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Lost Highway - Criterion Collection 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection // R // October 11, 2022
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted October 28, 2022 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:


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 When the guards come to check on him, they find that he isn't there but instead has been replaced by a younger man named Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) with a rather large wound on his head.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.


The Video:


Lost Highway gets a Blu-ray reissue from The Criterion Collection on a 50GB region A locked disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen, the film's proper theatrical aspect ratio, and taken from a new 4k digital restoration supervised and approved by David Lynch. As you'd expect, it looks very strong, the image is pristine and while it retains a properly filmic tone throughout, it show no print damage whatsoever. There's very strong depth, detail and texture here and the colors generally look excellent as well, though they do look cooler than they did on the recent Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. As to which color grading option looks better, that'll boil down to individual choice but obviously Lynch prefers the movie looking this way, so that's what Criterion went with, but there are spots where reds don't look like true reds and lean closer to a deep brown. Either way, the picture quality is, overall, excellent on this disc. There are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts to complain about and this is a very strong transfer.


The Audio:


Audio options are provided in English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo options with optional subtitles provided in English. Compared to the Kino Lorber disc, the 5.1 mix has better depth and range and a bit more power behind it when it comes to the effects and the score. The track is properly balanced throughout and free of any hiss or distortion. Dialogue is always easy to follow and understand. Rear channel activity helps to create a pretty immersive listening experience, with some moments of strong surround channel activity helping to pull us into the movie even more.


The Extras:


David Lynch, 1997 is an eleven minute archival interview with Lynch where he talks about where some of the ideas for the movie came from, how he and co-writer Barry Gifford hated each other's ideas when they first started collaborating on the script, coming up with some of the characters, the movie's connection to film noir, how Lynch's obsession with the O.J. Simpson trial influenced the movie, this thoughts on illness and balance, the difference between memories and the way things actually happened and his appreciation for the cast he got to work with on the movie.


The Making Of Lost Highway is a thirteen minute archival featurette where Lynch talks about how a friend named Toby got him into art when he learned that his father was a painter. Patricia Arquette, Robert Loggia and Bill Pullman all appear in this piece as well and we learn how he came to want to make movies, coming to make Lost Highway thoughts on the characters, how the actors felt about their respective roles, what it was like for them to work with Lynch, thoughts on the script and the story and more.


Next Door to Dark is a forty-four minute archival audio presentation where David Lynch and his co-author Kristine McKenna reading from a chapter of their 2018 book Room To Dream. It covers Lynch's early years as a filmmaker, some of the first projects that he was involved with, going on to write Lost Highway and what inspired him to do so, the sinister elements of the story, how calm it was on set, the director's need to get crazier and crazier elements out of a specific performance in the movie, notes on the characters and performers that worked on the picture and Barry Gifford's work on the movie.


Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch is a comprehensive eight-one minute documentary directed by Toby Keller and released in 1997 that starts off with some festival footage showcasing Lost Highway's premiere. Mary Sweeney, Barry Gifford, Deepak Nayar, Angelo Badalamenti, Jocelyn West, Jack Fisk, Bushnell Keeler, Peggy Reavy, Jack Nance, Jennifer Lynch, Mel Brooks, Patricia Arquette, Robert Blake, Dean Stockwell and, of course, David Lynch himself, among others, all pop here to offer their input on the man's work and what he's like to collaborate with as the documentary takes us through his career, starting with his various short films up to Lost Highway. It's quite interesting, and it's neat to see a copy of David Lapham's Stray Bullets show up in one shot. There are also fifteen minutes of outtakes from the documentary included here as well.


Finishing up the extras on the disc are a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options. Accompanying the disc inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase is a full color insert booklet featuring excerpts from an archival interview with David Lynch conducted by filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley's for his book, Lynch On Lynch, as well as cast and crew credits and details on the presentation and restoration for the feature.


Overall:


Lost Highway remains a wild ride, just as intense now as it was when it was released twenty0-five years ago. The film sees Lynch at the top of his game and aided by an excellent cast and talented crew. Criterion's Blu-ray edition gives the film an excellent presentation and loads the disc up with some really interesting supplements. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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