Synopsis by Mark Deming
Rock legend Neil Young directed this bizarre bit of sci-fi-accented satire under his nom de cinema Bernard Shakey, as well as starring as Lionel Switch, an amiable but half-bright auto mechanic who has a furious crush on Charlotte Goodnight (Charlotte Stewart), a waitress at the diner next door to his garage. Lionel dreams of becoming a professional musician, and idolizes Frankie Fontaine (also played by Young), a particularly sleazy lounge singer. One day, to Lionel's astonishment, Fontaine rolls up to his garage in a limousine, and Lionel has the spine-tingling honor of working on his car. Meanwhile, suspicious-looking bad guy Otto Quartz (Dean Stockwell) is scheming to buy the diner, which has something to do with a plot against the rattletrap nuclear power plant just down the road (the plant's maintenance staff is played by members of the pioneering new wave band Devo). Along the way, we're also treated to Lionel hanging out with his equally slow-witted pal Fred (Russ Tamblyn), enjoy the residents of the desert community performing an enthusiastic rendition of the old Kingston Trio chestnut "Worried Man," and witness Lionel and Devo jamming on a long and wildly discordant version of "Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)." Financed by Young out of his pocket, and featuring Stockwell, Tamblyn, Dennis Hopper, and Sally Kirkland several years before they enjoyed critical rediscovery, Human Highway received a mostly puzzled reaction from audiences during its handful of theatrical engagements. It went largely unseen until it was released on home video more than ten years after it was completed (with the box featuring a quote from one of Young's associates: "This is so bad, it's going to be huge!").
fantasy, nuclear-holocaust, reality, highway, youth