Although author Barry Gifford had not been directly involved with the writing or production of Lynch's adaptation of his novella 'Wild at Heart', he liked the movie so much that he struck up a relationship with the filmmaker. They first collaborated on the 'Hotel Room' series and, when that failed, set to work on a new movie screenplay that would explore some of the same themes. Once Lynch encountered the phrase "lost highway" in Gifford's book 'Night People', those two words alone were enough to start his wheels spinning.
The Japanese Blu-ray's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer appears to be sourced from the MK2 master. The opening credits are annoyingly windowboxed with black bars on all four sides of the frame, after which the rest of the movie is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture is a little soft on the whole, with only fair fine object detail, but that's likely another consequence of the original photography. (Shooting in low light with anamorphic lenses isn't really conducive to sharp images.) Dark scenes can also be very grainy, which is again not unexpected. However, that grain comes across pretty badly here, with a texture that looks more like electronic video noise. Many dimly-lit scenes swarm with ugly noise, especially the first close-up shot of Bill Pullman after the opening credits. I believe that this could have been handled better without necessarily wiping it away with Digital Noise Reduction.
The Japanese Blu-ray's soundtrack is encoded in PCM 5.1 format. Although I've mentioned in previous reviews that David Lynch currently eschews surround sound in his movies, 'Lost Highway' predates that change in philosophy. As it was released to theaters in 1997, the film had a very aggressive 5.1 mix with active use of the surround channels for discrete effects, music and ambience. Thankfully, that's exactly what we get here, with no after-the-fact revisions. This is the original mix, and it sounds terrific.
Lost Highway gets a Blu-ray reissue from The Criterion Collection on a 50GB region A locked disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen, the film's proper theatrical aspect ratio, and taken from a new 4k digital restoration supervised and approved by David Lynch. As you'd expect, it looks very strong, the image is pristine and while it retains a properly filmic tone throughout, it show no print damage whatsoever. There's very strong depth, detail and texture here and the colors generally look excellent as well, though they do look cooler than they did on the recent Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. As to which color grading option looks better, that'll boil down to individual choice but obviously Lynch prefers the movie looking this way, so that's what Criterion went with, but there are spots where reds don't look like true reds and lean closer to a deep brown. Either way, the picture quality is, overall, excellent on this disc. There are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts to complain about and this is a very strong transfer. 2b1af7f3a8