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Mystery Train (The Criterion Collection)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Aloof teenage Japanese tourists, a frazzled Italian widow, and a disgruntled British immigrant all converge in the city of dreams--which, in MYSTERY TRAIN, from Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Night on Earth), is Memphis. Made with its director's customary precision and wit, MYSTERY TRAIN is a triptych of stories that pay playful tribute to the home of Stax Records, Sun Studio, Graceland, Carl Perkins, and, of course, the King himself, who presides over the film like a spirit. MYSTERY TRAIN is one of Jarmusch's very best movies, a boozy and beautiful pilgrimage to an iconic American ghost town and a paean to the music it gave the world.

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Every Jim Jarmusch film involves a journey into a foreign culture. Mystery Train, in which three journeys intersect, marks one of his more diverting efforts. In the finest ("Far from Yokohama"), a Japanese couple makes a pilgrimage to Memphis. Playful Mitzuko (Youki Kudoh) worships Elvis Presley, while sad-faced Jun (Masotoshi Nagase) prefers Carl Perkins. They stay at a haunted hotel overseen by a sharp-dressed clerk (R&B wild man Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and a quirky bellboy (Spike Lee's brother, Cinqué) in a broken-down city that recalls the New York of Jarmusch's debut, Permanent Vacation: filled with rust, weeds--and character (Dead Man cinematographer Robby Müller finds the beauty in every blemish). In the following chapters ("The Ghost" and "Lost in Space"), two other foreigners converge at the same locale: Italian widow Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi, wife of Roberto Begnini), who drops by during a layover, and heartbroken Brit Johnny (the Clash's Joe Strummer), who seeks a hideout. If these sections are less engaging, Hawkins and Lee are consistently amusing ("You look like a damn mosquito-legged chimpanzee" the former quips at one point). Other highlights include Tom Noonan as a sleazy hustler, Steve Buscemi as Johnny's straight-arrow brother-in-law, Tom Waits as an unseen disc jockey, and a savory score from sax player John Lurie.

The supplements start with an audio-only Q&A, in which Jarmusch answers 35 questions from fans, including one about Hawkins, whose signature song figures prominently in Stranger Than Paradise, explaining that he cast him, in part, because he saw no profit from the use of "I Put a Spell on You." This essential release concludes with excerpts from a film about the late performer, a fine featurette on the locations, two photo galleries, and essays by critic Dennis Lim and Elvis biographer Peter Guralnik. --Kathleen C. Fennessy


Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Q&A with Jarmusch in which he responds to questions sent in by fans
  • Documentary on Mystery Train's locations and Memphis's musical history
  • On-set photos by Masayoshi Sukita, and behind-the-scenes photos
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by writers Peter Guralnick and Dennis Lim
  • Collectible poster

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Screamin Jay Hawkins, Nicoletta Braschi, Steve Buscemi, Joe Strummer
    • Directors: Jim Jarmusch
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: English
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: R (Restricted)
    • Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
    • DVD Release Date: June 15, 2010
    • Run Time: 110 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B003D3Y64W
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,022 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Mystery Train (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    41 of 49 people found the following review helpful By csk on April 22, 2000
    Format: DVD
    I recently got this DVD and was dismayed to find that the English subtitles were missing (as the last reviewer pointed out.) I just found a fix that may work for some people. The "Subtitles" screen lists only French and Spanish as choices. But the remote for my Toshiba 3109 player has a "Subtitles" button that can be used while the movie is playing. With "Mystery Train" this button brings up four choices: "1 Fre", "2 Spa", "3 Fre" and "4 Spa". The first two will bring up French or Spanish subtitles as expected. But choosing either "3 Fre" or "4 Spa" will cause English subtitles to appear for the Japanese portions of the film! So the disc is indeed bungled, but this workaround made it watchable for me. And yes, it's a great movie!
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    21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Cubist on June 11, 2010
    Format: DVD
    Mystery Train is a fascinating snapshot of Memphis through the eyes of foreigners and the disenfranchised. The stories in this film run the gamut from romantic to touching to amusing but all with a humanistic streak running through them. Jarmusch would follow this film with Night on Earth - Criterion Collection which would adhere to the same structure but on a much more ambitious level.

