Blue Velvet is a cult classic that has been revered and copied for more than two decades.
The David Lynch film that peels back the curtain on quiet American suburbia is more than just a cult classic. It is, in many ways, the definitive Lynch film, and now Blue Velvet has made its way to Blu-ray in celebration of its 25th anniversary.
Jeffery (Kyle MacLaughlin) returns home to his small home town to help out around the family business after his father suffers a near-fatal stroke. While walking through a field on his way home from the hospital, he discovers a severed human ear.
His curiosity gets the better of him, and Jeffery decides to launch his own investigation, aided by Sandy (Laura Dern), a local police detective’s daughter.
At first, the movie tricks you into thinking it might go in a Stand By Me-esque direction; after all, here’s two kids trying to solve what could turn out to be a grizzly and dangerous crime just for the sheer fun of it.
The movie quickly takes a much darker turn, however, as all clues point to nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosellini). As Jeffery digs further into the mystery, he’s drawn deeper into Vallens’ bizarre world and earns the attention of the psychotic Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper in one of the great comeback performances of all time), who’s been blackmailing Vallens in exchange for sexual favors.
Thirteen years before the release of American Beauty, thought by many to be the quintessential film about the more sullied side of suburban America, Blue Velvet pushed the envelope in ways that many films at the time would not have dared (indeed, some films today wouldn’t dare go as far as Blue Velvet).
What sets Blue Velvet apart, however, isn’t so much the idea of delving into the dark side of small town America. Blue Velvet is made unique by its seamless blending of the mundane and the bizarre; without so much as flinching, the movie will take you down a familiar road before making a hard left toward the world of the surreal.
And it’s that particular aspect of the movie that makes it the definitive Lynch movie.
Lynch’s debut film, Eraserhead, was an exercise in post-modern surrealism. Even Dune, the critical and commercial flop that preceded Blue Velvet, was a complex science-fiction adaptation in which the unusual and surreal was inherent.
Blue Velvet, on the other hand, was an original work that (in my opinion) set the stage for Lynch’s television classic, Twin Peaks.
The film is exceptionally well-written, not only in terms of dialogue but in terms of the sheer fluidity of the story. It’s also one of Lynch’s best outings as a director. The pacing is magnificent and the inclusion of some fairly heavy symbolism is treated with great subtlety (take for instance an early shot that displays a seemingly-perfect American lawn before zooming closer and closer to reveal a horde of disgusting beetles – the entire film described in one shot).
And the performances are astounding, particularly from Hopper as the psychotic, sex-obsessed Frank. Hopper brings a demented energy to the role that I honestly don’t think any other actor could have matched.
Frank is perhaps the least redeemable fictional character committed to screen that I can remember, and Hopper brings him to life with a disturbing kinetic energy as well as a genuine sense of menace and terror that leaves the audience both wary and anxious to see what he’ll do next – a true testament to both the character’s construction by Lynch and Hopper bringing him to life.
Also of particular note is a brief performance by the underrated Dean Stockwell in the most surreal (and arguably the most iconic) scene in the film. If you’ve never seen this movie before, trust me: You’ll never hear a Roy Orbison song in quite the same way ever again.
MGM-Fox brings Blue Velvet to Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that was personally supervised by David Lynch himself. With the exception of some crushed blacks in some of the darker scenes, the movie generally looks terrific. Colors are bright and vibrant, and there’s a bare minimum of artifacting.
Textures are also serviced well by this transfer, particularly the titular blue velvet robe worn by Dorothy throughout the film.
The audio treatment is fantastic, as the disc features a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that handles both dialogue and ambiance extremely well. The music (scored by Angelo Badalamenti) comes across beautifully in this transfer and adds a certain level of immersion that I had never noticed in any previous release of the film.
Beyond the Feature
As with most MGM-Fox releases, there is no main menu nor is there a bookmarking feature. However, unlike Straw Dogs (the last MGM-Fox Blu-ray I reviewed), this release contains a wide selection of bonus features.
Foremost among the special features is approximately 50 minutes’ worth of lost footage. Fans of the film have talked for years about footage shot for the film that had never seen the light of day, and while it is nice to see some of that footage finally unearthed, it’s clear to see why it wasn’t included in the final theatrical cut.
Also included on the disc:
- Mysteries of Love documentary – A port from the most recent DVD release of the film, this is an excellent documentary that traces the movie’s development from conception to release and examines its legacy. The documentary runs about 70 minutes.
- Original Siskel & Ebert Review (5 minutes) – This is the original Blue Velvet segment from Siskel & Ebert: At the Movies from the time of the film’s release. Interestingly, Ebert still doesn’t enjoy the film, 25 years later.
- Vignettes – These are more or less just outtakes from the Mysteries of Love feature, showcasing a few random observations from cast and crew.
- A Few Outtakes – Nothing out-of-this-world great here. Just a collection of flubbed lines, really.
- Trailer/TV Spots
Blue Velvet remains a seminal film, not just for Lynch but for the art of filmmaking in general. It’s a brilliant combination of everything: Image and sound, familiar and surreal, hilarious and terrifying… I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
It’s a great movie with a great audio and visual presentation and a selection of bonus features that make it well worth adding to your shelf.
Shop for Blue Velvet on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com (November 8, 2011 release date).