Cine Outsider header
front page    disc reviews    film reviews    articles    interviews  
What lies beneath
A US region 1 / UK region 2 DVD review and comparison of BLUE VELVET by Slarek
 

There are some major spoilers towards the end of this review,
so proceed with caution if you don't know the film

 

"I'll take you straight to hell, fucker!"
Frank Booth

 

I remember clearly my first viewing of David Lynch's Blue Velvet. It was at the Lumiere Cinema in St. Martin's Lane in London. It had only been showing for a week or so, and a close friend and I made a special trip to the capital in order to see the latest work from the man who had given us the mind-bending Eraserhead, the deeply moving The Elephant Man, and the wonderfully non-formulaic and visually splendiferous Dune. Advance word on this one was intruguing, to say the least – a detailed article in Time Out suggested that this was a darkly troubling work whose attitude to women was likely to cause some upset, but that it was nonetheless too powerful, too imaginative to dismiss. The Lumiere screening played to a full house and both my friend and I both emerged from the experience with mixed emotions. In a nearby pub afterwards, we tried to work out whether we had watched a bold experiment with moments of greatness, or a visionary work of considerable brilliance. The spectacular artificiality of the ending in particular had left me a little bewildered. I pondered on what I had seen for several weeks, unable to shift it from my mind. Then I saw it again and the confusion was gone. Everything now seemed to make perfect sense, and I now knew exactly what I had seen: a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool modern masterpiece. Twenty years and a great many viewings later, I've not changed that view and if anything have become more convinced of its validity. Lynch has made great movies since, had us all eating cherry pie and drinking damned fine coffee with Twin Peaks, but this remains probably his most perfectly realised work, and one that is touched throughout with genius.

A little bit of plot for newcomers. On his way back from visiting his father in hospital, young Jeffrey Beaumont finds a human ear in a field near his house. He takes it to Detective Williams, an old family friend at the local police department. He asks Jeffrey not to pursue the matter further, but Jeffrey's love of mysteries prompts him to secretly launch his own investigation anyway. He is aided by the detective's daughter Sandy, who has overhead enough details of the case to point Jeffrey in the direction of beautiful nightclub singer Dorothy Valens. After stealing a spare set of keys while posing as a pest controller, Jeffrey lets himself into Dorothy's apartment one evening when she is at work in order to search of possible clues. When she returns unexpectedly he is forced to hide, and what he witnesses introduces him to a dark world he was previously unaware of, and propels both his investigation and his personal life in unexpected and dangerous directions.

Lynch lays out his plan of action from the opening shots. To the serene beat of Bobby Vinton's title song, impossibly picturesque shots of white picket fences, gloriously coloured flowers and cheerful, waving firemen give way of a Sunday afternoon vision of a middle-aged man watering his lawn. This is Lumbertown, a serene corner of suburban America, where the sun always shines and everyday life is peaceful and respectable, where families all love each other and children respect their elders. Then something unexpected happens – the hose becomes caught on a plant, and as the man tries to free it he suffers a stroke and falls writhing to the ground. As his dog energetically plays with the water still spraying from the hose that his master is unable to let go of, the music mutates into a sinister tonal rumbling and the camera snakes its way through the grass and into the ground beneath, coming to rest in huge close-up on an army of crawling bugs, the noise of their burrowing exaggerated to such a degree that it blocks out all other sound. This short sequence is the entire film in microcosm, as Lynch drags us beneath the surface of everyday life to confront its dark and sinister underside.

Although the narrative proper takes its time to make a similar underworld descent, Lynch drops plenty of pointers on the way, drifting fascinatingly between the picture postcard world of Lumbertown life and the troubling hints of dark things to come. When Jeffrey goes to visit his father in hospital, for example, he finds him not waiting expectantly in bed or even attached to the standard breathing mask and drip, but encased in a ghastly collection of primitive-looking clamps and tubes, like some medical update of a device employed by the Spanish Inquisition. Unable to speak, he can only stare at Jeffrey wildly and struggle with the devices attached to his throat to choke out the remnants of a sound. Moments later, Jeffrey is on his way home from the hospital when he discovers the aforementioned ear, which its crawling with ants, an image that dates back to Buñuel and Dali's 1929 surrealist classic Un Chien Andalou. And yet even this makes only a small dent in the pervading artificiality. On being handed the bag in which Jeffrey has place the ear, Detective Williams reacts not with shock or concern, but a strangely cheerful, "Yes, that's a human ear all right." A short while later the pathologist remarks, perhaps a little too casually for comfort, that the ear was cut off with scissors, and in a darkly humorous edit the image switches to a close-up of scissors cutting a strip of police tape at the location of the ear's discovery.

