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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biography - David Lynch
Theatrical Trailer
DVD Credits
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1977
Running Time 85:07 Minutes 
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director David Lynch
David Lynch Productions
The AV Channel
Starring Jack Nance
Charlotte Stewart
Allen Joseph
Jeanne Bates
Judith Anna Roberts
Case Transparent Soft Brackley
RPI $34.95 Music Peter Ivers
David Lynch
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No, thankfully

Plot Synopsis

    David Lynch is very much one of those directors where the proper question isn't so much who he is, but rather what he is. After seeing his work on such films as Lost Highway (how exactly do you lose a highway?) and Wild At Heart, one can only wonder exactly what the man is smoking and where he got it. This film, Eraserhead, is an excellent example of Lynch's position as the Salvador Dalí of celluloid: the same amount of dialogue that most films have in ten minutes is stretched out over half an hour of the oddest visuals. It has been said that one has to view the film repeatedly to understand its meaning, but I'm more inclined to go with the simple explanation that there is no meaning to speak of.

    Henry Spencer (John Nance) is a worker in a desolate, run-down city where there are endless rows of deserted buildings and puddles to step in. His rather beautiful girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) invites him around to dinner with her parents, simply known as Mr. X (Allen Joseph) and Mrs. X (Jeanne Bates). The dinner menu consists of miniature chickens that wiggle their legs and ooze black goo in a manner that I'm sure meant something to the director at the time. After Mrs. X comes onto Henry in a rather disturbing manner, we learn that Mary has given birth to a premature baby, which turns out to be a mutation that cries constantly. Mary begins to stress out at the baby's constant crying, then she packs her bags and heads home, leaving Henry with only the baby and his neighbours for company.

    Consider, if you will, the entire sequence when we first see Henry and Mary's baby. After being treated to endless repetitive shots of the zombie-like Henry, the spastic Mary, and their truly hideous offspring, the only dialogue we hear is as follows: Mary asks "Is there any mail?" and Henry answers with a curt "No". The only really entertaining aspect of the film is the radiator in Henry's apartment, which eventually opens to reveal a dancing girl on a stage, who is simply known as Lady In The Radiator (Laurel Near), who sings "In Heaven, everything is fine! You've got your good things, and I've got mine", although neither of them have the benefit of a good script. I'm not sure that this film really even had a script when Lynch began creating it in bits and pieces over a period of almost five years, during which time Nance kept his hair in that ridiculous style.

    In all honestly, I cannot believe that David Lynch had any intentions other than laughing his butt off at the idea that film students would try to dissect any sort of meaning out of this film. It is without a doubt one of the slowest and most agonizingly dull movies I have ever sat down to watch, although I am sure that fans of David Lynch will want to own it for the sake of completism. However, the transfer leads me to recommend that one wait for a more definitive version of the film to arrive.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Several sources, including the Internet Movie Database and several UK DVD review sites give the intended aspect ratio of this film as 1.85:1, although I am not entirely sure whether the film has been cropped to achieve the shape it is in. Some scenes support the theory that the film has had picture information removed from the sides, while others lend support to the idea that this is an open-matte presentation. Either way, the correct aspect ratio would have been much preferred.

    The sharpness of this transfer is good, but not great, with the salient details of the picture being quite clear while much of the rest of the picture is a little washed out. The shadow detail is uniformly poor, with the large black sections of the picture being nothing more than black, with little to no apparent detail to be found. There is no low-level noise in the picture. The picture is generally extremely dark, so I strongly advise watching it under strictly controlled lighting conditions.

    The colour saturation of the transfer is good, with plenty of subtle steps between the detail-barren blacks and the shades of grey that make up the rest of the picture. The use of black and white seems to have been a deliberate artistic choice on the part of the director to give the film as dismal a look as is possible. This choice was a very effective one, giving the film a much more surreal edge than would be the case were the picture presented in colour.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem in this transfer, what with the rather short length of the film and the general darkness of the picture. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing and the very occasional burst of telecine wobble, but these were generally quite well-controlled. The worst example was found on the edge of the X-Family's dinner table at 23:06. Film artefacts consisted of a great many nicks and scratches on the negative, with two rather large ones at 6:45 and 7:09, to name the biggest examples. All in all, this is a perfectly serviceable transfer of rather old source material.


    Coupled with a perfectly serviceable video transfer is a perfectly serviceable audio transfer, although the actual content was enough to make my head pound. There is only one soundtrack presented on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. The film was originally presented in mono, and I honestly would have preferred a monaural soundtrack for reasons I will get into shortly.

    The dialogue, what little there actually is of it, is always clear and easy to understand in spite of being somewhat recessed in the mix. It isn't terribly important to understand the dialogue in order to follow the film, anyway, so there isn't much to worry about here. The sound of air blowing through tunnels is a prominent, and rather irritating, feature of the soundtrack. Because the subwoofer was often adding its own indistinct rumble to this hissing, it became quite punishing to listen to this sound. There were no discernible problems with audio sync, although the ADR is somewhat marginal at times. Crackles, identical to the ones you hear on vinyl platters, can be heard throughout the end credits, although I suspect that this was a deliberate effect.

    The music in this film consists of songs by Peter Ivers, an original score by David Lynch, and some non-original music by Fats Waller. The only time I really noticed the music was when the song In Heaven, Everything Is Fine began, and the only reason I haven't forgotten it as yet is its rather disturbing sound. Much like the rest of the film, the music here is easy to forget about.

    The surround channels were not used at all by this soundtrack, although it is hard to imagine exactly what the surround channels could have been used for, given that most of the sound consists of rather annoying hissing and whining. The subwoofer, however, was used constantly to support these annoying sound effects, although it produced little more than an indistinct rumble most of the time. This is why I would have preferred the option of listening to the film with the original mono mix, since a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack rarely makes any serious use of the subwoofer.



    The menu features an introduction and is moderately animated. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Biography - David Lynch

    A cursory biography of the director, spread out over two pages.

Theatrical Trailer

    Clocking in at forty-three seconds, this Full Frame, non-16x9 Enhanced trailer is presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is actually more exciting to watch than the film itself.

DVD Credits

    A listing of all the people who are guilty of bringing this film to our beloved format.


    I doubt that even the censors could sit through this film from beginning to end without the assistance of drugs or other distractions. Be that as it may, as far as we are aware, there are no specific issues relating to censorship of this DVD.

R4 vs R1

    This title does not yet appear to be available in Region 1, but there is a version available in Region 2, which is more or less identical to the one available locally. Given that neither version features the proper aspect ratio of the film, it appears we will have to continue waiting for a definitive version of this film.


    Eraserhead is an arthouse movie that I found quite painful to slog through.

    The video transfer is good, considering the limitations of the source material.

    The audio transfer is a good reproduction of source material that seems to be designed to annoy.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

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 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
April 20, 2001 
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer