Blue Velvet - 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review
This new US Region Free Blu-ray release of Blue Velvet comes complete with a 1080p High Definition video presentation of the movie which has been purportedly personally supervised and colour corrected by the Director David Lynch himself.
Thankfully the first of these measures is in respect of the aspect ratio, which has been (reasonably) correctly framed in 2.35:1, a significantly upgrade from the botched UK DVD release which had it in a terrible 2.1:1 scope. The trouble is, if indeed the movie was original framed in 2.4:1 then it’s a shame they don’t make the effort to go the whole hog.
Normally I wouldn’t care if a movie was 2.35:1 when it was originally framed in 2.39:1. It’s so insignificantly different that it does not affect your enjoyment of the movie in question. In 99% of cases. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies where the director has clearly tried to use every last millimetre of the scope ratio – framing it so that characters interact at the very fringes of the picture, so much so that the marginal difference between 2.35:1 and 2.39:1 suddenly becomes that much more important. It won’t significantly affect your enjoyment of the movie; fans won’t be in uproar over this fact, but it does leave a couple of scenes looking like they’re just bordering on being cut short in terms of framing.
Still, on the plus side, this is a significant video upgrade on all previous releases of Blue Velvet, not least in terms of detail, but also in terms of the colour representation, as previously noted. Detail is generally good – it’s never going to look amazing because it has been filmed with that aforementioned hazy dream-like quality – but, even taking that into consideration, it looks pretty good. If anybody is going to complain about anything it’s the softness, but I suspect that this is exactly what Lynch wanted the movie to look like.
The colour scheme promotes vivid reds and greens, vibrant tones and rich scenery, perhaps for the first time ever, with solid blacks at the lower end making for decent shadowing and good night sequences. With a strong but perfectly suitable, and thoroughly filmic sheen of grain pervading the piece, and no signs of any overt digital manipulation – edge enhancement, DNR etc – this is a solid video presentation that just has that framing niggle and a slight (perhaps intentional) softness to it that you’re going to have to get over.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is far easier to assess, and definitely edges into demo quality territory as a result. It’s perhaps the finest that the movie has ever sounded and should definitely please any fans of the film. Dialogue comes across clearly throughout, from the whispers (mostly Jeffrey’s) to the profanity-laden shouting of Frank, with no capping or distortion on the louder screams and shouts, and no drop-out for the quieter moments.
The effects are also extremely well-observed, and, despite this not being a loud, bombastic, Michael Bay vehicle, Lynch has definitely crafted an intentional involving soundscape and his sound design comes across strongly with this new lossless audio. From the enhanced undergrowth creeping of the insects to the enhanced sound of the candle blowing in the wind – both portentous noises used perfectly – the surround work is fantastic. The LFE channel also wonderfully undercuts the proceedings and adds to the dark, ominous tone of the piece. Speaking of ominous tones, the soundtrack, which is punctuated by a couple of iconic classics (including the title track), boasting a wonderfully moody, perfectly atmospheric score which knows just how to crank up the creepy mystery of the piece and enhance your disturbed enjoyment no end. A superb aural accompaniment, nothing disappointing here.
Although fans will always be disappointed by a lack of Commentary, this new 25th Anniversary release of Blue Velvet comes packed with excellent extras, including a feature-length retrospective Documentary. Of course what most fans will be here for is the new footage that Lynch has managed to recover, which certainly shows you just how different the movie could have been without the editing process.
Mysteries of Love is an excellent 70 minute retrospective which pretty-much offers everything you could possibly want from a Behind the Scenes Documentary and Retrospective Documentary combined, with the majority of the filmmakers – both cast and crew – on board to discuss the project right from the off, and with some nice behind the scenes footage peppered throughout which gives a further, even more revealing look at the proceedings. Well worth investigating.
Newly Discovered Lost Footage runs at nearly an hour in length and is, rather randomly, not quite in chronological order. Indeed only the first scene is out of place and then the rest of them play out in narrative order (although I suspect the reason is because the first scene is the only one that is not Jeffrey-centric). It’s strange because, whilst we get plenty of interesting scenes which, for the most part, still carry that Lynchian vibe, the sum total would have absolutely ruined the movie if left in.
The first scene is an extension of the bar sequence with Frank, where he threatens a person who owes him money. It’s perhaps most hilarious for the numerous semi-naked women wandering around the place including one girl at the back of the room who has particularly huge breasts and who has somehow managed to set fire to them (I assume using nipple-piercings and matches rather than just petrol).
The rest of the scenes pad out Jeffrey’s story, showing more of him on College campus, introducing an on-going story arc involving his College girlfriend, introducing us to his voyeuristic tendencies by showing him watching a couple making out in the basement (then stopping it when it turns into date-rape). There’s also an added storyline about how Jeffrey’s parents can’t afford him to stay at College because of the dad’s medical bills, and the mother and aunt characters are further developed somewhat unnecessarily. Jeffrey’s relationship with the detective’s daughter is also introduced in a different manner, and we get a few scenes where he even has dinner with their entire family – including the idiot boyfriend!
Towards the end there are a couple of scenes involving Frank and Dorothy, but, aside from a strange pseudo-attempted suicide, nothing particularly gripping and, indeed, the only way these scenes work is if you’ve recently watched the movie – it feels like watching all of the extra padded bits that don’t really fill in the gaps but would have made it an even more conventional feature film. Not quite the absolute gems that I suspect many fans had gotten their hopes up over, this is still a great extra and you’ll find it hard not to sit through almost an extra hour of the Blue Velvet universe, good or not.
A Few Outtakes is thankfully just 93 seconds long because it really isn’t very funny at all – just a few gags and line fluffs.
I Like Coffee Shops, The Chicken Walk, The Robin and Sita, offer up four very short interview snippets that total less than four minutes of footage, but which do have comments from Lynch and his primary cast members.
Siskel and Ebert “At the movies” is the film critics’ 1986 quick-summary of the film. It’s useful if you wanted to be reminded of just how terrible a critic Ebert is (here’s a clue: he gave the film ONE STAR).
Finally the disc is rounded out with a Theatrical Trailer and a couple of TV Spots.
What a wonderful, dark and nightmarish fairytale this movie is. Perhaps not the absolute pinnacle of director David Lynch’s surreal and often maddening canon of work, it is arguably his most prominent and best-loved cult classic piece. A relatively straightforward detective story given that classic Lynchian twist, this is a moody dream-like nightmare through-and-through, and will probably always be most famously remembered for that performance from Dennis Hopper, on an absolute career high. Just don’t think too much about the kind of mind who comes up with this madness.
On Region Free US Blu-ray we get a decent enough video presentation, personally supervised by the Director himself, and superb audio, as well as an excellent extras package to round off a must-have release for fans of the film, who have been waiting a long time for this David Lynch film (and pretty-much all of his works) to hit the decks this side of the Continent. Recommended.
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