It's only when Jeffrey invades Dorothy's apartment that a real tonal shift takes place, and it does so with a jolt. From the moment Frank Booth enters the story, the calm surface serenity is permanently tarnished. The film no longer peeks into the underworld, it swims in it. From here on in, viewing events as we do almost solely from Jeffrey's viewpoint, every moment is tinged with danger. Even Jeffrey's developing relationship with Sandy puts him on unsafe ground, as she is keen that her existing boyfriend – the school jock – should not suspect anything, but we all know he will and that there will be consequences to face.

Jeffrey's curiosity proves insatiable, and his encounter with Dorothy Valens – who on discovering him hiding in her apartment first threatens him with a knife, then forces him to strip and seduces him – awakens in him a thirst for the unusual even he did not realise he possessed. "I don't know whether you are a detective or a pervert," the unknowing Sandy says at one point – "That's for me to know and you to find out," he replies with a mischievous smile. In truth, even he is probably not sure where one ends and the other begins – like Brad in The Rocky Horror Show, Jeffrey has tasted blood and wants more. But nothing in his experience has prepared him for Frank. Emerging from Dorothy's apartment one night, Jeffrey is confronted by Frank and his gang, who take him and Dorothy for a 'ride' he will never forget. Until now Jeffrey has merely been flirting with danger – from this point on the threat is immediate, sinister and unwavering.

Part of the film's extraordinary hold comes from its richly developed and layered characters. In only his second major film role (his first was in Dune, also directed by Lynch), Kyle MacLachlan makes Jeffrey a sympathetic and immensely likable figure – even when he is two-timing Sandy with Dorothy he seems to embody that part of us that is attracted to a risk that we would usually dare not take. Jeffrey himself reflects the film's fascination with duality, his relationship with Sandy offering stability and normality, while his one with Dorothy is more of a dark fantasy, something highly desirable that is nevertheless fraught with risk and could ultimately prove destructive to all involved. It is no secret that Jeffrey is thought to represent Lynch himself, from his love of mysteries to his singular dress sense (the buttoned-up shirt with no tie became a Lynch trademark), which puts an uncomfortable spin on the abusive aspect of his relationship with Dorothy. But whatever the reasoning, it's disarmingly easy to empathise with Jeffrey, and when things go bad for him, it can be genuinely frightening.

Of course, a key reason for this, as anyone who has seen the film will tell you, is Dennis Hopper's astonishing performance as Frank Booth. A larger-than-life but somehow still terrifyingly realistic figure, Frank is a violent, sadistic control freak who is permanently bombed out of a variety of drugs, which have effectively disabled any sense of morality he may ever have had. Frank is walking handgun with a twitchy hair trigger that just about anything can set off. On my first viewing, the moment when the frustrated and angry Jeffrey hits Frank full in the face, I was completely convinced that our hero was going to be dead within the next few minutes. What made it worse was that I felt every bit as powerless and frustrated as Jeffrey and thus shared his terror at what this spontaneous act was going to provoke. But what follows, like so many scenes in the film, takes you completely by surprise – Frank does indeed beat Jeffrey within an inch of his life, but before doing so kisses him repeatedly with lipstick-covered lips and gives him a ferocious fatherly lecture on the dire consequences of being a "good neighbour" to Dorothy. It is here that we are most acutely aware that in some ways Frank is the dark side of Jeffrey, something evident in the younger man's increasingly abusive relationship with Dorothy. Frank recognises this, and before the punch that provokes the eventual beating he stares wildly at Jeffrey and hisses enthusiastically, "You're like me!"

