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Mystery Train (1989)

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Three stories are connected by a Memphis hotel and the spirit of Elvis Presley.



1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jun (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Mitsuko (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Screamin' Jay Hawkins ...
Night Clerk (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Cinqué Lee ...
Bellboy (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Man in Station (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Sun Studio Guide (segment "Far from Yokohama")
William Hoch ...
Tourist Family (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Pat Hoch ...
Tourist Family (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Joshua Elvis Hoch ...
Tourist Family (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Reginald Freeman ...
Conductor (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Beverly Prye ...
Streetwalker (segment "Far from Yokohama")
Luisa (segment "A Ghost")
Dee Dee - Charlie's Sister (segment "A Ghost")
Newsvendor (segment "A Ghost")
Man in Arcade Diner (segment "A Ghost")


A Japanese couple obsessed with 1950s America goes to Memphis because the male half of the couple emulates Carl Perkins. Chance encounters link three different stories in the city, with the common thread being the seedy hotel where they are all staying. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






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Release Date:

17 November 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

One Night in Memphis  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$2,800,000 (estimated)


$367,879 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film contains some of the last known footage of Stax Records. See more »


Where Will parks his truck relative to Earl's Cadillac changes from when he enters the bar to when he leaves. See more »


Night Clerk: [both stare at a plum on the counter, neither saying a thing] I don't think you should eat that thing.
Bellboy: Yeah, you're probably right.
Night Clerk: You gonna eat it?
Bellboy: No, I'm not gonna eat that thing.
[at this, the night clerk casually reaches over and eats the plum in one bite]
Bellboy: Hey...you ate my plum!
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Sara See more »


Referenced in Fargo (1996) See more »


The Memphis Train
Written by Rufus Thomas, Bonny Rice and Willie Sparks
Performed by Rufus Thomas
See more »

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User Reviews

Jarmusch Delivers An Original
7 December 2000 | by (Salem, Oregon) – See all my reviews

Memphis is the setting, and the specter of Elvis pervades a trio of stories in `Mystery Train,' written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. The three episodes that make up the movie are told separately and in their entirety, though they happen simultaneously in time, and share nothing more than a common local which serves as the hub around which the stories revolve. And with them, Jarmusch does what he does best: he invites the audience in to share some time with the individuals who populate his landscape, as he places them under the microscope to study the minutiae of their lives. In his hands, the details of everyday existence become fresh and new, like the first time you see a new city or make the acquaintance of a total stranger who forever after becomes a part of your life. It's an intimate style of filmmaking, almost voyeuristic, wherein the camera becomes the eyes of the audience and makes the viewer more than a mere onlooker; it places you in the scene, which allows you to experience what the characters are experiencing, to live what they are living. When someone is walking down the street, you're on that street with them, feeling the pavement beneath your feet; in the train depot, you drink in the atmosphere, feeling the texture of the walls, of the aged wood of the benches, smelling the age-old scents of time that hang on the air. You're there with the young couple from Japan, in Memphis to see Sun Studios and Graceland; and with the young widow from Rome, passing through with the casket of her late husband awaiting transport at the airport; and with three young men who have too much to drink and within a few hours find out how quickly life can become so complicated. Jarmusch works with such precision that it makes everything that happens seem spontaneous; it's an innate sense of knowing what works, and how to make that necessary connection with the audience by making all that transpires real. He's a skilled craftsman who knows what he wants and exactly how to deliver it. He creates the proper atmosphere, then introduces you to the characters through which his story will be told. And once the stage is set, Jarmusch knows that `who' these people are and what makes them unique is as important as the story itself, for in a sense, the characters `are' the story. It's an examination of human nature; of traits and of how people function under certain circumstances. And through each character the viewer gets a different perspective on what is happening, along with some insight into how we all relate to one another in a given situation, from the mundane to the bizarre. To tell his tale, Jarmusch has assembled a talented, eclectic cast of actors, including Masatoshi Nagase (Jun) and the charismatic Youki Kudoh (Mitsuko), the couple from Japan with opposing perspectives of Memphis; Nicoletta Braschi (Luisa), the widow awaiting a flight back to Rome; Elizabeth Bracco (Dee Dee), a young woman whose life is in transition; Tom Noonan (Man in Diner), a man with a menacing presence and a strange tale to tell; Steve Buscemi (Charlie), a regular guy led astray by trusting indifference, along with Rick Aviles (Will Robinson) and Lowell Roberts (Lester); Stephen Jones, a dead-ringer for Elvis who is extremely effective here as his ghost; and the two whose characters are pivotal to the story, Screamin' Jay Hawkins (Hotel Night Clerk), and Cinque Lee (The Bellboy). And--heard, but not seen-- Tom Waits (Voice of the Radio DJ). Thoroughly engrossing and highly entertaining, `Mystery Train' is vintage Jarmusch; a director whose minimalist techniques and style make for a satisfying and rewarding movie-going experience. He will not dazzle you with ILM F/X or feed you endless lines of witty dialogue; instead, he gives you more: A film that is artistically and cleverly rendered, with an engaging story and characters that are `real.' An independent filmmaker who stays true to his personal `vision,' Jarmusch gives you that which is rarely found in Hollywood. A film that is truly original. I rate this one 8/10.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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