Track 29 - Track 29(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse Films - 2019]
Part American satire, part twisted modern fairy tale, and part building psycho drama- Track 29 was the 1988 pairing of two of Britain’s great & creative figures of the large & small screen- film director Nicolas Roeg (Performance, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth), and TV screenwriter Denis Potter( The Singing Detective, Pennies From Heaven, Lipstick On Your Collar). Here From Powerhouse is a much deserved Blu Ray reissue of this darkly quirky & distinctive 1980’s picture- offering a nice new print, a new commentary track, and a handful of extras.
Track 29 is set in small town USA- where the lead characters are middle-class husband & wife- Henry(Christopher Lloyd), and Linda( Teresa Russell). Henry is a model train obsessed geriatric physician - whose converted most of the second floor of their house into a train set up. Linda is a bored & frustrated housewife who spends much of her time either doing workouts with her friend, and spending time with her collection of dolls. The pair’s marriage is very much troubled- with each day Henry going off to work at the local hospital, as Linda tries to address her concerns. Into this set-up comes decidedly unpredictable young Englishman Martin( Gary Oldman)- who may, may not be Linda’s child from when she was raped as a teen at the local fair.
From the outset, the film is taking gentle swipes at American culture- with the mostly mindless TV shows constantly playing in the background, Fast food & how it seems to outsiders, and general small-town American clichés. Oldman is inspired in the role as Martin- as he shifts from slightly eccentric, but well-spoken brit, onto an anarchic child-like figure, through to very unbalanced & unpredictable creep. Russell is very effective as middle age small town girl, pining for her lost youth & purpose. And as usual, Lloyd plays well a slightly bumbling & quirky character. The whole film nicely builds in both its tension, dark humor, and lightly mock tone- all moving towards an effective finale that cleverly blends to shock, brutality, and campy showiness.
With Potter been known for his work on the small screen you may imagine that the feel & tone of the film would be location set & dialogue heavy- and to an extent this is the case, with a lot of the plot taking place in the couples house, or the hospital. Though we do get some effective set pieces/ effect scenes along the way - like the recreation of the fair, and Linda lulling in bed as the sparks from the bumpers cars spray on her. Full size train & trucks crashing into the pair’s house, train destruction which in some scenes leads to then bleed in a nicely surreal manner. On the whole Track 29 is a distinctive & darkly entertaining film which I got a lot out of- if I could criticize one thing it would be the relatively early reveal/ plot twist, which I think might have worked better if they sat on it for a tad longer.
Moving onto this new Blu Ray release from Powerhouse films- and we get a nice crisp, and clean print- which nicely makes the more surreal & dream-like elements pop, and works well on finding wonder in the more mundane moments too. Extras wise we a commentary track from filmmaker and historian Jim Hemphil- this is wide-ranging & informative track, which sees him discussing the pairing of Potter & Roeg, the different takes/meaning on the films key twist/ reveal, detailed actors bios, discussing of key scenes meaning & more- at times he does come off a little dry & humour-less, but there’s no doubt he’s put a lot of time, research, and thought into his track.
Next, we get a series of new stand-alone interviews- these each last between six & eighteen minutes apiece. First there is an interview with Colleen Camp, who played Linda’s best friend & gym buddy- she discusses how she first got offered the film, which happened around the time she was also offered a role in long-running cult TV comedy Cheers. Going to meet Roeg for addition, how focused Oldman was on set, and general memories of the production. Next, there’s an interview with Tony Lawson- who was the films editor & long term collaborator with Roeg. Then there’s one with costume designer Shuna Harwood, one with sound designer David Stephenson. We get an audio-only interview with Roeg- this is from 1994, and last just over an hour & sees him discussing this film & his wider career. We get isolated music & effects tracks, promotional gallery, original trailer, and the finished release comes with a thirty-six-page inlay booklet featuring a selection of new essays about the film.
It’s fair to say that Track 29 has aged a lot better than many films from the 1980’s- and really doesn’t feel at all dated- still having a nice level of impact in its blend of satire, dark humor, and building tension/ malevolence. Well done to Powerhouse for once again shining a light on another very distinctive & original film- which really stands up with the best work from both Roeg & Potter