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MGM Studios DVD presents
Blue Velvet Special Edition (1986)

"Yes, that's a human ear, all right."
- Detective Williams (George Dickerson)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: June 02, 2002

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper
Other Stars: Laura Dern, Hope Lange, George Dickerson, Dean Stockwell, Priscilla Pointer, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance
Director: David Lynch

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, nudity, language, sexuality, drug use)
Run Time: 02h:00m:23s
Release Date: June 04, 2002
UPC: 027616876546
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ AA-A- B+

DVD Review

There's nothing that David Lynch likes quite so much as turning over the façade of Middle America and seeing what slugs and other nasties he can find underneath. In few places is that more apparent than his epochal foray into small town life, Blue Velvet.

College student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns home to Lumberton after his father has a heart attack. When Jeffrey finds a human ear (swarming with ants) in a field, he takes it to Detective Williams (George Dickerson). His daughter Sandy confides to Jeffrey that the mystery of the ear seems to be connected with a nightclub singer, one Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini). Jeffrey decides to investigate on his own, and quickly gets caught up in the nightmare world of Vallens and more frighteningly, the abusive psychotic Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper, in the role of a lifetime). Jeffrey heads into a spiral of darkness from which he will be lucky to escape alive, though certainly no longer innocent.

Since entire books have been written about this film and its various aggressively strange facets, one can hardly do it justice in a review of a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say that the film is highly disturbing and dark. As Jeffrey notes, "It's a strange world." Jeffrey approaches the mystery at first as if he's read too many Hardy Boys books, carried away by the possibilities of poking under the surface. Once he sees what lies underneath, however, he finds it inexplicably fascinating, with the full allure of the complete darkness of the soul. Only Silence of the Lambs quite rivals the gory tableau of the climax in its surrealistic horror.

The visuals are stiking indeed, with the image of the nitrous-oxide snorting Frank Booth at its disturbing center. Lynch's art history training is visible in many of the Booth sequences, done in blacks and rich browns as if they are some kind of charnel house Rembrandt. At the other end of the spectrum is the highly-stylized, oversaturated opening shot of a rose and a white picket fence against a bright blue sky, as if to say that the world of small town America is a completely false front. Intuitively, the mind of Lynch turns to the hidden darkness and obsession that lies beneath.

Jeffrey is of course at the heart of this contradiction, as his middle-class life suddenly takes a left turn into a dangerous and nightmarish world that he nonetheless finds fascinating. Certainly in few films since Rear Window has voyeurism been so powerfully portrayed, but unlike Hitchcock's picture where there was a certain distance between the watcher and the watched, here there's nothing but the flimsy louvres of a closet door between Jeffrey and Dorothy as he watches Frank abuse and rape her.

While MacLachlan is excellent as the innocent sucked into horror, the female cast works less well. Rossellini seems to be coming from some place else, though that makes sense in light of the fact her young son is being held hostage by Booth. The show is of course stolen by Dennis Hopper, who is allowed to play the darkest regions of Dennis Hopper without any restraints whatsoever. Vicious and completely unredeemable, Frank Booth is a character that draws the audience as much as he draws Jeffrey within the story and renders them helpless. Like it or hate it, one cannot dispute that this is one of the most important pictures of the 1980s.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is generally excellent. The colors are very dark and rich throughout, with good shadow detail. Some minor instances of dot crawl and small ringing are really the only defects I noticed on close scrutiny. Detail is generally quite crisp and sharp. By comparison, the segments presented in the documentary look horrific, with combing and smeary color. A very attractive transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack features a new DD 5.1 mix supervised by Lynch personally. The soundstage is quite broad, with active use of surrounds for music. The sounds of Frank's car in particular have an immediacy that's quite startling and produces additional tension (as if sequences featuring Hopper didn't have enough tension). Dialogue is quite clear, and the music is undistorted. A few sequences have audible hiss, but since this comes and goes I have to assume this is part of Lynch's eccentric sound design, which is certainly not always naturalistic. The industrial sounds that so often take a prominent part in Lynch's films are here in a slightly forward, though not overwhelming manner.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
10 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Original Siskel & Ebert reviewSiskel & Ebert Review
  2. Photo galleryPhoto gallery
Extras Review: The featured extra is an extensive (1h:10m:40s) documentary, Mysteries of Love, which features vintage interviews with Lynch as well as present-day interview segments with MacLachlan, Rossellini, Hopper and Dern. The documentary is packed full of content regarding the history of the production, the subtext and the meaning, and the impact of the film. On the menu screen for the documentary one can find a short easter egg segment of interview with Rossellini regarding Lynch's supposed misogynism. Another egg hidden on the special features menu discloses Lynch's thoughts on McDonald's restaurants, should that be of interest.

A "Montage of Deleted Scenes" is not quite what it sounds like, since the deleted scenes appear to be lost for good. However, they've been reconstructed with the use of publicity photographs shot on set, dissolving from one to another. Mostly these just add background; only one, explaining why Dorothy's husband is missing his left ear while Jeffrey found a right ear, probably should have been retained. There's also a segment on the rooftop of Dorothy's apartment that would have made the Oz parallels more explicit, as it prominently features Dorothy's ruby slippers.

Wrapping up the package are a gallery of about sixty photos, four posters, a trailer and a pair of TV spots, as well as the Siskel & Ebert At the Movies segment on the film, which found Roger and Gene at complete odds. This is interesting if for nothing more than to remind us how much Gene Siskel's perception is missed today.

In all, as good a set of extras as one is likely to find short of a scene-specific commentary.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

David Lynch's most successful examination of the seamy underbelly of small town life, with a flat-out killer performance by Dennis Hopper, here is given a surprisingly complete special edition treatment. A disc that belongs in every DVD collection.


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