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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Eraserhead: Special Edition (1977)

Eraserhead: Special Edition (1977) (NTSC)

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Released 31-Jul-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Interviews-Crew-Stories with David Lynch
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 88:40 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Lynch

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jack Nance
Charlotte Stewart
Allen Joseph
Jeanne Bates
Judith Roberts
Laurel Near
V. Phipps-Wilson
Jack Fisk
Jean Lange
Thomas Coulson
John Monez
Darwin Joston
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music David Lynch

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   American film maker David Lynch is unquestionably the most consistent original voice in American Cinema. In a career which has lasted over 30 years he has regularly brought to life the most unusual and disturbing stories. Whilst he has experienced occasional mainstream success, particularly with Blue Velvet and the TV series Twin Peaks, and has also had great critical success (with the eight Oscar nominations for The Elephant Man) he has been just as happy to disturb and confound his audience. Anyone who thinks that film makers get more mainstream and conservative as they age should check out his last film Inland Empire, a genuinely strange and unsettling experience.

    David Lynch began his career in feature film with the 1977 release Eraserhead . The film has been a cult movie ever since its release and it has previously been near impossible to obtain on DVD. It is therefore a great joy that Eraserhead comes to Region 4 in a remastered edition.

    The central story of Eraserhead is a deceptively banal. Young printer Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is on vacation. He has not seen his girlfriend Mary (Charlotte Stewart) in a while but on returning to his apartment one day he is told by a beautiful girl across the hall (Judith Anna Roberts) that he has been summonsed to Mary's parents' house for dinner. The dinner doesn't go well and it is revealed that Mary has had a child. She moves in with Henry and the pair experience extreme difficulties raising their child, resulting in Mary leaving and Henry having to take over care for it. As a release from the daily drudge he forms a brief relationship with the beautiful girl across the hall and also has an attraction to a female musical performer.

    This story could have been turned into a relationship drama by the likes of Nora Ephron. Instead, Lynch uses this basic and well trodden template as a backdrop to his disturbing story. For Henry lives in an apartment where there are no pot plants. His stick like plants are simply placed in mounds of dirt on his furniture. He has a pot of water in his drawer for storing pennies. His apartment is dark and dismal and the meagre lighting constantly buzzes and shorts.

    Girlfriend Mary is hysterical and prone to occasional fits when stressed. She gets her catatonia from her mother whilst her father sports a Cheshire cat grin. Not least of the reasons why the dinner party goes badly is that the father has bought tiny "man made chickens" that spurt a dark fluid and wriggle when carved!

    And then there's the baby. "Were not really sure if it even is a baby" says Mary. The Eraserhead baby is one of the most unusual creations in modern cinema. An elongated neck emerges from a bundle of bandages. The head is like a mutant goat. The baby eats, cries and, in one sinister scene, chuckles - all the while a constant presence in Henry's life.

    Thrown into the mix is the deformed man in the room operating controls in what appears like an asteroid. Finally, in another of cinemas more enduring images, the lady in the radiator (Laurel Near) is the musical performer. She appears, with hideously distended cheeks, when Henry stares into his constantly hissing radiator and parades awkwardly around an old vaudeville-style stage stomping on snake like creatures and singing one unforgettable song.

    In his 2006 book of "thoughts" titled Catching the Big Fish, Lynch tells the story that he opened his bible one day and found one sentence which totally, completely explained the movie. In typical Lynch form he says that he then closed his bible and has never explained the sentence. Such wilful obscurity is typical for Lynch and it is no wonder that this DVD contains a loose interview with him rather than a director's commentary. Throughout the 90 minute interview Lynch doesn't give away one little bit about the meaning of the film although he does detail all the hardships involved in getting it made. As bad as it was for Lynch it must have been worse for long suffering Jack Nance who had to keep his distinctive hi-top fade Eraserhead hair cut for several years!

    Eraserhead has few works to compare it to. The surrealist films of Bunuel and Cocteau come to mind but even they don't come close to the twisted unity of vision of this film.

    Eraserhead became a cult hit through midnight screening runs. It has been described as a horror film although the tag line "a dream of dark and troubling things" is probably the best description to attach to the film. Everyone who has seen it walks away with different interpretations. To my mind it is a nightmare of a man's fear of being tied down by a wife and child. The power of the film is not in its numerous bizarre moments but in the consistency of the dark vision that takes him into an alternate universe and won't let you leave.

    Eraserhead is not for all tastes. Its bleak unrelenting vision makes it anything but a candidate for a pizza and beer horror night. Sometimes the only release is in laughter at the increasing absurdity of the situation facing Henry. Given that Lynch has a strange sense of humour himself it is not surprising that many others find it so funny. Those who like Lynch and don't mind their cinema absurd and dark will find an enormous amount to enjoy in this release.