Frank remains to this day one of the greatest of all screen monsters, in part because he seems to embody all of the worst traits of every real-life bastard you have ever encountered, and then some. Like the two other most frightening film villains in recent years – the debt collector in Ken Loach's Raining Stones and Ben Kingsley's Don Logan in Sexy Beast – Frank's most intimidating weapon is his use of language and the constant threat of the violence that hovers behind it. Hopper's role in this is crucial. Having someone say "Shut the fuck up!" is one thing, but when Hopper does so it is often through angrily gritted teeth and a face contorted with rage, something he is able to snap into in a microsecond. Frank employs language as a control technique, the flip side of Jeffrey's hesitant uncertainty with words in moments of crisis. This is at its most pronounced when Frank catches Jeffrey emerging from Dorothy's apartment, an encounter that leads to the fateful road trip. Jeffrey knows all too well the danger Frank represents, and after an initial verbal encounter, Frank adopts a tone of false friendliness that catches the nervous Jeffrey off-guard:

Frank:
Hey you want to go for a ride?
Jeffrey:
No thanks.
Frank:
No thanks? What does that mean?
Jeffrey:
I...I don't want to go.
Frank:
Go where?
Jeffrey:
For a ride.
Frank:
A ride! Now that's a good idea!

Like the unfortunate Cowboy when suddenly reeled on by Sgt. Hartman in the opening scene of Full Metal Jacket, Jeffrey is doomed from the moment he opens his mouth – whatever he says, Frank will twist the conversation against him, and if he can't do it with words then he will use his fists, a knife or a gun. Frank always gets his way, and God help any poor bastard who tries to stop him doing so. In one of the most memorable exchanges, Frank asks Jeffrey what type of beer he likes. "Heineken," replies Jeffrey unknowingly, sending Frank into an instant rage. "Heineken!?" he bellows, "Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!" I have often wondered what would have happened if Jeffrey had made the right choice here, though I can't help thinking that Frank would still have found a way to turn it around and beat him with it.

The story of Hopper's reaction to getting the role is now legend, but still worth repeating for the uninitiated. The actor phoned Lynch at home when he was entertaining friends and told him over-enthusiastically that he had to play the role because "I am Frank!" Lynch returned to his gathering and told them that Dennis Hopper had just called and told him he was Frank, which was great for the movie, "but how are we going to have lunch with him?" It should be noted that another actor up for the role and desperate to get it was Robert Loggia, who threw a fit at Lynch after being kept waiting for several hours without explanation. Lynch clearly remembered this and put it to use later when he cast him as Mr. Eddie in Lost Highway.

The men may seem to be calling the shots here, but in quality of performance, the women match them all the way. In her feature film debut, Laura Dern is just right as Sandy, pretty in an appropriately girl-next-door way and nicely balancing innocence with youthful curiosity. She really immerses herself in the role when required – when confronted with the truth of Jeffrey's involvement with Dorothy, her face seems to morph into a huge, silent scream of dismayed disbelief. As Dorothy, Isabella Rosselini gives an extraordinary and brave performance, being really run through the emotional and physical mill in a role that has her unflatteringly naked, bruised, repeatedly hit, sexually assaulted and verbally attacked, and which sees her convincingly sell the notion that she derives sexual pleasure from physical abuse. It is Rosselini's role that takes the film into its most uncomfortable territory – what begins as a study of voyeurism, of a child hiding in his parents' wardrobe and seeing more than he bargained for, develops into a deeply disturbing examination of the link between violence and sex that reaches no comfortable conclusions.

Lynch has repeatedly been attacked, usually from people who want their stories told in a straightforward manner, for being weird for weird's sake, but Blue Velvet is a testament to the power of surrealism as a narrative tool. The first stop on Jeffrey's Road Trip with Frank is a fine example, when the flamboyant Ben, wonderfully played by Dean Stockwell, mimes to Roy Orbison's 'In Dreams' using a vehicle inspection light as a microphone. A sequence notable for its haunting strangeness, it's also loaded with character and narrative information: about Frank's friendship with Ben (he clearly holds him in far higher regard than anyone else, while the look of genuine worry on Ben's face when Frank's almost orgasmic enjoyment of the song dissolves into borderline fury suggests that Ben knows only too well what Frank is capable of, and just when to back off); about Dorothy's declining relationship with her kidnapped child (allowed to briefly visit him, her initial excitement gives way to cries of concern – "No, no, mummy loves you!" – and utter dejection as she slowly shuffles out to join the impromptu audience); about Frank's involvement in a violent drug robbery; and about the shallow nature of Frank's oddball gang (who include Brad Dourif and Lynch favourite Jack Nance), hangers-on who, under Frank's umbrella of anger, get to act tough and live dangerously but who themselves are terrified of upsetting their leader. "Do you want me to pour it?" Raymond asks as he apprehensively holds the beer Frank has been angrily calling for, only to have Frank bark back "No, I want you to fuck it!" The singular use of lighting, camera placement, ambient sound and music help create a very real sense of a waking nightmare, enlarging the sense of danger and heightening the appallingly fragile nature of Jeffrey's predicament.

