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on 2 May 2017
Love how characters are accurately depicted, the overall decadence of settings and the way these three plots are loosely related. The unusual development of the relationships between the people and their stories are so incredibly real that make up the climax to the absurdist fiction, grotesquely soaked in Elvis' tunes.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 22 March 2003
I don't think that Jim Jarmusch has ever made a bad film, sure Dead Man in the wrong mood is a bit dull & Year of the Horse is only appealing if you find epic guitar solos played by grizzled 50somethings appealing, but he more than warrants his place in US cinema.
Mystery Train was the follow-up to his early works, the student feature Permanent Vacation (once shown on Channel4, who like to show repeats of Graham Norton now instead), 1984's debut proper Stranger Than Paradise & its follow-up Down By Law- which was another joy featuring Tom Waits & Roberto Benigni.
Mystery Train is a film that few appear to be aware of- facets such as it's structure, the quirky fools who occur, the ghost of Elvis & its hotel locale will be familiar to viewers of Tarantino's True Romance and (especially) Pulp Fiction. Here we get three stories set in Memphis, the film beginning with the arrival of a train & ending with its departing to the classic Elvis song of the same name. Story #1 sees Jarmusch employ his love of world cinema- looking at Memphis through Foreign eyes, we follow a Japanese couple (Masatoshi Nagase & Youki Kudoh) as they come to the home of Elvis. They visit Sun studios, argue about who was more important: Elvis or Carl Perkins, smoke cigarettes & eventually arrive at a sleazy downtown hotel (where the night clerk & bellboy are Screamin' Jay Hawkins & Cinque Lee- who connect the stories). They then settle in for the night, an almost surreal scene occurs where Nagase puts on his girlfiend's make-up. & later, a shot rings out...
The second story is like an inversion of Billy Wilder's Avanti, Benigni's wife Nicoletta Braschi plays an Italian window transporting her husband's body home- having to stay for a night in Memphis, she is grifted for a shaggy dog story about Elvis as a ghost-hitchhiker, prior to coming across a slighted girlfriend of a character from the third story- they both decide to split a room in the same downtown hotel, where the ghost of Elvis appears and a shot rings out...
Finally the third story sees the wonderful Steve Buscemi go to the aid of his sister's jilted boyfriend- played by the late, great Joe Strummer. There are some knowing references to Strummer's Elvis hairstyle & him being a Brit & along with Rufus Thomas, the three go on an adventure that leads to armed robbery, that leads to a hotel where a shot will ring out & the stories all converge...
Mystery Train is an excellent film, another of Jarmusch's great films fit to stand next to his early work & such later joys as Night on Earth, Dead Man & Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. Added to that, the soundtrack has a great version of 'I've Put a Spell On You' by Tom Waits. There's a difference between Tarantino & Jarmusch- the former is just an imitator, the latter is a pioneer. This film demonstrates why...
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 4 March 2005
Mystery Train comes directly after Down By Law, in Jarmusch's filmography, and has a similar neo-beatnik vibe, albeit that it's also very different in many ways: both find a kind of boho-beauty amidst urban squalor, whilst Down By Law is filmed in black and white, and Mystery Train in colour, for example.

Like many of his films, especially the early ones, the protagonists are more often than not 'strangers in a strange land'. He also often has people thrown together, as in Down by Law or Stranger Than Paradise, under slightly unusual but generally 'low-rent' circumstances. This film sees the characters' stories running parallel, rather than actually colliding, an idea he explores further in his next film, Night On Earth

In Mystery Train we have three distinct segments, all set in Memphis, and all converging on a flea-bitten hotel in what looks like a bad neighbourhood. Screamin' Jay Hawkins is great as huge and wild-eyed yet rather dour night-clerk, all smartly dressed in bright red, and Cinqué Lee (younger and less famous brother of Spike Lee) is also great as the nervously comedic bellhop:

'Far From Yokohama' finds two rockabilly type Japanese teenagers on a pilgrimage to the land of their heroes (arguing over whether Elvis Presley or Carl Perkins is the King of Rock'n'Roll!); 'A Ghost' follows an Italian widow en-route home to Italy, who's spooked a couple of times, unpleasantly by a local sleaze-bag, and then more pleasantly by the ghost of Elvis; 'Lost In Space' follow the misadventures of an unemployed British rocker, played by Joe Strummer, and his buddies.

