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Mystery Train (The Criterion Collection) (1989)

Screamin Jay Hawkins , Nicoletta Braschi , Jim Jarmusch  |  R |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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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.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • DVD Release Date: June 15, 2010
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003D3Y64W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,326 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mystery Train (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

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

  • 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.

    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

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
    By Cubist
    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.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Cool July 15, 2013
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    I really like this movie and i feel the product was very satisfying to me because i love criterion thanks again!
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    5.0 out of 5 stars Fun movie May 2, 2014
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    I got the movie in a timely fashion. It was in great condition and the movie was as enjoyable as I remember it. The only thing missing was the liner notes.
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    5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Early Dose of Jarmusch November 22, 2013
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    I saw this years ago when it was in theaters and I instantly started my life long Jarmusch fandom. The cast is eclectic, the humor is often dry and for me, there are STILL a number of lough-out-loud moments in this film. I was so happy to see it was out on Blu-ray that I had to update my collection with it. I mean with a cast including... Joe Strummer, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Rick Aviles, Cinqué Lee (brother of Spike), Elizabeth Bracco, Nicoletta Brachi (often seen in her husband Roberto Benigni's movies and along with him in another Jarmusch flick, Down By Law just 3 years earlier also with Waits), and others, it gets an interesting jump start before the first scene (which is pretty quirky-funny from that point on). I love Jarmusch's work and this started it all for me.
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    4.0 out of 5 stars One of Jim's best August 6, 2013
    By M. Gibb
    Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
    A slow burner for sure but marvellous to look at. Quite the experience just to soak into this film. Top notch transfer and supplements.
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    1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric June 19, 2012
    I can't give a plot summary except to say there are 3 acts (or mini-films) which happen simultaneously one night in Memphis in 1988. These are just random odd people that make you curious about their past and future. If you like subtle slow paced character studies this is right up your alley.
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    1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    In MYSTERY TRAIN (1989), writer/director Jim Jarmusch ties three separate stories together using a run-down Memphis motel and an Elvis song on the radio (his SUN Records slow ballad, "Blue Moon"). Night manager of the hostel where everything converges is Screamin' Jay Hawkins, of "I Put a Spell on You" fame. This song was integral to an earlier Jarmusch feature (and short) called STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984). (Hawkins BTW does a fine job here.)

    First of the trio is two youngsters from Japan who make a Memphis pilgramage to visit the home and environs of Elvis Presley. The seedy part of town where they bed down for the night may in hindsight come as a culture shock, but these two are so "into" the experience of the moment, they only spend a brief time discussing the contrast to Yokohama. Her devotion to the King and his contrary preference for Carl Perkins, plus her sweet nature and his dour one would seemingly be incompatible, yet they're very much in love with each other and this American adventure. The sound of a pistol shot is the only actual link to the other stories.

    Next is an Italian widow who's just passing through on her way to Rome; her husband's casketed body awaits at the airport. She meets a chatty NJ gal who's just left her boyfriend and has nowhere to go. They spend the night at Screamin' Jay's motel, where in the small hours the ghost of Elvis appears to the widow. The two also hear that gunshot.

    The final segment is darkest yet most comic of all. The jilted boyfriend of the previous vignette robs a liquor store and accidentally shoots a clerk.
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    0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Another great Jim Jarmusch film on Criterion December 26, 2010
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.

    Mystery Train is the fourth film directed by Jim Jarmusch. It is quite a good film and depicts tourists visiting Memphis, Tennessee. The main two are a Japanese couple who are planning to visit Elvis Presley's home, (hence the film's title) One thing I like about the film is that the Japanese couple speaks their own language when talking to each other, making it more realistic. The other two people in the film are an Italian widow taking her dead husband back home, and a British man.

    This is the fourth release and fifth film by Jim Jarmusch that Criterion Collection has released and I would love to see more.

    This supplements include audio of Jim Jarmusch answering questions asked to him on Criterion's website, (Jarmusch doesn't do commentaries as he does not like watching the film's he's made after finishing them), Production photos, a documentary on the filming locations, and Memphis, and scenes from a documentary on one of the film's actors Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Gift
    for my 30 something daughter - it was an item rated "high priority" on her holiday wish list. She is a big movie fan.
    Published 20 months ago by Brigid A Kehoe
    3.0 out of 5 stars Acquired taste . . .
    Fans of Jarmusch's films will no doubt like this movie. However, for the uninitiated - like me - the looooong scenes, set-ups, and grand pauses were hard to sit through. Read more
    Published on June 9, 2012 by Mark S. Crawford
    5.0 out of 5 stars Danger Will Robinson!!! Elvis has left the building....
    Great film! Three slightly interlocked stories that have nothing to do with anything and everything to do with Elvis--or maybe not--anyway, Memphis is the star of this film and... Read more
    Published on May 1, 2012 by Dr. Morbius
    5.0 out of 5 stars I hardly ever watch a movie twice, never mind purchase one
    This is an exception. I bought it on VHS, then DVD, and now the Blu-Ray special release. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack on CD. Read more
    Published on September 12, 2011 by Boney Gumbo Jefferson
    4.0 out of 5 stars Weaker than Jarmusch's earlier efforts, but a superb leap into colour
    Released in 1989, MYSTERY TRAIN was Jim Jarmusch's third film. The film consists of three independent but interlocking vignettes which take place in a Memphis hotel run by... Read more
    Published on December 20, 2010 by Christopher Culver
    5.0 out of 5 stars Rudy can't fail
    Come on, Jim Jarmusch, Screamin'Jay, Joe Strummer, Tom Waits AND the ghost of Elvis? Need I say more? This film is wonderful, it is perfect, a must see.
    Published on September 28, 2010 by Julie Taron
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