Astonishingly, in the midst of this nightmare world, Lynch fashions a genuinely touching love story, as Jeffrey and Sandy make a most believable transformation from co-conspirators to boyfriend and girlfriend. In one strangely moving sequence, Sandy tells Jeffrey of a dream she has had in which thousands of robins are released to bring love back into the world, a scene that seems to border on cornball and then bounces back to reality as the couple stumble over their words ("You're a neat girl" – "So are you...I mean..."). As they dance at a party at which their relationship is finally revealed to others, the use of Julie Cruise's haunting The Mysteries of Love charges a scene that could have so easily been cheapened through the use of too-familiar pop ballard, and Lynch only lets the sequence play out as long as it needs to for us to register the narrative turn and the emotion of the moment. Such storytelling economy is on display throughout, resulting in a work that is full to the brim with story and character detail yet never feels hurried or uncomfortably busy. It feels so right that what in most thrillers would be a big action climax – a violent shoot-out between police and Frank's gang – is handled as a brief montage to the strains of Ketty Lester singing about "Love letters straight from your heart." Typical of the film's layering is that Frank uses the term "love letter" to describe a bullet from a gun. "You get a love letter from me," he warns Jeffrey, "you're fucked forever!"

Having been forced to confront the dark side of his nature, Jeffrey ultimately makes the choice to bury it, only to have it return and explode in his face. The final message may initially seem a somewhat conservative one, as Jeffrey triumphs over evil and embraces suburban normality in a fairytale ending that borders on the absurd, but on repeated viewings this takes on a whole new level of meaning. Love does conquer all, but at a cost – Jeffrey, his family and his probable bride-to-be are happy and normality has been restored, but their world is now a superficial one without any sense of adventure, danger or risk. Jeffrey and his family are now as emotionally hollow as the legendary wives of Stepford – Frank may have been destroyed, but without him Jeffrey is just one more smiling, undemanding face behind the white picket fence of suburbia. When he was with Frank or with Dorothy he may have looked into the abyss, but while he was doing so he was, in every sense of the word, alive.

On a technical level, everything about the film is just right. Frederick Elmes' cinematography is consistently arresting, beautifully composed and noir-influenced imagery that repeatedly shatters the myth that the scope frame cannot be used to create intimate two-shots. Elmes also plays with the concept of how low the light level can be for us to still clearly follow a scene, a concept Peter Deming took it close to its limit in Lynch's later Lost Highway. The sorely missed Alan Splet, who remains one of cinema's most talented ever sound designers and made such an important contribution to the unique feel of Lynch's Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, does some of his best work here. From the rumble of crawling insects to the thunderous flutter of a flame being blown by wind, or the slowed down animal roar of Frank in full fury and the buzz of electricity in the surrealistic climax, Splet's sound work is crucial to the film's palpable sense of menace. This is enhanced by Patricia Norris's sometimes expressionistic production design, the bright, clean lines of Jeffrey's home giving way to the dark colours of Dorothy's apartment block and the strange hues and Lynch's signature uplighters in Ben's apartment, creating a world that is both real and surreal, evoking a sense of nightmare without moving the film into the realms of fantasy.

