Blue Velvet

S&M, voyeurism, murder, rape, violence, and torture. . . some of the typically wholesome activities to be found in small-town America. This psychosexual possible-murder mystery—set in a neo-Fifties 1980s logging town—soon gets weird when an innocent local finds a severed human ear in a field. Writer-director David Lynch uses various tactics to keep the viewer as off-balance as his attracted-to-the-hidden-underbelly protagonist. There's grotesque humor, disquieting images and sounds momentarily inserted into a scene, and exaggerated acting that's just short of David Mamet. He also throws in visual quotes ranging from Psycho to The Godfather, but the overall style is a disorienting mixture of surrealism, film noir, and bland ordinariness that conveys the feel of a menacing dream.

719blu.boxMuch of the film unfolds in near darkness—both literally and morally—so when Laura Dern gradually emerges from the gloom, her blonde hair and salmon-colored dress literally light up the screen. Criterion's new 4K digital restoration has good contrast, the suburban lawn greens and pastel dresses giving way, as we enter a very different and seamy underworld, to scarlet lipstick, souped-up cars, and the deep black clothing worn by psychotic sadist Frank (Dennis Hopper). Despite the low light, detail is decent with background signs readable and tools well-individuated on hardware store shelves.


Surround sound is used sparingly at first to make music more enveloping and for occasional effects like slamming doors, chirping birds, growling thunder, and logging trucks moving across the screen. Music becomes more surround-intensive in the second half, which draws us into the intrigue and suspense. An orchestral score alternates with bass-heavy electronic rumblings that underline significant moments and build tension while simultaneously distancing with their oddness. Instruments sound well-separated in the big and booming rock-and-roll songs, especially Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" which Dean Stockwell does a wonderfully camp lip-synch performance to. The disc's alternate stereo soundtrack also sounds good, although a little tinnier.


Extras include a feature-length poetic piece mixing photographs and silent Super 8 film shot on the set, a 70-minute documentary, and an audio recording of Lynch discussing script-writing, shooting, and music. There is also an interesting interview with composer Angelo Badalamenti. Fifty-three minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes serve to entertain and fill in this bizarre story.

Studio: Criterion Collection
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0
Length: 120 minutes
Director: David Lynch
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance

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