The only thing I remember about the first time that I saw Blue Velvet many many years ago was the now iconic moment where kinky sadist Dennis Hopper inhales a deep breath from an oxygen mask before calling Isabella Rosellini “Mommy”. I was in high school. At the time, I just remember thinking, baffled, “Huh.” Now, as the film has been released in a 25th Anniversary edition for Blu-Ray, I still find myself scratching my head over this film. Is it watchable? Yes. Is it still disturbing? Resoundingly, yes. Is it a masterpiece? Errrr…
Blue Velvet opens with an idyllic scene of small-town America, white picket fences and all. When a man collapses while watering his plants, you know things are not as they seem as the camera lingers on his writhing body. The hose is still clutched in his hand as it shoots water straight in the air at crotch level, while a dog excitedly laps up the spray. Hmm. Then we see young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) walking down a dirt road. He sees something odd in the grass. It is a human ear. He picks it up and puts it in a greasy paper bag. And so it begins.
The mystery of the human ear proves too alluring for young Jeffrey. Despite being warned away from the case by the detective (who happens to be the father of comely young Laura Dern), Jeffrey pursues his own investigation. It is not long until Jeffrey is over his head. Completely over his head. Everything centers around an alluring nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Rossellini) and the psycho sadist Frank Booth (Hopper) who has power over her. Getting lured into a sexual relationship is probably not in Jeffrey’s best interest, but Dorothy is such a tragic and fucked-up figure, that he thinks he can help. It doesn’t take long for Frank to find out about Dorothy’s new boy toy. Poor Jeffrey.
Is Blue Velvet a fun movie to watch? No. No, it is not. In fact, I don’t need to see it again anytime soon. But it IS intriguing, even as it gets progressively freaky and disturbing. And it IS disturbing. Shocking when it premiered 25 years ago, you’d think that, with time, the shock may have diminished. Well, I’m here to say that it is still a really disturbing film. Hopper’s performance as Frank still stands out as one of the most memorable villains ever on celluloid. One has to give props to a guy that can say the word “Fuck” in so many creatively different ways, and in so many different contexts.
“Do me a favor. Don’t be a good neighbor to her anymore. Or I’ll send you a love letter… straight from my heart, fucker! Do you know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker! You receive a love letter from me, and you’re fucked forever! You understand, fuck? I’ll send you straight to hell, fucker!”
Indeed. In its way, Blue Velvet, is David Lynch’s version of a love letter to viewers: It is his a twisted version of a love story that sends the viewer straight to hell. It sure ain’t pretty, but just as shocking as Dorothy Vallens getting turned on by getting hit by Jeffrey, someone out there, I’m sure, gets turned on by Blue Velvet. I’ll acknowledge that, as well as the fact that a lot of critics praise this movie as brilliant… But, well, this movie just isn’t for me.
On the 25th Anniversary edition of the Blu-Ray release, most notable are the the scenes of lost footage, an impressive batch totaling almost 50 minutes! It is hard to say that these scenes are missed from the final cut, but they sure are interesting. Most notable are the additions of a whole introductory backstory showing Jeffrey at college before being forced to quit school and come home to his ailing father. These scenes establish that he was already a voyeuristic pervert, as he is busted spying on an almost-date rape at a party. Also, yes, that is Megan Mullally (Will and Grace) playing his college girlfriend! There is a making-of documentary “Mysteries of Love”, some outtakes, and trailers. But best of all is the original Siskel & Ebert review of the film, where Siskel praises it, but Ebert (reflecting the view of many, I’m sure) is completely offended by the film, and worries about the humiliation suffered by Rossellini in the film. I may fall somewhere between the two, but Ebert had guts for speaking out against a film that was as praised at the time as it was hated.