As a die-hard David Lynch fan it's hard for me to say which I really consider to be his greatest film. My favourite will probably always be Eraserhead, on the basis of its extraordinary originality, its astonishing imagery and sound and the devastating effect it had on my when I first saw it back in the late 70s. I adored The Elephant Man for its spellbinding character detail, storytelling and emotional wallop, The Straight Story for the confidence with which it walks the line between touching character drama and cornball sentimentality, Lost Highway for having the balls to reject all traditional narrative and character traditions and mess with its audience on a level somewhere between their subconscious and their very worst nightmares, and Twin Peaks for, well, just about everything. But though it may seem like I'm running with the crowd, I have to admit that Blue Velvet remains the movie where all of these elements most exquisitely gel. It works perfectly as a character drama, as a nightmarish thriller, as a complex mystery, as a study of voyeurism, as a peek into the darker side of the soul, and...hell, so much more. Ultimately, Blue Velvet is that rarest of beasts, a compelling entertainment that is also an immaculately realised work of art.

presentation

It may seem a tad superficial to comment on the boxes in which the two disks come, but it really is worth a mention here. Both are presented in the standard plastic DVD cases, but are encased in a cardboard sleeve that distributors seem to feel is mandatory if their disk is going to be taken seriously as a special edition. The region 1 has a nice glossy sleeve, but absolutely full marks must go to Sanctuary for their region 2 sleeve, which has been given a mock velvet-like covering that no doubt added to the production cost, but does create the sense that someone at Sanctuary really cared about this disk.

The menus on both disks are similarly well designed and presented, using video imagery and audio clips from the film on the main menu, with animated transitions to sub-menus.

sound and vision

Both disks present the picture in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and with anamorphic enhancement. The region 1 disk is the second release from MGM and the picture quality is, on the whole, very good and a slight improvement on the first release. Contrast is generally impressive and colour rendition is excellent. Sharpness is the only real issue here – some sequences seem just a tad soft, and it's too long since I last saw the film on a cinema screen to make direct comparisons. This is still the best the film has looked on a home video format – previous tape releases were a complete disaster, especially in the dark scenes in Dorothy's apartment block, which lacked any sort of detail and looked as though they had been filmed through a layer of mud. No such problems here – Frederick Elms' sometimes extreme use of shadow and low light is reproduced with impressive clarity. The transfer on the region 2 disk appears to be identical – comparing the two side-by-side I found no significant differences in any area.

Previously released with a stereo soundtrack, both disks sport the same new 5.1 track, but there are little signs here of a major remix, hardly surprising considering Lynch's lack of involvement with either DVD and the loss of sound designer Alan R. Splet. The 5.1 is certainly fuller than the 2.0 equivalent, and music and atmospherics are spread nicely around the sound-stage, but though there is a specific use of stereo in the front sound stage at times, the rears seem to be on auto-pilot. There are a fair number of giveaway moments when the sound of a car door that is closed in front of your eyes can be heard coming from both the front and rear speakers. Low frequency work is rather nice in places, but will depend very much on the configuration of your sound set-up. The track's major plus is its clarity – the excellent use of sound effects and music is reproduced very cleanly, though you can't help wondering what Lynch and Splet might have done with the wonders DTS at their disposal.

extra features

It is here that the two releases really part company. Just looking at the boxes you might think that the region 2 disk has the edge – it's a two disk special edition, while MGM's region 1 is on a single disk. But get this – the first extra on the region 1 disk is actually longer than all of the extras on region 2 disk combined. Another case of a single disk special edition spread unnecessarily over two DVDs.

US Region 1

The Mysteries of Love is a 71 minute retrospective documentary on the genesis and making of the film and is divided into 8 chapters that can be accessed directly from the menu. This is a wonderfully detailed and thorough extra that includes interviews with almost all of the key personnel involved in the making of the film, including Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rosselini, producer Fred Caruso, cinematographer Frederick Elmes and Lynch himself. Lynch is notorious for his lack of cooperation on home movie versions of his films and presumably had no intention of being interviewed for this documentary, so his contributions are made up from older interviews from a variety of mysterious sources – some of them look like amateur footage, and one is shot in silhouette – but their content is invaluable. There is a clear narrative structure, following the process of making and releasing the film from start to finish, told exclusively through interview and edited in a very economical and lively fashion – a story started by one interviewee will be continued sometimes mid-sentence by a second person and concluded by a third. This works well, and gives both authenticity to the information and a pace and dynamism to the documentary itself. Extracts are plentiful, of decent quality and do not hog interview space. A great deal of fascinating information is delivered, and there are some intriguing stills, on-set footage and even what look like home movie extracts of Lynch at work included. An excellent extra, it is presented 4:3 with a Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

There is also an Easter Egg here – when presented with the chapters for the Mysteries of Love documentary, you can highlight the documentary title and get a 45 second extract from Isabella Rosselini's interview, not included in the documentary itself, in which she talks very briefly about the accusations of misogyny made over the way her character is treated in the film.

