Blue Velvet (1986)
By: Julian on October 16, 2009  | 
MGM (Australia), Region 2 & 4, PAL. 2:35:1 (16:9 nhanced). English DD 5.1, French DD 2.0, Spanish DD 2.0. English, French, Portuguese, Spanish subtitles. 120 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: David Lynch
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper, Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell
Screenplay: David Lynch
Country: USA
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About six or seven years ago, I bought a copy of the SBS publication 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die and, as far as non-genre essentials are concerned, that book has made up a good part of the backbone of my subsequent filmgoing. In the entry for American Beauty, it's written: "if Blue Velvet peeked behind the curtains of modern day suburbia back in 1986, 13 years later American Beauty yanked them completely away from the windows and gave us all an unsettling, unnerving full view of what goes on inside". It's a worthy comparison but, having since seen both films, it's one I disagree with: David Lynch's Blue Velvet is by far the more affecting movie, a profoundly edgy and eccentric masterpiece that deserves all of the praise heaped upon it.

The film introduces Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), a disaffected young man who, on the way back from visiting his father in hospital, finds a severed ear in a field. Jeffrey brings his find to the police and the investigation is headed by Detective Williams (George Dickerson). Their enquiries soon stagnate but Williams' daughter Sandy (Lynch leading lady Laura Dern) forms an attraction with Jeffrey, meeting up with him and providing him with information. The two work together and manage to link the ear to an apartment occupied by a beautiful cabaret singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini). Under the guise of a pest control man, Jeffrey enters the apartment to stake the place out and steal a spare key, before returning the next evening.

When Jeffrey returns, Dorothy makes an unexpected appearance and Jeffrey darts into the closet. She finds him and mistakes him for a voyeur. The whole situation turns her on and, threatening him with a knife, he undresses and she performs oral sex on him. As she's doing so, they're disturbed by Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), a psychopath who rapes Dorothy in between frequent inhalations of an oxygen mask he carries. Frank's motives, and how this ties in with the severed ear, are revealed at this stage and Jeffrey begins an uneasy relationship with Dorothy in order to liberate her from Frank's clutches.

Blue Velvet is a remarkable film in its fusion of a plot-based thriller, erotic drama, noir and surrealism. It's at the more conventional end of the Lynch spectrum, with its narrative moving in an uncomplicated linear direction, but there are some moments of seriously inspired weirdness – this is mostly found in the character of Frank, who chews up every sequence he appears in. Hopper is an actor who has the inherent malice to pull off an antagonist like Frank Booth, whose neurosis is offset by unfettered evil. In Frank, Lynch and Hopper have crafted an absolutely terrific character but in doing so have inadvertently introduced one of the film's very few pitfalls – Hopper so effortlessly steals every scene he's in that Booth becomes sorely missed (though perhaps that's not the most accurate phrase for an antagonist as evil as Frank) when he's not around.

Something Lynch has done especially well with Blue Velvet is the juxtaposition of some really disturbing sequences (Dorothy's rape by Frank chief among them) with the bright, unassuming exterior of American suburbia. That's no doubt where the comparison with American Beauty can be drawn – thematically they're quite similar but Blue Velvet presents a harsher comparison and is therefore more effective. The scene succeeding the rape, of Dorothy cooing to Bobby Vinton's 'Blue Velvet' at the Slow Club shows both the thin veneer of normalcy and sheer bizarreness that Lynch is trying for with his film. For mine, this contrast is almost perfectly achieved.

Blue Velvet came two years after Dune, a critical and commercial failure and a huge disappointment following Lynch's well-received breakthrough picture The Elephant Man (1980). The original cut, which ran about four hours, was halved and these deleted scenes exist only in still photos and in the text of the original screenplay. Further cuts were requested by the MPAA to the rape scene and they detailed Frank hitting Dorothy – in the present version, the film cuts to Jeffrey when the offending scene takes place, which Lynch felt added to the sequence's grim tone. The film was widely critically acclaimed and, despite a limited release, it fared reasonably at the box office. Lynch received an Oscar nomination for Best Director in 1986 and Hopper also scored a nomination that year for Hoosiers, a move that many felt was in acknowledgement of Blue Velvet but a far more politically correct decision.

An absolutely exceptional film, Blue Velvet is one of those movies that really repays revisits. It's thoroughly disturbing without being particularly graphic (although, as in his next picture Wild at Heart, Lynch has a tendency to explode into brief shots of extreme violence – Blue Velvet's climax is stunningly grisly) and it is without a doubt one of the best films of the 80s. Revel in the weirdness.
The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. It looks very good, with Frederick Elmes' (Lynch's DP for Eraserhead) noir-esque cinematography done the justice it deserves.
Two audio tracks, English and French both presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It's fine. The soundtrack is by Angelo Badalamenti, whose eclectic career has spanned every Lynch film between Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. It's a brilliant score and it again highlights the starkness between the vile content and magnificent music and cinematography.
Extra Features
The R4 disc is given the same host of special features as the R1 disc. A 71-minute documentary titled Mysteries of Love is the focal point, and that includes interviews with Lynch, MacLachlan, Dern, Rossellini, Hopper and other crew members. Are You A Pervert? is a 10-minute deleted scenes montage, comprised of still photos of the lost two hours of the original cut. Photo galleries, TV spots, a theatrical trailer and 2-minute review spot on Siskel & Ebert round out a really good package. An R0 UK release and R1 UK release both provide some different features, including a 31-minute documentary and 45-minute interview with Hopper, but I don't think there's really any need for the import.
The Verdict
Just watch it. Blue Velvet is a movie that defies categorisation and its superb performances, particularly by Rossellini and Hopper, and David Lynch's inspired direction, makes this one of the all-time greats.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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