Robert Blake did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the Mystery Man in Lost Highway.
One of the elements that does stand out extremely well is the performance of Robert Blake. Blake who started his career with the Little Rascals and ended, at least so far, it with this film, and I won't get into any other details involving Blake since it has nothing to do with the quality of this performance. Blake plays a man simply billed as the Mystery Man who has a few sparse appearances throughout the film, often only appearing for a quick glimpse. Blake apparently came up with the appearance of the character himself which is pretty simple in that he just wears a very dark suit and some fairly slight power on his face. That's all that's there in terms of the makeup the rest is up to Blake in the creation of this man who may be a serial killer with many tricks up his sleeve, the devil or a figment of imagination. We are never told what the Mystery Man is exactly you just know that he is one man(?) that spells some sort of doom for you if you are unfortunate enough to have a meeting with him.
Robert Blake's performance is technically quite simple since we don't learn about the Mystery Man and obviously he does not have any sort of character arc. He just appears and Blake's performance is all about the visceral impact that it has. Blake's whole performance is one horrible off putting oddity. The way Blake speaks is this not quite monotone manner. There is a certain pleasantness almost to it yet that does not make it any more pleasant. Blake manages to create a terrifying voice that is not deep or monstrous in anyway but rather so chilling in its simplicity. When, late in the film, Blake allows the Mystery Man's voice to become slightly agitated it is incredibly harrowing as Blake is creepy enough in the normal manner of speaking but any change whatsoever is only make him even more unnerving. Blake's does some exceptional work he as he manages to make a fairly quiet voice message on a phone something that comes off as quite terrifying.
Blake's more physical manner does not help things as he walks along in a modest step very much seeming as though the Mystery Man does not need to be in a rush to get anywhere. The whole universe seems as though it will wait for him, he does not need to be in a hurry. In one of Blake's longer scenes he speaks to the musician (Bill Pullman). Blake is brilliant in the scene as his whole approach with the Mystery Man is that he completely knows the musician, and even gives a very big smile a smile that might have been disarming enough if it were not the way Blake does it. When Blake speaks and looks at Pullman's character Blake makes it as
though the Mystery Man is looking right through the man and directly
into his soul. Blake again technically does so little in terms of his actions yet is absurdly effective in the manner in which he does this seemingly slight actions. There really is not an obvious attempt to be scary yet Blake unquestionably is.
Technically when you get right down to it Blake has one important challenge to meet which is to be horrifying well he's that, and manages to create an unforgettable cinematic horror with his performance. Blake is able to personify an existential dread with his performance and this is a rather extraordinary performance from him. This is a performance that you feel throughout the film as Blake manages to keep you on edge as he makes it something to be feared whenever he may show his face again. Blake and the film never do tell you who this guy is and even the clues to what he might be are fairly thin. None of that matters though as the horror only grows since you are never fully aware of what the Mystery Man is or even what exactly he wants he is simply a sinister force that seems completely unstoppable which Blake brings to life so effectively. This is a fantastic performance by Robert Blake and shows exactly what a performance can do even with very minimal writing and screen time to support it.