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|“||In the East, the Far East, when a person is sentenced to death, they're sent to a place where they can't escape, never knowing when an executioner may step up behind them, and fire a bullet into the back of their head.||„|
|~ The Mystery Man reminding Pete of Fred.|
|“|| Fred Madison: Where's Alice?|
Mystery Man: Alice who? Her name is Renee. If she's told you her name is Alice, she's lying.
Mystery Man: And your name?! What the fuck is your name?!
|~ The Mystery Man angrily taunting Fred.|
The Mystery Man is the overarching main antagonist of the David Lynch film Lost Highway. He is an ominous, specter-like figure who stalk and terrorizes protagonists Fred Madison and Pete Dayton, and is the only character in the film who knows that the two are actually each other's dopplegangers.
He is portrayed by actor Robert Blake.
As his moniker suggests, the Mystery Man is a total enigma; neither his real identity nor his true nature are ever revealed, and it is left ambiguous whether he is actually real, or simply a figment of Fred/Pete's imagination. His sole aim seems to be to sow seeds of fear, suspicion and violence in people's minds, and as such he stalks and terrorizes them until they break under the pressure and destroy themselves.
In Lost Highway
The Mystery Man first appears at a party in Los Angeles, where he approaches musician Fred Madison and claims to have met him at his house. When Fred says he doesn't remember, the Mystery Man says that he is in fact in Fred's house at that very moment, and proves it by having Fred call his house, where the Mystery Man's voice answers the phone. When an alarmed Fred asks him how he performed such a feat, the Mystery Man's voice on the other end of the line laughs diabolically. The Mystery Man then says it was a pleasure to meet Fred, and walks away.
Fred soon begins to recieve a series of videotapes taken outside, and eventually inside of, his house. The final tape shows Fred murdering his wife Renee, for which Fred is imprisoned and sentenced to death. One night in prison, Fred transforms into auto mechanic Pete Dayton, and the baffled authorities release him.
Pete soon becomes involved with a woman named Alice, incurring the wrath of her lover and pimp, a gangster named Mr. Eddy. One night, Mr. Eddy calls Pete to intimidate him, and gives the phone to the Mystery Man, who terrifies him with a story about hunting accused criminals "in the East" and keeping them living in fear for years, never knowing when the fatal blow is coming. He then hangs up the phone, leaving Pete fearing for his life.
Pete and Alice eventually go on the run, and stop in the desert to make love. Afterward, Pete turns back into Fred, who goes looking for Alice, but finds the Mystery Man holding a camcorder; he was the one responsible for the videotapes. He advances on Fred, who flees in his car. Fred drives to the Lost Highway hotel, where he finds Alice having sex with Mr. Eddy, and kidnaps him; as he drives away witrh his captive, the Mystery Man peers out the window of the hotel room. He joins Fred and Mr. Eddy in the desert, and hands Fred a gun he uses to kill Mr. Eddy. He then disappears as Fred flees from the police, simultaneously going through another metamorphasis.
Not much is known of the Mystery Man but it is presumed that he is inhuman, judging by his body language and interaction. Despite tormenting both Fred and Pete gleefully (starting from Fred's first encounter with him). The Mystery Man seems to be doing so as he treats it like his own duty to break both Pete and Fred and he is possibly a representation of both their inner demons. However, it seems that he doesn't happily pick his targets to torment, as he said that "it's not his custom to go where he is not wanted."
- During the party scene, actor Robert Blake who plays the Mystery Man never blinked nor broke eye contact with Bill Pulman who plays Fred and everything in that scene is filmed at one take.
- The Mystery Man is Robert Blake's last film role.
- The Mystery Man may be a representation of Fred's own inner demons.