic across the board.
Lost Highway gets its North American Blu-ray debut from Kino Lorber on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, the film's proper theatrical aspect ratio. Although this is taken from an older master, Kino has done the best they can with the material given to them by the film's licensors and the results are, if not perfect, still very good (Lynch was quite vocal in complaining about this not coming from the negative but Kino has publicly stated that they tried to make that happen with his involvement and were denied). Detail is quite strong here and the film is given a very healthy bit rate keeping compression artifacts out of the picture. There is some minor print damage noticeable now and again, just small white specks, while the film's grain structure is left intact. Could a new 2k or 4k scan of the original negative have yielded better results than this? Definitely, but until that happens this is a more than acceptable transfer. Colors look very good, black levels are nice and deep (very important in a movie like this which is shrouded in darkness for long stretches of its running time) and it has good filmic texture throughout. It is worth noting that there's a weird anomaly on the left side of the opening credits sequence where a small black matte appears. Once the movie proper starts, this goes away. Strange, and likely built into the master KL was provided.
Audio options are provided in English language 16-bit DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Master Audio options with optional subtitles provided in English. Audio quality is very strong here. The 5.1 track spreads things out very nicely, the score and effects primarily, while obviously the stereo track keeps things up front. Both tracks are properly balanced and quite clean (though the opening dialogue between Fred and Renee is spoken very softly and can be a bit hard to hear… it's always been this way and would seem to have been intentional). There's good depth, very nice bass response too. No problems with any hiss or distortion and all in all, the audio quality here turns out to be very good indeed.
Aside from a static menu, there are no extra features on this release. To be fair to Kino, they tried but a disagreement with Lynch over this release prevented that from happening. You can, however, download the commentary that Tim Lucas was going to provide for this release off of his website if you're so inclinded.
Obviously we'd all have loved to have seen Lost Highway get a 4k remaster and a loaded special edition release. That didn't happen, however, Kino has done right by the film and given one of Lynch's most chilling and visually impressive films a very strong North American high definition debut. This might be barebones, but the movie looks and sounds very good and the feature itself holds up remarkably well. Highly recommended.