Blue Velvet

Director: David Lynch.
Screenplay: David Lynch.
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, George Dickerson, Hope Lange, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, J. Michael Hunter, Fred Pickler, Ken Stovitz, Jack Harvey.

“I’ll send you a love letter straight from my heart, fucker”

The debacle of adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune in 1984, is now pretty much common knowledge among film enthusiasts. To put it plainly, it didn’t do well at the box office and was even tagged with the appellation ‘the Heaven’s Gate of science fiction films‘. So upset was David Lynch with studio interference and losing final cut of the film that he vowed never to work with a big budget again. He regrouped, however, and two years later he delivered one of his own original scripts in the form of Blue Velvet. Not only did it put him back on the map but it’s still widely regarded as one of the best films from the 1980’s.Β 
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is an impressionable young man who return’s back to his home town to care for his ill father. After a visit at the hospital he takes a short cut through an abandoned field and finds a severed human ear. He takes it to the police before embarking on his own investigation. This leads him to nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and a criminal underworld that he had no idea existed.
The opening of the film has such a striking beauty to it with crisp and colourful cinematography by Frederick Elmes while Lynch doesn’t mince his words on his message; White picket fences with vibrant red roses, a fire truck strolls by with a waving fireman while a man hoses down his manicured garden. It’s quaint and calming imagery. Suddenly, the hose gets stuck on a branch, the water splutters and the infuriated gardener suffers a stroke. He falls to the ground while a toddler looks on and a dog’s only interest is in catching the water from the hose which is still in the grasp of the fallen gardener. It’s here that Lynch turns his camera to the grass and the dark underbelly of this picture-perfect, suburban lifestyle is exposed in a colony of insects. We then cut to a billboard saying “Welcome to Lumberton” – where it is later described as “a town where the people really know how much wood a woodchuck chucks”. There’s a playfulness on show and Lynch imbues the whole affair with satire and a deep cynicism.
From here, Lynch takes his time with his narrative – which, when you look at it now, is deceptively simple. He uses a very linear approach throughout the beginning of the film. Lumberton is a middle class suburbia where seemingly everyone is pleasant and there’s a feeling of safety. It has an air of mystery to it, though, after the discovery of the severed ear and it’s from the proceeding investigations and uncovering of the truth that the film gets more bizarre by the minute and the Lynchian weirdness begins to creep in. This is predominantly with the arrival of Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth. From the plethora of Lynch’s obscure and unhinged characters, Frank is the one that seems to get the most attention. It’s not hard to see why, though, as this deranged, amyl-nitrate huffing psychopath is a character that lingers long in the memory. It’s an Oscar worthy performance from Hopper but, strangely, the Academy choose to nominate him in the supporting category for Hoosiers that same year.Β As good as he is in that film, Frank Booth has become one of, if not, the most iconic performance of his career.

For all it’s strangeness, though, Blue Velvet is effectively a film-noir. It has all the hallmarks of the sub-genre but, as is usually the case, Lynch puts his own spin on the proceedings. It’s dark, gloomy and hugely atmospheric. It’s also not without its disturbing elements as it delves into the darkest recesses of the psyche and explores the psychosexual motivations of its characters – which is hinted at with a quote from Laura Dern’s angelic Sandy – “I can’t figure out if you’re a detective or a pervert”. This line perfectly sums up the juxtaposition that courses throughout the film. Lynch is interested in capturing the different extremes; in society, human relationships and Freudian and Oedipal subconscious desires. All the while, he keeps us reminded that dreams can so easily lead to nightmares.

If there’s one moment that showcases Lynch’s ability to project mood and capture the extremes it’s with a cameo from Dean Stockwell as the suave, glad-handling dandy, Ben. His miming rendition of Roy Orbison’s In Dreams using a worklight is simply one of the best scenes Lynch has ever put onscreen. It’s at once hilariously comical yet also surreal and deeply fuckin’ creepy.

A startlingly beautiful yet genuinely horrific tale and proof that Lynch is probably the most subversive of filmmakers working today. This erotic and perversely self indulgent piece of work remains one of his best films. To think that this came out in the mid 80’s is proof of Lynch’s untamed brilliance and majesty.

Mark Walker

Trivia: The character of Frank was to breathe helium at various intervals in David Lynch’s original script, but Dennis Hopper suggested this be changed to amyl nitrite which he knew was used to enhance sexual experiences. Hopper only realized years later how bizarre the concept of a helium-breathing maniac talking with a high voice was. Lynch, however, felt that using helium might elicit laughter in the audience which would have been undesirable.

