Blue Velvet (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes in white:

The movie is pretty cool and quite insidious.

It takes place in a small American town which is white bread, picket fences, gardens, smiling firemen who pet their Dalmatians and wave to kids from their trucks. In this antiseptic environment, Laura Dern and Kyle Maclachlan want to play Nancy Drew and solve a mystery involving a severed ear.

And then filmmaker David Lynch asks us "what do you bastards think would happen to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys if they ran into real-life desperado scumbags?". And he shows us, and cures us of our illusions with some shock therapy. I like the way he sets it up, with the cornball music and the excessively sincere acting from the youngsters, just like a 50's TV sitcom, until Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell show up to assault us with over-the-top kinky and creepy. Pretty damned effective. Don't count on it as a date movie, however.

Actually, the movie isn't as creepy as I remembered. It shocked and sickened me back in 1986, as it intended. I guess my new reaction is because (a) I've seen some shit since then, or (b) I've become inured to it by a subsequent generation of shocking gore and kink, in the Tarantino fashion, or (c) the world is less innocent now, or (d) all of the above.

It was sure considered audacious in its time.


Isabella Rossellini is seen completely naked from all camera ingles, including frontals.

Kyle Mac Lachlan also appears naked.

Very few films have ever precipitated as much controversy and as divergent a spread of opinion as this one. It captured every possible rating from one star to four. Some people consider it a masterpiece, and rate it among their favorites, others consider it demented gutter fodder. You can see below that the average from the top critcs is 1.5 stars, but it is close to the top 250 at IMDb. That sums it all up.

Roger Ebert, who gave it one star, said that David Lynch was a talented director using his genius for evil instead of good. Like Dr Frankenstein!

I think Lynch probably would be flattered by that comment.

I don't think you have to like a movie in order to admire it. This movie is admirable in many ways, but not likeable at all, and it is also ugly, so if you like your art to be beautiful, it jest ain't fer you.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, 2.35, very crisp print

  • no significant features

I nominate Isabella Rossellini for the best singing ever done by someone who can't carry a tune. She sings Blue Velvet very slowly, with a spooky piano accompanying her - actually he follows her. It's quite clever. Several times she gets a note wrong at first, but then the piano comes in with the right note and she slides back into it. The net effect is good - it sounds like it should from a boozy singer in a smoky club. Heaven knows how David Lynch showed genius enough to cast her for a singing role, but it worked out, so there ya go! (Other nominees for getting away with a tone-deaf singing performance might include Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls.)
Tuna's comments in yellow:

As the film opens, we have a perfect urban setting in the quiet lumber town of Lumberton. A fire truck goes by, and a man is watering his lawn. Suddenly, a bee stings him. Evidently, he is allergic, and is rushed to the hospital. His son, played by Kyle Mac Lachlan, returns from college. On the way back from the hospital, he finds a human ear in a vacant lot.

He takes the ear to the police. Later that night, curious about his discovery, he visits the detective he had seen earlier in the day, and is told that he will not be allowed to know anything until after the entire investigation. On his way out, the detective's daughter (Laura Dern) tells him what she has overheard of the case, which leads him to Rossellini, a nightclub singer who lives nearby in an apartment. He decides to sneak into her apartment, to see what he can learn. This sets the story in motion. He learns that she likes to be beaten, and is under the power of a real psycho bad guy played by Dennis Hopper, in what is probably the creepiest performance ever filmed.

I admire the film very much. What makes it work from me is the contrasts. The most obvious, of course, is the near fatal bee sting and the human ear, against the postcard perfect small town, but a more important one is Hoppers character vs. Mac Lachlan, and Rossellini vs. Dern. Mac Lachlan makes Hopper seem even more creepy, and so on. The film is beautifully photographed, and Rossellini plays one of the better nude roles in American cinema.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 1/4, Maltin 2/4, Berardinelli 4/4. Maltin calls it "terminally weird, flamboyantly original"

  • David Lynch was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.7, so it is flirting with the all-time top 250 list. Scores are even across age and gender lines.
  • With their dollars made a profit, simply because of a low budget. It had lots of people discussing it, but not that many actually watching it. (Domestic gross $9 million)
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. Scoop says, "I can't agree with Maltin and Ebert. There is dazzling talent on display here, and the movie precipitates the visceral reaction that it seeks. It's a thrill ride. It may be an unpleasant thrill ride, but I just can't agree that it doesn't work. It does. It has a powerful kick. You can't make that comment about that many movies." Tuna says, "You might not enjoy it, as much of it is not at all pleasant, but you will not forget it, and you will definitely not be bored."

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