The Deleted Scenes Montage is an intriguing but half-finished inclusion. The biggest surprise it delivers is in the opening caption, where it reveals that the first edit of the film was actually four hours long and cut down to two hours for contractual reasons. Having whetted your appetite for what you think you are going to get, a second caption painfully reveals that all of the cut scenes have now been lost, despite the valiant efforts of film researchers. What follows is an attempt to recreate the feel of some of these scenes using numerous publicity stills, which have been divided into scenes and pieced together like a slide show and set to Baldalamenti's score. The result is genuinely illuminating – there were scenes in which Jeffrey met Sandy's boyfriend socially, for instance, and a potentially alarming moment in which Frank leaves a second ear from Dorothy's husband in her bathroom sink, but we are given only visual information here, and are left wondering much of the time what the scene was actually about, exactly where it fitted into the narrative, and how the dialogue played out. Since drafts of the script were used to assemble these montage sequences, this information could have been supplied textually and would have made this extra considerably more engaging.

Siskel and Ebert 'At the Movies' 1986 is is a 1 minute 30 second extract from the famous TV review show in which the two critics argue the merits or otherwise of the movie – Roger Ebert, a critic of considerable intelligence and perception (but who occasionally pulls a spectacular boner), appears to have been genuinely offended by it, and rather miffed at his colleague's positive reaction.

The Photo Gallery has three sections. Lumberton, USA is a collection of on-set photos which are divided into six sub-sections, none of which are that busy – the last, 'It's a Strange World' has only two pictures. International Posters is exactly what it sounds like – but there are only 4 on show here. Peter Braatz photos has 18 photographs taken on set by this respected photographer. Some of these are rather nice, but like all of the images in this extra, and similar extras on so many other disks, the pictures are presented at about one third of screen size, so you'll have to shuffle forward to get a really good look.

Trailer/TV spots features the original theatrical trailer, which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds and is 16:9 anamorphic, and two TV spots, which run 30 seconds each and are 4:3. All are in slightly wobbly shape, but watchable.


UK Region 2

Strange Desires is a retrospective documentary very much in the style of The Mysteries of Love on the region 1 disk, but runs for less than half its length at 31 minutes. Many of the same people are interviewed, but like the earlier documentary Lynch has played no actual part in the production and his contributions are taken from other sources (his opening address to camera, for instance, is taken from a BBC arts programme shown shortly before the release of the film in the UK, in which Lynch presented a number of little seen surrealistic short films). Though the two documentaries cover much of the same ground, Strange Desires inevitably does so in far less detail, with considerably fewer interviews and none of the on-set footage that makes Mysteries so intriguing. It is still a decent enough documentary, and gives a fair level of information on the making of the film and how it has been read. There are no interviews with Isabella Rosselini or Kyle MacLachlan, and some of Hopper's interview is almost word-for-word the same as the (different) one in the region 1 documentary, but there are a couple of contributions from Dino DeLaurentis, which Mysteries doesn't have. The biggest contribution here is from Frederick Elmes, who downplays his own work to an extraordinary degree, suggesting at one point that his cinematography may have added very little to the feel of the film. Is he kidding? In the end, though, Strange Desires feels much less thorough and detailed than The Mysteries of Love, and though almost half its length seems to give less than a quarter of its information. This may well prove the deciding factor for fans on which disk to buy. The picture is 16:9 anamorphic and the sound Dolby 2.0.

