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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

Blue Velvet

David Lynch is rightfully celebrated as a great film director and one who makes a style of film that is unmistakably his own. So much so the term “Lynchian” has been invented to describe things that invoke his unmissable sense of, well, oddness. Lynch gained a certain amount of internet fame during those lock-in days of 2020 for posting daily weather reports from his workshop on YouTube. 

Lynch’s filmography is filled with movies that have distinct, and unforgettable images, (the baby from “Eraserhead,” anyone?), and one of his most celebrated films is his 1986 dark side of small-town life/neo-noir “Blue Velvet.” Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern, and Dennis Hopper, who plays one of the most terrifying villains ever seen on screen. “Blue Velvet” is about a young man who returns from college after his father has a medical issue. 

Our young student, Jeffery, is walking home through a field one day when he finds among the weeds a cut-off human ear. This leads our somewhat innocent young man down a road into a mystery as dark as anything dreamt up in American cinema. Unsatisfied by the non-committal response from the police, Jeffery decides to start investigating things himself. This leads him and his friend Sandy to a young singer named Dorothy who is being tormented by an absolute psychopath, Frank Booth. 

“Blue Velvet” is at times both darkly funny, and repulsive. A film that feels like young adults looking into a mystery, but the monsters around them are very real and are the seediest of underbellies in a town whose entire economy is built around wood. David Lynch setting a dark mystery in a town called “Lumberton” with a 1950s American suburbia esthetic is the most David Lynch thing ever. It also helps set a somewhat disorienting sense of time. Is this the 1950s or the 1980s? You’re never entirely sure. 

I liked “Blue Velvet” a lot, it remains one of Lynch’s most celebrated films, even if it took audiences a few years to catch up to it. It also has a lot of little seeds that would you see come to fully bloom a few years later when Lynch turned his eyes to TV with the seminal series “Twin Peaks.” The film has been re-released by The Criterion Collection, this time as a 4K UHD blu-ray combo pack, along with their older blu-ray release of the film. 

For this 4K release, Criterion has used a 35mm scan of the original camera negative, presented in Dolby Vision high dynamic range to “persevere the wide color gamut of the original theatrical presentation.” That’s a very apt description, as the colors are the most impressive part of this disc. “Blue Velvet” is a dark film, visually, and Lynch has expressed before that TV tends to display his movies wrongs, the criterion disk of “Eraserhead” came with a setup guide from him to calibrate your TV. 

The image is very dark, but those colors do stand out and it makes for a rich, cinematic presentation, with the transfer getting approval from Lynch. The same goes for the audio options. In 2008, Lynch made a new 5.1 surround remix of the film using the 35mm magnetic stock source stems. The film was originally released in Dolby Stereo 2.0 surround, and that track has also been included, which can be enjoyed in surround on your system with Dolby Pro Logic. 

There’s a healthy array of bonus materials included as well. All of which is, as goes with most Criterion 4K releases, on the blu-ray disc. In this case, the included blu-ray is the same one that Criterion first released back in 2019. There’s a nearly hour-long reel of deleted footage and alternate takes, a feature-length documentary on the making of the film, and various interviews with crew members and Lynch taking about the film in an excerpt from an audiobook he wrote in 2008. 

Criterion has already taken their fantastic release of “Blue Velvet” and made it even better with his 4K UHD, upgrade. It’s a great set, and my advice to you is the same as I always offer. If you have the 2019 disc and are perfectly happy with it, then hang on to it. If you’re been waiting for this one to hit 4K, then grab it. It’s well worth owning and you’ll be more than happy with the richness of the colors the Dolby Vision grading brings out. See you next week. 


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