Color, 1988, 90 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Starring Theresa Russell, Gary Oldman, Colleen Camp, Sandra Bernhard, Seymour Cassel, Christopher Lloyd
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Director Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don't Look Now) was starting to fade past his glory days as an influential maverick and critical darling when he took on the task of making Track 29 for George Harrison's HandMade Films. Roeg's first film in two years following the underseen Castaway, this was adapted by British TV giant Dennis Potter (Pennies from Heaven, The Singing Detective) from his 1974 TV play, Schoedipus (which featured a young Tim Curry and Bob Hoskins), itself a variation on the invading stranger formula he had famously perfected in the controversial Brimstone and Treacle. The resulting film (with a highly unexpected cast) proved to be baffling for the majority of moviegoers and split critics down the middle during its brief theatrical run.
Stuck in a neglected marriage to a model train-obsessed and secretly kinky surgeon Henry (Lloyd), Linda (Russell) spends her time hanging out at the local burger joint, doing aerobics, and confiding in her best friend and fellow exerciser, Arlanda (Camp). One day the mysterious Martin (Oldman) materializes into her life under seemingly supernatural circumstances and suggests he's the child Linda gave up for adoption years ago following a sexual assault at a carnival (by someone who was a dead ringer for Martin). However, the relationship between Linda and Martin takes some very strange turns as their power dynamic becomes hostile, parasitic, and possibly sexual as Linda heads to a fate that will change her path forever.
Though designed as another showcase for Russell, Roeg's wife at the time in the fifth of six roles for him, Track 29 ultimately ended up earning most public attention for the showy presence of Oldman, who had just caused a major splash with the releases of Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears. He's really something to behold here in the wild man mode he'd explore later in his Luc Besson films, for example, and the whole film has an unforgettable, off-kilter atmosphere (including Sandra Bernhard in a crazy extended cameo as Lloyd's nurse) that manages to be purely Roeg and Potter at the same time.
Initially released on VHS by Cannon Video, Track 29 has flown around under the radar on home video ever since including a halfhearted DVD release from Image Entertainment in 2012 (with a particularly hideous cover). Fortunately Indicator comes to the rescue with the first good-looking release of the film ever on home video; it's a real treat to finally see this looking clear, pin sharp, and suitably atmospheric. The LPCM English stereo audio (with optional English SDH subtitles) is also in great shape.
Additional audio options include an isolated music and effects track (the only way to hear Stanley Myers' spare but interesting score by itself) and "The NFT Interview with Nicolas Roeg" from 1994 at London’s National Film Theatre, which clocks in at 68 minutes and features the late director chatting about his career starting off with his first solo venture, Walkabout, and then bouncing around through everything from Performance to his cable TV work with all of the distribution and financing ups and downs along the way. A new audio commentary by filmmaker and film historian Jim Hemphill is a useful and perceptive guide to this film and Roeg's cinema in general including his unorthodox approach to time and editing, some of his unrealized projects over the years, the alterations to Potter's script, and the many seemingly contradictory or perplexing aspects of the story that seem to defy interpretation. Camp appears for the interview featurette "Postcards from Cape Fear" (17m9s) about the other two films she passed over for this one and Illegally Yours, the literally turbulent way she entered the film, and her memories of working with Roeg. "On the Right Track" (10m) with frequent Roeg editor Tony Lawson discussing the relaxed regulations that led to the creation of more "not entirely soundproof" soundstages to use so that the entire production would have more leeway to execute a wide variety of scenes for him to stitch together, with Roeg leaving him to his own devices during the rough cut phase. Costume designer Shuna Harwood appears next in "An Air of Mystery" (5m55s) for a brief discussion of working on Roeg's "brilliant but incomprehensible" productions, and finally sound mixer David Stephenson discusses his process in "Buzz and Gossip" (14m54s) including Roeg's personality on the set and his love of film-related chatter. Also included are an image gallery of stills and promotional art and the theatrical trailer (in SD). The limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray also comes with another hefty, essential insert booklet including new liner notes by Danny Leigh, written archival recollections by Potter and Russell, and sample critical responses.
Reviewed on May 18,