51 Responses to “Blue Velvet”

  1. Nice review Mark. Blue Velvet is undoubtedly a masterpiece and Lynch’s finest after Mulholland Drive in my opinion. It’s probably also his most accessible film (excluding The Elephant Man and The Straight Story) since the plot’s more linear and less surreal than his other works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks man! It’s was such a treat to revisit it after so many years. I’d agree that it’s second to Mulholland Drive and a masterpiece in its own right. Do you know, I had actually forgotten how accessible it was. My memory of it was a much more surreal and twisted experience. Fabulous film, though. Just superb.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just thinking about it, it’s hard to believe how tame Blue Velvet is compared to many movies today. Even Lynch topped the movie’s sadism a few years later with Fire Walk With Me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agree. My memory of the film was much more shocking than it turned out to be. Admittedly, I was much younger when I last saw it. That said, it still hasn’t lost any of its quality.

        Fire Walk With Me is much more powerful and disturbing. And speaking of that very film, Charles, it’ll be my next post after the weekend. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice! Been meaning to rewatch it since I bought the new blu ray edition. I’m really pumped for the reboot this year, though I’m curious that since it’s on Showtime whether the new season be as restrained as on network tv or be as surreally violent as FWWM.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I rewatched FWWM with a few weeks ago and it was solid stuff. I really can’t wait for the reboot either. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for anything on tv as I am for more Twin Peaks. It’s an interesting question on how he’ll go about it. He ostracised many of his fans with FWWM. It just wasn’t the tone that some were looking for but I loved it. Lynch has my full support on the reboot. I’m sure he knows what to do!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! The middle section of the film, from when Jeffrey starts spying on Dorothy, to when Jeffrey awakes from his beating, is just mind-blowing jaw-dropping wonderful cinema! I kept thinking, OMG, what is this? Dean Stockwell nearly steals the film without hardly speaking a word and that miming sequence is just incredible! it made me love Roy Orbison all over again…… fact Lynch uses Orbison’s music, again to spell-binding effect, in Mullholland Drive!
    Frank Booth’s henchmen, Brad Dourif (that laugh) and Jack Nance (I’m Paul) are also dynamic in their small effective roles!
    Having said that, it is definitely Hopper’s film! He apparently badgered Lynch for the role by repeatedly telling Lynch that he was Frank Booth…….i.e. ‘I know him, I am him!” Scary man!
    One of the great films of all time! If it wasn’t for this film, there would have been no Mullholland Drive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree on all accounts here, man. The film begins fairly straightforward and linear. Even deliberately paced. Like you say, though, it then takes a bizarre turn and every single scene from them on is just genius stuff.

      Dourif and Nance don’t have a lot do but they still make an impression. I was also very impressed by a young MacLachlan as the lead.
      That aside, it is Hopper that really stands out. He’s an absolute fruitcake. Although Dean Stockwell’s 5mins or so is the best part of the film for me.

      All in all, though. The real star of the show is Lynch himself. This a masterful piece of work and it still holds up today – 30 years down the line.


  3. This review is stunning Mark. Gotta love the way that Lynch views suburbia as satiric and at the same time very twisted.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Blue Velvet WAS my favourite Lynch film until Mullholland Drive came along! Naomi Watts just nails that role……….she runs the full gamut of emotions in this role and whatever accolades she received for this performance will never be enough! One of the great female acting performances of all time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once again, we’re on the same page. Blue Velvet was my favourite too until Mulholland arrived. That’s Lynch’s masterpiece and it rightfully made a star of Watts. She’s phenomenal in it. Everything about Mulholland Drive works. It’s flawless.


  5. The bit where they are in the theatre and the chick is singing Llorando (Crying) and then collapses and she’s not singing and then it all goes MAD! That was when I knew, this guy (Lynch) is not of this Earth! Magnificent! Another film that starts out where everything is perfect and then……………!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s s great scene, man. And that women singing is just so powerful. Apparently, there’s a place in Paris that they named “Silencio” after that nightclub in Mulholland Drive.


  6. Great review! Such an odd movie but I kind of love parts of it. And love that Anthrax made a song out of it. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That may have been one of the best quotes you have sampled from any film here my man. That is absolutely fucking hilarious, but boy do I need to get context! I am such a virgin when it comes to David Lynch. Well, okay that’s not true. I’ve seen two so far — The Elephant Man and . . no, wait. I guess it’s just the one. Fuck me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! It’s a quote that I find shocks but when you get the context you’ll completely get it. I’m astonished you haven’t seen more Lynch. The man’s a genius. One of my all time favourite filmmakers. The Elephant Man is good but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Lynch is all about. I demand you get to work, man. You have many Lynchian delights awaiting you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’d like to tackle Mulholland Drive soon. Heard so much about that and people seem really divided about it. Love stuff like that.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, you either take to Lynch’s hallucinatory filmmaking or you don’t but I, personally, think Mulholland Dr is a masterpiece. I watched it again recently myself but I’m really struggling with a review as it’s hard to approach it without talking extensively about the plot. Needless to say, it’s well worth a look, man. Well worth it. Even if you don’t like it, it’s one that has to be tackled.

        Liked by 1 person

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