    In the way of special features, there is a "Q&A with Jim." As he has done for past Criterion editions of his films, Jarmusch answers questions submitted by fans in lieu of an audio commentary. They are by no means restricted to the film but the bulk of them do pertain to it. Jarmusch confirms that Tom Waits' D.J. heard in the film is in fact the character he played in Down by Law - Criterion Collection. He talks about how he worked with the Japanese actors and the origins of their segment title. He also talks about his favourite Elvis era and addresses the barren and bleak look of Memphis in the film.

    "I Put a Spell on Me" features excerpts from a 2001 documentary on Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Jarmusch is interviewed and talks about when he first heard Jay's signature song, "I Put a Spell on You," how he used it in Stranger Than Paradise - Criterion Collection and then cast him in Mystery Train. Jay talks about working on the film and shares some amusing anecdotes on this fantastic extra.

    "Memphis Tour" revisits many of the locations used in the film.
    Read more ›
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    6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on January 30, 2006
    Format: DVD
    A quirky minimalist movie by Jim Jarmusch that is well thought out and cleverly devised that will leave viewers either fascinated or cold. It takes place during a single night in Memphis, and revolves around three unconnected storylines: a Japanese couple on a "pilgrimage" to Elvis shrines, an Italian woman whose flight back to Rome has been delayed, and a trio of young sleazes who get drunk and shoot a liquor store owner. They all spend the night at a fleabag hotel (The Arcade, run by Screamin' Jay Hawkins!). Jarmusch's use of flashback, a la RASHOMON, is clever and inspired. But Jarmush also likes to use long takes of scenes in which virtually nothing happens, which can make the movie feel long and ponderous. It's still the best of his movies, though.
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    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 2001
    Format: VHS Tape
    What "Mystery Train" gives us a dandy, light slice of indie noir. Here, three tales in a broken-down hotel. One about an Italian widow. Second, about a corrupt British Elvis impersonator and his American girlfriend. And lastly, about two Japanese tourists.
    What makes "Mystery Train" so interesting and involving is the way the characters are portrayed and how they react to certain things. Example: The Italian widow speaking to the ghost of Elvis.
    But it's Jarmusch's directing that makes this quirky, funny, and touching, which should have won him an Oscar for "Best Independent Film of the Year." Sumptuous, funny, touching, and offbeat, it's a delight from start to finish.
    Rated R for language and some nudity.
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    7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bereft on April 27, 2002
    Format: DVD
    Jim Jarmusch hit the nail on the head with this film. I happened to come across it years ago while browsing in a video store. I was so captivated by it, I went out and rented another VCR so I could dub the copy of it on to a VHS tape. Perhaps that will shed some light on how good this movie is. Perhaps.
    I now have it on DVD and, since purchasing it, have watched it repeatedly. This movie sucks you in and never lets you go from the very opening shot. The cinematography, the dialogue, the direction...all are simply amazing. The humor too...it's a level of humor that is never loud or brash or "in your face." It's a witty sense of humor and it fits perfectly.
    Another thing that bears mentioning is the cast. The actors are amazing. Screamin' Jay, Joe Strummer, et al. All are just incredible.
    Definitely check this movie out. It has a very "Night on Earth" feel to it, if you've seen that movie. Basically four different story-lines, all inter-woven and inter-related, that sort of all come together in the end. Things happen from one point of you (i.e., the Japanese tourists hearing the gun shot while in the hotel room), then later you see what has happened from the other individual's point of view (i.e. the gun shot "victim"). Maybe that's done nothing but confused you, but take my word (for what it's worth) that it all comes together perfectly.
    I'm certain you will enjoy this one. Also, Tom Waits fans take note...you'll get to hear him in this flick. As an aside, I mentioned "Night on Earth"....if you like Tom Waits, get that movie as well.
    Enjoy kiddies.
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