This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Blue Velvet (Special Edition)
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 04 June 2002
|Blue Velvet (Special Edition)
|MGM Home Entertainment
||Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, George Dickerson, Dean Stockwell
When “Blue Velvet” was released in 1986, the erotic crime thriller was
in its early days. Brian De Palma had delivered “Dressed To Kill” and
“Body Double,” and Lawrence Kasdan had written and directed “Body
Heat.” However, the De Palma films and Kasdan’s movie pried at the
rancid underbelly of metropolitan areas, as well as kinky suburbanites
and people already touching the crime scene in a big way. “Red Shoe
Diaries” and the adult film features on cable channels had yet to rise
up in the mix. Our chance to peep into the sexual and deviant lives of
characters was limited, giving David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” the timing
to penetrate the film audience in a new way.
“Blue Velvet” reaches into the darkness that lies within small towns,
dark enigmas and desires swaddled in innocence, to produce his story.
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is an Everyman character, grounded
in the reality of life. We know precisely when Jeffrey has steeped over
the line into that darker world that will trigger serious repercussions.
Chapter 2 picks up with a startling visual of red roses against a white
picket fence with a cobalt blue sky in the background. This is a slice
of Americana, and with Bobby Vinton singing “Blue Velvet,” the fire
engine with the waving and friendly fireman, this is a place every
viewer has lived in or at least heard about. The hiss of a water hose
streams through the surround sound as Jeffrey’s father collapses. A
small dog barking and snapping at the water offers a bizarre
counterpoint to the action. But the counterpoint becomes even more
bizarre when the camerawork segues to ants battling relatively unseen
in the tall grass of the yard.
In Chapter 3, the mystery that brings all the characters together
starts to come together. Jeffrey Beaumont, college student, has
returned home to help with the family hardware store while his father
convalesces in the hospital. The scene between the father and son is
quiet, subdued and helpless. On the way back from the hospital, Jeffrey
finds a severed human ear, still holding tufts of skin to it. We see
Jeffrey’s innocence and his interest in mysteries as he stoops and
recovers the ear, rather than call someone to the spot. His choice to
do that is never discussed, but he is depicted as very driven and
wanting to control the elements of the mystery.
At the police station, Jeffrey meets Detective Williams. The dialogue
between the two is very deadpan, reminiscent of Joe Friday in
“Dragnet.” The coroner says it looks like the ear was cut off with
scissors. Again, the mood and atmosphere are kept very quiet and
subdued, and music is brought in only occasionally to underscore a
little tension or scene changes.
In Chapter 4, as Jeffrey is walking around and the chirp of crickets
ricochets through the surround sound, he pictures the human ear. The
roar of the ocean fills the surround sound, as if Jeffrey is trying to
figure out what the last thing is that the ear heard. Jeffrey goes to
Detective Williams’ house and inquires about the ear. Detective
Williams points out that he was as curious as Jeffrey was as a young
man, and that he can’t give any specifics about the case.
Also in Chapter 4, Detective Williams’ daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) puts
in an appearance. She appears to be swept in by the 1950s romance
music. Sandy tells Jeffrey about a woman whose name keeps coming up in
relation to the severed ear and other cases the police are working on.
Sandy seems to be just as predisposed to investigating mysteries as
Jeffrey is. However, the duo are also shown to be very adolescent and
Chapter 5 shows one of the audio touch-ups done for the DVD as a car
passes in front of the Beaumont hardware store. Sound was not used much
in the original shooting of the film and efforts were made to punch up
the sound quality for this release. Still, there’s a big difference in
a work that is augmented post-release and one that was originally
recorded in an optimum fashion. Jeffrey’s car passes through the front
speakers again as he arrives at the high school to pick up Sandy from
school. Later, as they dine at Arlene’s, a passing log truck thunders
through the front speakers.
Over Cokes, Jeffrey presents his plan for getting into mystery woman
Dorothy Vallens’ apartment. He’s borrowed a spray rig and coveralls and
intends to pass himself off as a pest control worker. Sandy is
reluctant at first, but he quickly wins her over to his side, pointing
out that they’re no one would suspect them of being capable of such
The tension increases in Chapter 6 as Sandy and Jeffrey put their plan
into motion. Again, there’s a layered audio effect of a passing car
that pushes through the right, center, and left speakers. As they talk,
birds chirp in the mains and their voices come from the center speaker.
Jeffrey enters the apartment building and the place is as quiet as a
morgue. The hiss of the spray rig in the apartment is normal, yet so
loud that the knock on the door is startling.
