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Blue Velvet (Special Edition)  Print E-mail
DVD Mystery-Suspense
Written by Mel Odom   
Tuesday, 04 June 2002



title:
Blue Velvet (Special Edition)


studio:
MGM Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, George Dickerson, Dean Stockwell
release year: 1986
film rating: Three Stars
sound/picture: Three Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

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 innocent.

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 stealthy activities.

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 do.

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 movie.

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.


more details
sound format:
English 5.1 Surround; French Stereo Surround; Spanish Mono
aspect ratio(s):
2:35:1, Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
special features: “Mysteries 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
comments: email us here...
   
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV








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