He even accepts the slightly dubious offer of help (and hard-boiled eggs) from his opponents when they claim he has engine trouble. The Girl rides with him for a while too, but the sad sack proves to be a poor match for her. In a movie notable for characters of few words, GTO is the only one most people are likely to relate to—a man on the run from his own wrecked life.
In an era dominated by digital filmmaking, it’s worth noting that Two-Lane Blacktop was shot in a unique format called Techniscope. In this format, the standard four-perforation 35mm frame is reduced to two perforations. This cuts the amount of film needed for the shoot literally in half. It also creates an aspect ratio roughly equivalent to that of anamorphic widescreen, while avoiding the use of anamorphic lenses. Criterion’s Blu-ray edition did not use the original two-perforation negative, but rather a four-perforation interpositive. Director Monte Hellman supervised the transfer, which presents a clean (if not quite completely spotless) image.
Much of the film takes place at night and none of it was really designed to show off flashy colors or glorious landscapes (despite its picturesque Southwestern setting). Still, the commonplace was well captured by the cinematography of Jack Deerson. The transfer seems to offer an accurate presentation of this deliberately bland, drab vision. It looks like a well-photographed documentary, with great detail evident in the actor’s faces in particular. Sharpness is never lacking, the level of visible grain is befitting for a film of this age, and black levels (essential for the night driving scenes) are deep.
Audio is presented in its original 1.0 mono as well as a director-approved 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix. The best thing that can be said about the sonic presentation of this meditative film is that when it’s supposed to be quiet, it is. When those rumbling engines need to be heard, they are. I say go for the mono, if for no other reason than authenticity (it’s how it was originally intended). But the surround mix doesn’t go overboard as it opens the suitably modest sound design up a bit.