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Transfer Quality


   Eraserhead was shot on 35mm film and projected cinematically at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This DVD preserves that ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film was released in Region 4 in a 1.33:1 transfer in 2001. It received a damning review on this site, not just for the film itself, but also the transfer. Those who have waited for a long time to see this film released in Region 4 in its correct aspect ratio would probably welcome it in any quality. It is therefore a joy to report that, with one caveat, this is an excellent release. That one downfall is that we have received an NTSC transfer rather than one for our own PAL system.

    Otherwise the transfer is truly excellent. This is a film that was shot over a period of years more than 30 years ago. It was shot in black and white and it is difficult to imagine that there would have been too many clean prints of the film floating around the world. When I saw it in the early 80s the film was full of print damage including scratches, blobs and other marks. Apart from a consistent film grain and occasional specks and marks Eraserhead has been remastered to look very clean.

    The image is somewhat soft at times however the overall impression is extremely positive. There are no compression issues.

    Eraserhead begins rather unusually with a calibration set up for your TV. As the guide points out many screens emerge from showrooms in a overly bright or uncalibrated fashion. Having said that I couldn't help wondering whether Eraserhead was the film I most wanted to use to set up my home theatre equipment! Those who follow it, however, will appreciate the importance of getting the black levels right in this film for much of it consists of characters moving in and around inky blackness. The darkness and shadows are well conveyed.

    There are no subtitles for the film which is no great surprise as there is hardly any dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


   Eraserhead comes to DVD with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at 192 Kb/s.

    This soundtrack is consistent with the film's origins. It would have been nice, given the comments below, to have had a surround soundtrack for this release.

    There is very little spoken word in Eraserhead . In all, there are probably no more than 30 lines of dialogue. The dialogue itself is fairly inconsequential and doesn't move forward the narrative. The dialogue sounds somewhat thin and reedy as it was all hurriedly dubbed back into the audio track. It is difficult to tell whether the dialogue is in audio sync as Lynch rarely gives close ups of the actors speaking.

    The soundtrack to Eraserhead is a considerable artistic achievement. There is very little music. Most notably the girl in the radiator sings "In Heaven", a song that has been covered by many artists, most notably Bauhaus and Danse Society. It is a simple and achingly moving moment.

    The remainder of the music is somewhat creepy Wurlitzer-like tunes often played from a distant location and heard through the walls. Oddly enough the effect is most reminiscent of the "evil penguin music" in the Wallace and Grommet short The Wrong Trousers.

    The real soundtrack to Eraserhead is to be found in the industrial noises and sounds created by David Lynch and Alan Splet. A good degree of the power of the film is derived from the unsettling effects of the assorted bangs, clanks, hisses and hum of the track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are only two extras on this DVD. Ordinarily it would strain credulity to call it a Special Edition, however the key extra is so good that it justifies the lofty tag. Before going to the extras it is worth noting that the DVD has no chapter stops. It is designed to be watched in one sitting but prepare yourself for a lot of fast forwarding if you need to stop watching for any extended period. The extras menu features a loop of Henry getting his foot tangled up with a dead cat on a wire. In the extra Lynch tells a long story about how he came by a dead cat from a veterinarian in order to study its innards. He even manages to compare the surgery to a scene from Fellini's Roma!

Interview- Stories with David Lynch (84.50)

    This featurette is pretty much Lynch sitting in a chair, smoking some cigarettes and telling stories about the development process of Eraserhead. At the beginning he tells us that he has little memory of how the film came to light. This turns out to be a red herring. Lynch has a wealth of memories to share about the whole story from beginning to end. He is an entertaining speaker and although many of the stories don't really go anywhere even the shaggy dog stories have an interest. His Jimmy Stewart type manner is also very funny and I can't remember laughing so much at an extra in a long time - particularly when he relates how his mother sat through the first screening and turned to a friend saying "Oh, I wouldn't want to have a dream like that!".

    He takes us back to the film school origins of the film and gives us an insight into the life of a deeply poor filmmaker - who once bought an apple pie at a supermarket and took a slice a day to his local coffee shop because the one slice at the coffee shop cost more than the whole pie. It is also full of stories of rummaging through rubbish bins for studio discards that featured in the film. Lynch calls colleague Catherine Coulson on the phone and she tells some of her own stories. Intermingled with the talk are numerous production shots and even some old on-set video footage.

    Fans of Lynch would never expect him to explain his work and this film contains not a skerrick of interpretive insight. In fact, he says that no critic or reviewer has ever given an interpretation of the film which is consistent with his own interpretation! He also doesn't talk about the other enduring secret of the film -how they made the baby.


Trailer (0.44)

    An effective non-narrative trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This is an All Regions DVD.


   Eraserhead is a classic of modern cinema. It is creepy and funny and funnily creepy.

    This edition is the best the film has and probably will ever look so Lynch fans shouldn't hold off.

    The extras are well worth a look.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE