Lend me your ear and I’ll tell you about one of my favorite films: David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.” Thirty years ago today, U.S. audiences met one of the most twisted villains in film with Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of the psychopathic, nitrous oxide-huffing Frank Booth.
“Blue Velvet” is, in my opinion, Lynch’s masterpiece. It’s quintessential David Lynch. It’s surreal. It’s graphic. It has great moments featuring pop songs juxtaposed over disturbing, strange scenes. It’s dream-like, weird, scary and funny, surprisingly funny for a movie that pretty much begins with a severed human ear.
The film’s jarring opening sequence sets the entire thing up for you. The heart-tugging strings of Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” descend on you from heaven as your eyes do the same. From a blue sky, you settle upon a classic suburban stereotype: the white picket fence with red roses growing along it. A firetruck with a dalmatian in tow glides by in slow motion – innocent enough – but a subtle symbol of impending danger. More picket fences and tulips, a crossing guard guiding schoolchildren through a crosswalk, a man calmly watering his lawn, a woman sipping coffee and watching a murder mystery on TV, then comes the twist. A literal twist in the hose of the man watering his lawn. Water sprays from the hose connection, as a weird gurgling sound builds under Vinton’s vocals and the man keels over clutching his neck. He falls to the ground and the water from his hose sprays skyward as an oblivious terrier nips at the water.
Then the camera moves underground. Into the blades of grass in the lawn, the music becomes background and the strange gurgling noise comes to the forefront, and slowly you are introduced to a giant insect gnashing his mandible.
From there, another quick juxtaposition to a billboard featuring a woman welcoming you to Lumberton.
It’s genius. Right away you are struck with the uneasy feeling that all is not as picture perfect as it may appear on the surface of this small town.
The audience takes the ride with Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle Maclachlan), a young college student home from school to visit his father (the man who suffered the injury while watering the lawn), and Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) as they meet the tortured lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and the psychotic Frank Booth (Hopper) and discover just how dark things really can get in this seemingly boring, quiet, suburban town.
When Jeffrey finds a severed human ear in a field it leads him down a twisted path of murder, kidnapping, drugs, sex, well-dressed men and candy-colored clowns. It all sounds terrifying, but there are moments of pure silliness too. Like this:
If you’re looking to fill the next month and a half with chilling scary movies, be sure to add Lynch’s classic to your list.