All three stories are linked, most obviously by the common location - the hotel they all pass through - but also by a few key events or themes that are unfolding in parallel, such as the radio playing in the hotel (Tom Waits is the DJ!), which plays the song Blue Moon (as performed by Elvis) at the convergence points of the various low key dramas, plus a slightly more dramatic element I won't give away, as it's a bit too close too being a spoiler if I do.

Despite the downbeat characters and locations the film is, just as are Stranger Than Paradise and Down By Law, enchantingly beautiful, both in mood and how they're filmed. Jarmusch benefits massively from the fabulous camera skills of Wim Wender's cameraman Robby Müller. There's something almost magical and dreamlike about these movies, to me at least. I love it! Perhaps you will too?
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on 10 August 2008
I'm not much of a fan of Jim Jarmusch, but 1989's Mystery Train (his fourth film and first one in color) is quite engaging in they way it tells three minimalist stories occurring in what is presumably the seedier side of Memphis. An Elvis motif runs through all the episodes, which are set mostly in a rundown hotel during one night (Blues legend Screaming Jay Hawkins plays the clerk). In the first episode, a young Japanese couple arrives in the town which gave birth to rock and roll (she is quirky, he is impassive; she loves Elvis, he Carl Perkins). In the second episode, an Italian woman (Niccoleta Braschi) whose husband has just died has to spend a night in Memphis. She shares the room in the hotel with a talkative American woman (Elizabeth Bracco). During the night, she imagines or sees the ghost of Elvis. In the third episode, a British guy who is called Elvis by his lowlife friends, and who has just broken with the woman of the second episode (and is played by the late Clash guitarist Joe Strummer) more or less accidentally shots a liquor shop seller, and has to take refuge in the hotel, along with his brother in law (played by Steve Buscemi). A gunshot heard during the night sort of links the three episodes. Nothing much happens, but Jarmusch shows his love with American pop culture and his fine ear for the way the American working class talk everyday.
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on 6 January 2004
From the second Amtracks' Texas Eagle comes curving along the line, to the sound of perhaps "The King" greatest Sun City recording, you know your in for real slice authentic Americana. What you don't expect is just how darkley funny and absoubing haunting this "Mystery" journey into Americas' deep south underbelly actually is. An unwelcoming neon lit,run down Hotel in an equally seedy Memphis suburb brings together the lives and stories of two Japanesse tourists, hoplessly out of place, Sreaming Jay Hawkins, Joe Strummer and the always brilliant Steve Buscemi to wonderful effect. Highly recommended.
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on 14 August 2015
Maybe 4 stars is too much but the athmosphere and the refreshing style of Jarmush, still you g at that time, make it a unique film. The idea of setting it in a hotel at the edge of town, a not so glamorous yet magic place, and all the silences, suspension and unpredictable scenes, make it an enjoyable film, that you follow not for his rhythm or because it tries to entertain you, but because it constantly feels like you are witnessing someone else world that you don't really get so you want to get more and see where it is going to take you to.
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At present Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 cult classic is only available on BLU RAY in the States (boasting a top notch transfer too). But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers…

The US issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Until such time as someone else gives “Mystery Train” a REGION B and C release – check your ‘BLU RAY’ player has the capacity to play REGION A – before you buy the pricey Criterion issue…
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on 15 September 2007
This is a perfect film. Darkly funny, great direction, understated, wonderful lighting, sublime music, excellent performances. And the Japanese and Italian dialogue IS subtitled. Ignore the reviewer who claimed the DVD does not have subtitles in English. He also said he had not bought it, so how can we trust the reviewer's judgment? Go buy, you'll not regret it.
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on 10 October 2014
Be careful - we returned this as the small print at the end mentions that it's the French version and with French subtitles. Have given it 5 stars as it's not their fault - Amazon should have made it cleare especially as the cover is all in English
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on 10 October 2013
The film is as wonderful as I remembered and worth the price of the VHS for Screaming Jay Hawkins' performance alone. My only minor gripe is that the quality of the VHS picture isn't perfect. The original film was grainy, like Stranger Than Paradise, but the tape seems like it might have been played a few times on different machines.
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