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David Lynch
Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern
David Lynch

It's a strange world.
Rated R.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Director.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Stereo
French Dolby Stereo
French, Spanish

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 2/6/2001

• Theatrical trailer
• Collectible "Making-Of" Booklet

Score soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Blue Velvet (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

At this point in my life I guess I'll just have to concede that I don't particularly get the appeal of Blue Velvet, David Lynch's cult classic from 1986. I've seen it a few times over the years and always wanted to like it but never could quite get into it.

Why not? I don't know. It seems like the kind of film I should enjoy. It's often dark, it's creepy, it's perverse - those are all right up my alley! Unfortunately, there's something about it that just doesn't gel for me.

Velvet focuses on life in quiet Lumberton, a northwest logging town that seems like the model of civil tranquility. One day the father of Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) suffers a medical emergency and becomes hospitalized. Jeffrey returns from college to help out and discovers a human ear discarded in a field. He turns this in to police Detective Williams (George Dickerson), and then becomes involved with Williamsí daughter Sandy (Laura Dern), who overhears some info about the case.

Jeffrey gets very interested in this unraveling mystery, and he decides to play detective along with Sandyís help. Soon he discovers the involvement of Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), a trouble nightclub chanteuse, and from there he gets deeper and deeper into the seedy and perverse underbelly of this seemingly idyllic world.

Iíve seen Velvet at least four of five times over the years, but it continues to leave me cold. Maybe it's because I felt the attempts to be dark, creepy and perverse seemed too obvious. Let me temper that statement: no, I don't mean that the occurrences we see are predictable or cliche; there's definitely some unusual stuff going on here. However, most of it felt like Lynch tried to be dark for dark's sake, from the not-so-hidden symbolism of the insects below ground we see early in the film to a characterís creepy rendering of a Roy Orbison tune.

It seems that the "evil underneath the surface" aspect of Velvet has received much praise, but I think it's tremendously overrated. This is supposed to be news that a lot of nasty things happen behind what appear to be perfect exteriors? Such a concept long ago lost any ability to shock or startle, and I didn't think anything here proved tremendously provocative.

Maybe I'm just jaded, but I didn't think much of the depravity in Velvet seemed terribly shocking. Again, too much of it came off as "play acting" and lacked the realism that would have an impact on me. Lynch's world is just a little too far out there for me to accept it. I won't argue whether or not characters such as those seen in the movie exist, but the entire setting just comes across as artificial and contrived.

While I checked over other opinions in preparation to write this article - I often like to see what others think, especially when I don't follow the usual line, as in this case - and the most common threads I discovered were those that found the film intense and especially cited the performance of Dennis Hopper as baddie Frank Booth in this regard. I didn't feel that either of these perceptions held true for me. I didn't find the action of Velvet to be harrowing or Hopper's performance to seem especially evil just because of the comic aspect of the material. Too much of it came across as perversely funny to really seem creepy or scary. Booth is such an odd creature with his omnipresent gas mask and his sexual perversions that I couldn't help but laugh most of the time; that character and much of the rest of the film appeared far too amusing to get under my skin. An effeminate Dean Stockwell all done up and lip-synching Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" is supposed to spook me? The opposite reaction occurred.

So I guess I'll have to stay on the outside of the great cult of Blue Velvet fans. Pity me if you must, but 16 years down the road, I'm no closer to feeling this movie's appeal than I was when it originally appeared. It's a generally interesting movie, but I don't see it as anything particularly noteworthy.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

Blue Velvet appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not an exceptional transfer, Velvet nonetheless provided a picture that generally seemed very positive.

Sharpness seemed very good for the most part. A few interiors betrayed slight softness, but those issues appeared quite minor. Most of the film appeared nicely detailed and distinct, with good levels of clarity and detail. Jagged edges and moirť effects caused no concerns, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement.

Print flaws led to the most significant issues here, though they didnít seem terrible. Some light grain appeared at times, and I saw a few small marks and speckles. These stayed insignificant most of the time, though, and they didnít create any large problems.

Colors appeared terrific, which was important for a film with such a wide and bright palette such as this. From the bright reds of the roses at the start to the blues of the titular velvet, all the hues looked quite rich and vivid. Black levels seemed appropriately dark and deep, and shadow detail was fine; the movie exhibited a nice balance within dark scenes. Ultimately, Blue Velvet offered a positive viewing experience.

I found the film's Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack to be surprisingly strong. The mix holds up quite well, as the audio of Blue Velvet doesn't appear to come from a 16-year-old movie. The soundfield was nicely broad and well localized. As one might expect, the center channel dominated but a strong variety of sounds emanated from the front side speakers as well, and the audio seemed well-integrated, with some solid panning at times. The rears largely bolstered the front soundfield but they did so convincingly and clearly, with audio that matched the forward channels well and that added a nice dimensionality to the effect.

Audio quality also seemed better than I'd expect of a film from this era. Dialogue was generally natural and warm despite a heavy level of dubbed lines. A little distortion appeared when lines were shouted - this particularly affected some of Dennis Hopper's dialogue - but this wasn't much of an issue. Effects were full-bodied and realistic, with some surprising heft behind them; the audio offered good low end and the effects came across as clean and powerful.

The music came from a variety of sources - the original score plus a number of period songs - and appears clear and bright, also with solid bass when appropriate. (Older songs aren't going to pack much of a punch in that way, so it's not a disappointment the low end only seemed mildly defined for them.) The audio for Blue Velvet occasionally showed its age, but it usually provided a very satisfying piece of work.

Less positive are the DVD's supplements, as we find little on Blue Velvet. The film's theatrical trailer appears, as does an odd montage called "Strange World" that comes as an Easter egg. From the top icon of the main menu, press your remote's "left" button and it'll highlight the phrase "Strange World". Click it and you get this brief piece. It ain't much, but I suppose it beats the proverbial kick in the head.

I also suspect this DVD includes a booklet, since most MGM DVDs from this oneís era did so. MGM created excellent booklets in that period, so if it's there, it's probably good. Unfortunately, I rented the disc from Netflix, and they do not forward such materials with their rental DVDs, so I can't say for certain.

Many regard Blue Velvet as a perverse and unsettling classic. I, however, do not, largely because little in it seemed genuinely creepy or scary to me. At least the DVD provides fairly positive picture and sound, though it almost completely omits supplements. Blue Velvet maintains a strong enough position in film history to merit at least a rental; even though I don't like it, I still recommend it on those grounds. Anything more than a rental is best left to those who already know they really like the movie; it's too unusual a film for others to risk more than a few dollars on it.

To rate this film visit the review of the Special Edition DVD.