Moving Pictures is a segment from the sorely missed BBC movie programme of the same name in which novelists JG Ballard and Jenny Diski and film-maker Gavin Millar analyse what makes the film tick, and why it is such an important work. Though Millar and Diski are more coldly analytical, Ballard is a huge fan of the film and speaks very enthusiastically about it, something revealed in his opening statement: "Without any doubt it is the best film of the 1980s." Shot on 4:3 video with Dolby 2.0 sound, it includes some very grubby 16:9 extracts from the film, and though running just 12 minutes, the analysis is fascinating and detailed, and it is a most useful inclusion. It has a special place here at Outsider, as when the segment was first shown, Moving Pictures presenter Howard Schumann quoted and agreed with a cinema-goer who said, "I may be sick, but I want to see that again." This was, as he has more than once reminded me, fellow reviewer Camus, who also caught the film at the Lumiere in London when that was the only cinema in the UK showing it.

Finally there is the Trailer, which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds, is framed 16:9 anamorphic with a mono soundtrack and is in iffy shape – the closing graphics are so clean and stable by comparison they look as if they have been redone for this DVD inclusion.

summary

As with any film, all views are subjective, but as far as I am concerned Blue Velvet is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece. I've seen it many times now, but it still comes across as fresh and original on every viewing, and given some of Lynch's more experimental works before and since, may well represent an ideal introduction to his oeuvre for the uninitiated.

Previously released on a very poor region 2 disk, this re-release from Sanctuary is most welcome, but for those with multi-region playback capability (which should really include all of you) the choice is not so straightforward. Both the region 2 and the MGM region 1 special editions have pretty much the same, generally fine anamorphic transfer and 5.1 soundtrack, but if you're a fan of the film then MGM's region 1 disk wins hands down on the basis of its documentary, The Mysteries of Love, which beats the equivalent on the region 2 disk on length, detail, interviews and the sheer volume of information it contains.

Blue Velvet

USA 1986 .
120 mins
director .
David Lynch
starring .
Isabella Rossellini
Kyle MacLachlan
Dennis Hopper
Laura Dern
Hope Lange
Dean Stockwell
George Dickerson
Priscilla Pointer
Brad Dourif
Jack Nance

DVD details
region 1
video .
2.35:1 anamorphic
sound .
Dolby Surround 5.1
Dolby stereo 2.0
languages .
English
French
subtitles .
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
extras .
The Mysteries of Love documentary
Deleted scenes montage
Siskel and Ebert 'At the Movies' 1986
Photo gallery
Trailer/TV spots
distributor .
MGM

region 2.
video
2.35:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby Surround 5.1
Dolby stereo 2.0
languages
English
subtitles
none
extras
Strange Desires documentary
Moving Pictures article
Trailer
distributor
Sanctuary
review posted
31 May 2004

Movie trivia
The discovery of the ant-covered human ear recalls imagery from Un Chien Andalou, the first film from the greatest cinematic surrealist of all, Luis Buñuel. This, claimed Lynch at the time, was the only Buñuel film he had seen, yet anyone who has caught Buñuel's brilliant 1950 Los Olvidados will wonder if, given the similarity of tone and imagery of moments in Eraserhead to the dream sequence in Buñuel's film, this really was the case.
The song to which Jeffrey and Sandy dance to, The Mysteries of Love, has music by Angelo Baldalamenti and lyrics by Lynch himself. It was composed after the budget was unable to stretch to the rights to Song of the Siren by UK 4AD composite band This Mortal Coil, sung by the extraordinary Elizabeth Fraser. The track is said to be Lynch's all-time favourite song and Baldalamenti was bought in by producer Fred Caruso, who was friends with the composer, specifically to create something with a similar feel. Baldalamenti and Lynch have remained close collaborators ever since, and Lynch finally got to use his favourite song on the soundtrack to Lost Highway.
The deliberately artificial nature of the final scene is most spectacularly illustrated through Lynch's use of an obviously mechanical robin to represent the triumph of the forces of love over those of evil. Shortly after the film was released, Lynch was interviewed on UK TV by Jonathan Ross, who asked him about this very point. Lynch replied that this was in fact a real robin, but that "it was just acting."
Noted critic Mark Kermode was not impressed on his first viewing of the film and gave it a negative review. This bounced back on him when, in a very Frank Booth-like move, one of the film's more enthusiastic fans approached him in a bar and punched him. Kermode felt obliged to give the film a second look and, as had happened with me, really connected with what Lynch was trying to do on the second viewing. The punch had nothing to do with this, of course.

See all of Slarek's reviews