Blue Velvet: Special Edition

Blue Velvet: Special Edition (1986)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern
Extras: Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Review, Photo Gallery, Trailer

I love David Lynch. He is a true visionary. You’ll often hear, "He’s not for everyone." Which is probably true. His films aren’t for the summer blockbuster movie-goer. Regularly, his films are far more than meets the eye. Normally, there are dark secrets accompanied by dark, sometimes uncomfortable, humor. His style caters to that select following who long for movies with meaning beneath the surface. Symbolism and metaphor run rampant in everything David directs, writes or paints. Here, he uses a severed ear to represent a tunnel into a strange world.

Dennis Hopper’s description of Lynch’s paintings as ‘American surrealism’ can also be applied to "Blue Velvet", and most of David Lynch’s movies. His world is surreal indeed. And to make sure we as normal human beings understand this, Lynch’s characters repeat the line, "It’s a strange world", throughout the film. So take that into consideration when watching anything ‘Lynch-y’.

The movie was a small budget production and it looked it. Lynch received a ten million dollar budget and a handshake for creative control of the movie – which included the final-cut. He obviously used it all. You’ll get a 1980s movie feel when you watch "Blue Velvet" but its not in a not-so-80s type town. From the clothes and the trendy earring that Kyle MacLachlan wears to the big flowing hair, make-up and apartment decor, this movie is totally 80s.

Lynch’s original script was based on bits and pieces of ideas and concepts for a movie and went through several years of writing and multiple drafts. Finally, he fit the pieces together and in the end had a four-hour cut of the movie. Working with Duwayne Dunham (film editor) they were able to cut it down and deliver the film just one scene over the requested two-hour movie. Needless to say, several scenes were left on the cutting-room floor, never to be seen again, and only reproduced through still photos in a deleted scene montage found on the DVD.

"Blue Velvet" is about a college student, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), who comes across a severed ear while walking through a field. He delivers the ear to the police and is told not to ask any further questions about the case. His curiosity leads him into his own investigation after he gets information from the Police Chief’s daughter, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern). Jeffrey breaks into a suspect’s apartment, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), and he ends up hidden in her closet where he witnesses her in a sado-masochistic sexual act controlled by a ‘dangerous man’, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Clues and information is gathered and Jeffery finds himself in the middle of a deep dark mystery that only he can solve.

This was MacLachlan’s second film with David Lynch, the first being "Dune". Lynch knew he wanted MacLachlan for his innocent and curious ‘look’. Later MacLachlan would star in Lynch’s successful TV series "Twin Peaks". Without even a read, Lynch signed Dern to play the part of MacLachlan’s love interest. Isabella Rossellini was not Lynch’s first choice but he was convinced she could play the part of Dorothy Vallens after meeting Rosselini at a restaurant in New York. Rosselini was previously in "White Nights" and essentially realized a career in acting after starring in "Blue Velvet" – her second American film.

Most performances were sub-par to Rosselini’s excellent portrayal of a victimized woman. Ebert found the performance by Rosselini to be convincing and courageous in a film that didn’t deserve her performance. Ebert states, "She is degraded, slapped around, humiliated and undressed in front of the camera. And when you ask an actress to endure those experiences, you should keep your side of the bargain by putting her in an important film". Gene Siskel, on the other hand, gave "Blue Velvet" a thumbs up (1986).

MGM Home Entertainment’s Special Edition release of "Blue Velvet" is again presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation with the new digital transfer supervised by David Lynch. The <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer is now on a single side <$RSDL,dual-layer> disc (previously on a single side single-layer disc). There is a subtle improvement in picture quality with a darker feel. Image quality is slightly softer and colors are more refined and balanced. Fleshtones are accurate and blacks are deep. There seems to be the element of aging but detail is somewhat better on this release. Contrast and shadow delineation also appears more natural. There is noticeable pixeliation but the picture is smoother without excessive edge enhancement. Overall, there are definite improvements with the Special Edition but they are not drastic.

"Blue Velvet" provides a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1-channel remastered soundtrack. Lynch’s audio preferences seem to be limited to left and right channels and although this DVD offers surrounds it is not very noticeable. Dialogue is pretty clear throughout. A French Language <$DS,Dolby Surround> Soundtrack is included along with a Spanish Language Two-Channel Soundtrack. English Captions and <$CC,Closed Captions> as well as French and Spanish Language Subtitles are options.

The wonderful thing about this Special Edition release is the Special Features. It’s always nice to know that a new transfer will be accompanied by loads of supplementary material. First is a 70-minute documentary on the making of "Blue Velvet" called "Mysteries of Love". Featured are recent interviews with the cast and crew including MacLachlan, Dern, Hopper and Rossellini who all reminisced about their experience with "Blue Velvet". They discussed the beginning stages of accepting the roles, their relationships with David Lynch and their performances during the filming of the movie. Producer Fred Caruso brings us the first stages of production from budget to location and insight on David Lynch himself. Footage from late-80s interviews with David Lynch regarding the writing, casting and production process was also edited into the documentary. Unfortunately, there isn’t a recent interview with David Lynch himself. You may choose to watch "Mysteries of Love" all the way through or by chapter selection.

The Deleted Scenes Montage is a collection of photography stills recreated in a way that gives you an idea of how deleted scenes would have been seen. I’m always a fan of deleted scenes and would rather see the scenes in action but I did enjoy the ten scenes that were recreated with the photos. As each still dissolves from picture to picture it gives off a dark, surreal feel which actually parallels David Lynch’s ‘strange’ world.

You’ll also get to see the original Siskel & Ebert review of "Blue Velvet" from the "Siskel & Ebert" show 1986. One thumbs up and one thumbs down – I miss Gene Siskel!

Also included are a photo gallery, a theatrical trailer, and two TV spots. Most importantly, there is a chapter-selection menu for the movie – oh how I wish the "Mulholland Drive" DVD had chapter-selection!

Lynch has a unique style in story telling. You might love it – you may hate it. Know this before viewing any David Lynch film – there is more to it than meets the eye. As a DVD collector and/or David Lynch fan, the new release of "Blue Velvet" Special Edition is a nice addition for your DVD library. Where the original release was completely bare-bones, this release, with only a slight picture improvement, is a must-have based on the special features alone.