Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), is on his way home from visiting his father at the hospital when he finds a human ear. He turns the ear over to the police, but the mystery eats at him, and, with the help of a detective’s daughter (Laura Dern), he begins his own investigation. Very quickly, he gets in over his head, becoming involved with the masochistic Isabella Rossellini, and her deeply disturbed, deeply sadistic boyfriend, Dennis Hopper (in his most terrifying role).
This is…Lynch at his best, playing the suspense for keeps, the off-kilter humour only adding to the sense of the bizarre and the grotesque. The small-town setting is a clear precursor to Twin Peaks, but the nightmare is even more complete. In fact, with the possible exception of Lost Highway, Lynch has yet to produce a film quite so genuinely disturbing.
The audio is terrific, belying the fact that the film is now 15 years old. Music and effects have a strong surround presence. There is no dialogue distortion or hiss. This may not have quite the overwhelming effect of more recent films, but I have no cause for complaint.
The picture is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and comes from a pristine print. There is none of the usual opening-reel damage so common to films twenty years and older. The colours are good, and the extreme contrasts so important to the early shots are preserved. The night scenes aren’t quite as fabulous: the blacks could be a bit more solid, there is some grain, and the contrasts aren’s as sharp.
Don’t be disappointed by the lack of commentary: that is not something that David Lynch does. He doesn’t believe in explaining his films. Instead, there is a documentary (“Mysteries of Love”), which looks back over the making of the film, and has new interviews with many of the participants. (The Lynch interviews, however, are from 1987.) There is a deleted scenes montage, which tries to suggest, using publicity stills, what some of the scenes from the original four-hour cut might have been. This is interesting, and a nice attempt (the actual scenes have long since disappeared), but you only have the vaguest sense of what is going on, since there is, of course, no dialogue. There is also the trailer, two TV spots, a clip of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel arguing about the film back in 1987, and a photo gallery. The gallery is better than most of its type, with the pictures grouped together into labelled categories. The “Collectible Booklet” is just some liner notes. Finally, I’ve found two Easter Eggs, triggered on the word “Special” on the Special Features page, and on the title “Mysteries of Love” on the documentary page. The Eggs are, respectively, Lynch talking about MacDonald’s, and Rossellini countering the argument that the portrayal of her character is misogynist. The menu has a fully animated and scored main page and transitions.
There is a balance here between the weirdly funny and the genuinely scary that Lynch has often had trouble recapturing (see Wild At Heart for an example of Lynch losing his balance). Truly one of Lynch’s finest films, this re-release and its new extras are most welcome.
Special Features List
- Documentary: “Mysteries of Love”
- Deleted Scenes Montage
- Original “Siskel & Ebert” Review
- Photo Gallery
- Liner Notes
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots