1971 was a great year for the American road trip. Brock Yates and Dan Gurney successfully raced from New York to Los Angles in a day and a half, and cinema saw the release of three cult classic road movies: Duel, Vanishing Point, and Two Lane Blacktop.
Two Lane Blacktop stars James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as the Driver and the Mechanic, two unnamed nomads in a ’55 Chevy drag car roaming the heartland of America and subsisting on illegal race winnings. Warren Oats plays GTO, a motormouth highway drifter with shifting explanations about his past. Laurie Bird is a hitchhiker along for the ride as both cars decide to race to Washington, D.C. for pink slips.
It doesn’t have the contemporary staying power of Duel or Vanishing Point, but Two Lane Blacktop is one of those cult-classic films that anyone who loves cars must see. But I worry it may not live up to modern expectations for anyone looking to dive into this particular brand of gritty, existentialist early-70s cinema—there are huge stretches of the film where not much happens. To me, that starkness is what makes the movie great. But I’ve discovered an excellently edited cliff notes version on YouTube for anyone with six minutes to spare. Bonus: it’s synced up with Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days,“ and the combo is just perfect.