Mystery Train (1989)

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Released 21-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Happy Together
Trailer- Duel at Ichijoji Temple
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 105:41 (Case: 113)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jim Jarmusch
Madman Entertainment
Starring Masatoshi Nagase
Youki Kudoh
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Cinqué Lee
Rufus Thomas
Jodie Markell
William Hoch
Pat Hoch
Joshua Elvis Hoch
Reginald Freeman
Beverly Prye
Nicoletta Braschi
Elizabeth Bracco
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music John Lurie

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Mystery Train (1989) presents America through the eyes of three foreign characters and what they initially remark as a paradise turns into a place of ordinariness. Each character finds themselves in the run down Arcade hotel, with an unamused Night Clerk (Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and bored bellboy brilliantly played by Cinque Lee. The portmanteau film is made of three different narratives which all take place on the same night, in the same town, in the same hotel, are related by the Elvis Presley song "Blue Moon" and a gunshot.

"A Long Way From Yokohama",
The film opens with a train on its way to Memphis, Tennessee and two Japanese teenagers named Mitzuko (Youki Kudoh) and Jun (Masatoshi Nagaseare) who are infatuated with American retro culture. They wait impatiently to start their holy pilgrimage to the great land of America in search of Elvis, Graceland and the Sun recording studios. Mitzuko is fanatical about Elvis while Jun wants to immerse himself in Carl Perkins, an artist who he believes to be the true father of rock & roll. The couple have a romanticised vision of America but are faced with awkwardness and commerciality rather than the artistry they crave - to their surprise, they find their image of America is founded only on popular culture. As they spend the night in the Arcade Hotel, Jun is disheartened by the experience.

"The Ghost"
A young Italian widow named Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi) is escorting her husband's coffin back to Italy. She is forced to spend the night in Memphis after her plane is delayed. Tired and wanting to be left alone she is confronted by a seedy man in a diner (Tom Noonan) who tells her that the 'ghost' of Elvis haunts the people of Memphis. Luisa disregards the man and the story and finds herself at the run down Arcade hotel. She bumps into Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco), a chatty young woman who is unable to pay for a room. Luisa offers to share as she does not want to be alone and Dee Dee accepts. Dee Dee tells Luisa she has left her British husband named Elvis (the late Joe Strummer) and is unsure what she is going to do. Dee Dee eventually falls asleep and in the middle of the night Luisa sees and speaks to the ghost of Elvis Presley.

"Lost In Space"
Johnny aka Elvis (Strummer) has lost his job and his wife Dee Dee has left him. Intoxicated and feeling sorry for himself he begins to become a concern at the local bar. Johnny's friend Will Robinson (Rick Aviles) and brother-in-law Charlie (Steve Buscemi) try to take Johnny home but Johnny insists on going to a liquor store. In a moment of madness Johnny shoots the owner of the store with Charlie and Will looking on in horror. As the three are now wanted for murder they hide out at the motel and drink and talk about Elvis and the Lost in Space television show.

Mystery Train is the last in a loose trilogy by Jarmusch centred on America. The first was Stranger than Paradise (1984) and the second is Down by Law (1986). Mystery Train is a well made film. It is well paced and the script is very funny, but the beauty of the film is the duality between the actors and their onscreen characters. Jarmusch is a director noted for writing parts for specific actors and everyone is splendid and effortless in this film, particularly Strummer.

Mystery Train is an excellent film which is amusing, elegant and creates a sense of realism in what is a very strange environment.

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Transfer Quality


An excellent transfer is offered here, with excellent colour detail and only minimal grain. The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and it is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is relatively sharp and shadow detail is also quite good. The transfer is encoded at a high bit-rate of 8.50 Mbps and consequently there are no signs of MPEG compression artefacts. Overall the transfer is clear and pleasant to view. The only criticism is that the player generated English subtitle track is in bright yellow; I would have preferred the original subtitles on the print of the film when the characters speak Japanese and Italian. This subtitle track can be turned off but automatically accompanies the feature film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


As the film was originally recorded in mono, the 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is more then adequate to aid the film's presentation. Dialogue is clear and audible but unfortunately it is not well matched to the surround sound presence. The title derives from the Elvis Presley song of the same name as well as the original Junior Parker version. As mentioned "Blue Moon", also by Elvis Presley, is a main theme song of the film. Other songs include "Domino" by Roy Orbison, "Pain in my Heart" by Otis Redding and " The Memphis Train" by Rufus Thomas. John Lurie provides the well suited original score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction

Less is more on a Jarmusch DVD and the still menu is accompanied by a soundtrack underscore.

Theatrical Trailer (1.56)

Madman Propaganda

Happy Together and Duel at Ichijoji Temple

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.


An excellent film which is amusing, elegant and creates a sense of realism in what is a very strange environment. An excellent transfer, excellent colour detail and only minimal grain.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Friday, July 28, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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