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MGM Studios DVD presents
Wild at Heart: Special Edition (1990)

"This is a snakeskin jacket. And for me, it's a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom."
- Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: January 03, 2005

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern
Other Stars: Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton, J.E. Freeman, Grace Zabriskie
Director: David Lynch

MPAA Rating: R for (language, strong violence and sexuality/nudity)
Run Time: 02h:04m:47s
Release Date: December 14, 2004
UPC: 027616914606
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C+B+A- B+

DVD Review

I feel dirty. After seeing this film, I think I need a few good showers before I'm back to normal. Like the films of director Lars von Trier, the work of David Lynch inspires polar reactions from me. I find myself wanting to praise and condemn at the same time, indicating there is indeed something compelling about this material, but simultaneously repulsive. Lynch's special brand of weirdness saturates nearly all of his work (save for the surprisingly down-to-earth The Straight Story and his best film, The Elephant Man). Wild at Heart stands simply drenched in buckets of blood, sex, and smeared lipstick. Some Lynchian opuses use these eccentricities to their advantage, transcending normal narratives with a blend of the conscious and subconscious. Not so here. Sorry folks, but I'm in a condemning mood today.

We're slammed from the very first scene. Somewhere near the border between North and South Carolina, Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) is about to leave an opulent hotel with his devoted girlfriend Lula (Laura Dern). The two are madly in love in a world gone to pieces, and Lula's narcissistic, conceited mother, Marietta (Diane Ladd), wants nothing more than to eradicate their ecstasy. She sends an assassin to dispatch the young Salior, who promptly bashes the mercenary's head in with vigor. In a bloody haze, he points to Marietta, directing a glance of revenge her way with cigarette hanging out of his mouth. After a brief jail stint in the Pee Dee Correctional Facility, Sailor is reunited with his snakeskin jacket and his true love, and the two cruise down the highway to Hell, looking for eternal bliss and freedom of expression.

Marietta will not settle for anything less than a satisfying spit on Sailor's grave. She hires two hitmen: her hubby, Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton), and Santos (J.E. Freeman), a bitter, dark killer who aims to take out his competition. Marietta is on the brink of insanity, chugging martinis and wearing lipstick like a mask while dressed in gowns the ladies from Dallas and Dynasty would die for. Back on the road, Lula and Sailor rock out, have sex, rock out some more, have some more sex, and stumble on the nothingness that is Big Tuna, Texas—a haven for the dark, dispossessed and flat out weird. This is Lynchville, Texas-style. The pair encounters criminal activity, and a dark force known as Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe). Before the tale ends, more unusual characters and pieces of The Wizard of Oz are brought into the mix, culminating in a climax of love that is, well, pure Lynch.

Did I just explain this movie? Not even close. There are some themes at work here, such as the idea of pure love amidst a hellish world, and the consequences of bad parenting, but are these enough to justify Lynch's distractingly imaginative, disturbing, creepy and just plain bizarre world? I would have to say no. Lynch's creative devices hit us over the head ad nauseum throughout. Okay, I get it: this is a crazy world that lacks the kind of guidance it needs. Do we need severed hands and heads being blown off to convey this? This is a kind of hallucinatory fairy tale for adults, and there is a fable quality, enhanced by elements from Baum's Oz throughout. Aside from the fact I never liked The Wizard of Oz, these devices simply bury any kind of redeeming messages in a tedious world of oddities that distract more than reveal.

There are things to admire, however. The performances are topnotch throughout, elevating the outlandish style and material. Cage channels Elvis for his freewheeling Sailor, and his bubble-gummy, spunky love Lula is captured well by Laura Dern. Dern's real-life mother, Diane Ladd, delivers an Oscar-nominated performance as Marietta, bringing a palpable sense of mid-life desperation and insanity. Crispin Glover probably didn't know what he was doing in this film any more than the audience, but whatever it was, his "Christmas-fixated cockroach fetishist" Dell is memorable. Willem Dafoe's Bobby Peru is evil incarnate, complete with slick hair, gobs of black leather and some nasty teeth. He provides some of the most disturbing and comedic moments. Other appearances by Isabella Rossellini (coming off the abuse of Blue Velvet), Harry Dean Stanton, and Grace Zabriskie will either enthrall or haunt you. These roles, many of which are caricatures more than characters, are well-captured by Frederick Elmes' dreamy visuals and extreme close ups, and are enhanced by some effective Lynchian soundscapes.

Despite these strengths, I found Wild at Heart to be a rather repulsive experience. It serves up tattered sandwiches of what I'm not particularly fond of in Lynch: gratuitous violence and near-pornographic interludes. I find Lynch is at his best when he has one foot in reality; Wild at Heart is off the map. I'm in full support of creative re-definitions of cinema, but there comes a time when one realizes the experiment has gone too far, and a monster has been created.

Well, at least it's not boring.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A new print was struck from the negative for this release, and it shows. The anamorphic 2.35:1 image is very pleasing, showcasing bold colors and good contrast. Very fine grain persists throughout, and the detail level is good, but not as high as it could be. The image has a noticeably soft appearance, but this remains a fine transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 audio is surprisingly active for a dialogue-driven film. Surrounds provide ambient fill for environments and music, but when Lynch's unique sound design kicks in, the LFE gets quite a workout. The original stereo surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring "MGM Means Great Movies" spot, Male Action, Wicker Park
4 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
12 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Sailor and Lula Image Gallery
  2. Insert with character flowchart
  3. Cardboard slipcover
Extras Review: MGM has assembled a fine disc—certainly a step up from their Blue Velvet special edition. Lynch himself is all over this thing, talking more than ever before. Love, Death, Elvis & Oz (29m:50s) is a retrospective look at the making of the film featuring behind-the-scenes photos and newly recorded interviews with cast and crew members. Contributors include Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, novelist Barry Gifford, cinematographer Frederick Elmes, David Lynch, and more.

Dell's Lunch Counter is a humorous section that contains several featurettes on various aspects of the film. Bits include Lula's Momma (03m:04s), Sailor and Lula Get Born (01m:51s), Wild at Heart and Weird on Top (02m:26s), The Red Pipe (02m:12s), Pigeons (02m:10s), The Good Witch (01m:42s), Cannes (03m:41s), Not Your Head-Head (01m:23s), and The Snakeskin Jacket (02m:14s).

Specific Spontaneity: Focus on David Lynch (07m:15s) is a look at the approach of David Lynch by those who have worked with him. More comments from previously interviewed individuals detail the unique techniques utilized by Lynch, including his extreme attention to detail. This is a fine glimpse at his process as a director.

David Lynch: On the DVD (2m:46s) is a brief discussion by Lynch on the process of creating this new DVD. Apparently the initial prints were unsuitable, so MGM agreed to strike a new print from the negative. Lynch also comments on the color timing.

There are a few additional bits that wrap up the package. Sailor and Lula Image Gallery (02m:10s) is a short video montage showcasing images of the forbidden pair set to music. The archival material continues with an Original EPK Feaurette (06m:54s), four repetitive TV spots (01m:07s total), and the theatrical trailer. Finally, a glossy insert containing a flowchart of the main characters is a helpful inclusion.

I enjoyed watching these features more than the film itself—an indication of their quality. Fans will be very happy.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

David Lynch's glossy, disturbing descent into Hell and the love that endures within remains a noble failure. Its eccentricities bury its messages, but it boasts some strong visuals and performances. For all you Lynch fans out there, this is a superb disc, boasting fine a/v quality and some revealing supplements with Lynch himself. I suspect I'll be getting some responses after this one... my snakeskin flak jacket is on.


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