The low-key jazzy sound in Chapter 7 underlies the amateur detective
moment as Jeffrey and Sandy up the ante on their investigation. Chapter
8 introduces the Slow Club, the place where Dorothy (Isabella
Rossellini) sings. Applause rings through the surround sound, but seems
layered in. Dorothy performs the title song and it comes across as
natural, bluesy and seductive. The piano and sax come through clearly.
In Chapter 9, as Jeffrey gets ready to break into the apartment
building with the stolen keys, Sandy nervously tells him that she
doesn’t know if he’s a detective or a pervert, one of the most telling
lines in filmmaker Lynch’s world view.
Voyeurism kicks the audience’s investment up in Chapter 10 as Jeffrey
hears Dorothy arrive back home. He hides in the closet and watches her
strip down to her underwear, pulling the audience across the line
between detective and pervert as well. Even as that adjustment is made,
the phone rings. Dorothy has a quick discussion with someone named
Frank on the phone. Jeffrey sees at once that Dorothy is scared, and
that Frank is obviously holding her child hostage. The eroticism
continues as Dorothy strips off her wig and goes to the bathroom where
she strips completely.
The music gets intense, but remains low-key as Dorothy confronts
Jeffrey at knife-point. Instead of calling the police, she makes him
strip, taking control of him. The eroticism that was inherent in the
scene now layers in threat and danger, because Dorothy is still an
unknown factor and the audience has no clue about what she is going to
In Chapter 11, a rough knock rattles the door. Frank (Dennis Hopper)
enters the apartment and begins ordering Dorothy around. Dorothy turns
out the lights and ignites a candle. Frank, a morphine addict with
serious psychological problems, brutalizes and rapes Dorothy as Jeffrey
watches from the closet.
In Chapter 12, the audience pays the price for the earlier erotic
moments, then Dorothy becomes seductive again, but this time the
audience knows that she’s struggling with her inner demons and
helplessness. Later, the chapter showcases the guttering candle visual
and audio motif that is repeated throughout the rest of the film.
Drawn into the macabre nature of the mystery, Jeffrey can’t help but
stay involved with Dorothy’s problems. But the more he probes and pries
at the dangerous situation, the closer he gets to the heart of
darkness, of deadly desire and lethal lust that is at the core of the
Everyone in “Blue Velvet” is kinked and twisted, driven by lust or a
desire for control or curiosity. Lynch is an expert at exploring this
world, but the audience walks away wondering why something wasn’t done
earlier. Although Frank is a threatening presence, the viewer isn’t
treated to an onscreen scene showing the whereabouts and/or condition
of Dorothy’s husband and son. All of these ingredients become a vortex
that sweeps the players into a deadly spiral that scatters murder and
death in all directions. The eroticism maintains an edge as well.
When “Blue Velvet” first came out, audiences found the film unsettling
and shocking. Roger Ebert, in his review, which is included in the DVD
special features, condemned the film, probably responding in just the
way Lynch intended. 16 years later, new audiences picking up the DVD to
watch the movie for the first time won’t find the subject material or
the execution as shocking as the audiences of 1986 did. The Learning
Channel and A&E deliver subject matter on a nightly basis that is
just as alarming and graphic as “Blue Velvet.”
The special features on the DVD packaging are lacking. Even though this
is a “special edition,” the extra material is limited to the “Mysteries
of Love” documentary instead of a true director’s commentary. The
hour-plus succession of interviews with the actors and director, both
from the past and from the present, are interesting to watch, and
reveal a lot to the method Lynch used, but do not provide much insight
into why he made the decisions he made.
The original cut of the movie Lynch delivered was slightly over four
hours long. The director cut the movie himself, but there is still some
background left unexplored and only glossed over in this cut. It would
have been interesting to see the film in its original version, but
evidently that footage was lost. The photomontage added to the disc is
intriguing to watch, but still doesn’t deliver these missing pieces.
Overall, “Blue Velvet” is well worth watching for the first time, or
for the first time in a long time. Collectors of David Lynch films will
want to keep this one, as perhaps will students of film history.
|English 5.1 Surround; French Stereo Surround; Spanish Mono
|2:35:1, Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
of Love” Documentary; Deleted Scenes Montage; Original “Siskel &
Ebert” Review; Photo Gallery; Collectible Booklet; Original Theatrical
Trailer and More; English Closed-Captioning; English, French, Spanish
and Portuguese Subtitles
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||42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV