Blue Velvet (Blu-ray) (1986)

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Released 25-Jan-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Featurette-Mysteries Of Love
Featurette-Newly Discovered Lost Footage
Featurette-A Few Outtakes
Featurette-Siskel & Ebert At The Movies (1986)
Featurette-Vignettes
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 120:32
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Lynch
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Kyle MacLachlan
Isabella Rossellini
Dennis Hopper
Laura Dern
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Angelo Badalamenti


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
French dts 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0
Italian dts 5.1
German dts 5.1
Spanish dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Italian
German
Spanish
Chinese
Dutch
Spanish Titling
French Titling
Portuguese Titling
Italian Titling
German Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     The work of David Lynch has one thing in common with the work of certain other directors I keep an eye out for. (Those being Paul Verhoeven (awww, really?, I hear you cry), the Brothers Coen, Takashi Miike, or David Cronenberg.) Specifically, it is very much an acquired taste. Certain works of theirs will revolt a person beyond belief, or even cause one to turn away in disgust, but one never forgets them. And as one checks out other works by the same people, one starts to understand a certain reason to watch more of their work.

     I cannot remember exactly which David Lynch film I saw first, but the one I remember earliest was Eraserhead. Some who responded to my comments regarding the film were of the opinion that I just did not get it. This is untrue. I got it just fine, but the combination of the haphazard manner in which it was made and the difficult-to-get-into presentation on DVD made it hard to keep wanting after I got it. After that, I watched several more Lynch films, beginning with Mulholland Dr. and going through as many others as I could access easily. Lynch himself has even admitted to selling out, little by little (in his words) on Dune. But the film where he began to show what he was really about was a curious little piece called Blue Velvet. It is also one of Lynch's most-quoted and best-remembered films. Mr. Bungle's self-titled first album quotes from Blue Velvet at least twice, and in two different songs at that.

     Regular readers or people who know me in person know that I am not a fan of what their fans/lovers call small towns. I will use that description rather than the one I prefer, for the sake of being polite and staying on track. Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is a boy in his late teens who lives in what looks like the very outer edge of whatever city he is in. On top of that, the city in question appears to be more of an Adelaide or Brisbane, as opposed to a New York or Rome. So calling it a small town (as opposed to what I end up calling them in fits of anger) is probably a form of flattery. So Jeffrey is surprised beyond measure when, walking past an unused residential plot, he finds a severed Human ear.

     Bringing the ear in a paper bag to Detective Williams (George Dickerson), Jeffrey learns that he has indeed found a Human ear. The story filters down to the ears of the good Detective's daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), who just happens to be a (potentially girl-) friend of Jeffrey. Suspecting that it has something to do with a singer who lives near Jeffrey's house, Jeffrey and Sandy concoct a plot to get into said singer's apartment and see if they can find any further information. Things go awry when the singer, Dororthy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) throws Jeffrey a little curveball, and he ends up meeting a rather weird gentleman called Frank Booth (the late, great Dennis Hopper). And when I say weird, I mean by my standards, not… yours (picture me waving a hand in the direction of the general audience).

     There is a shot early on in the piece where we see an idyllic one-grand-at-most-population suburb shot in bright lights to sweet, romantic music before descending into the ground and showing a most loathsome if somewhat underlit shot of cockroaches. Some directors are bleeding obvious, some directors (like this one) make an art out of metaphor. In this film, Lynch does both. This one shot tells you exactly what to expect out of the rest of the film. Jeffrey is a boy from an "idyllic" small place who has a collision with the ugliness of the real world, and most of the film's running time concerns itself with the effects. It is not a coincidence that the song that follows one quote of the film on the aforementioned Mr. Bungle album is called My Ass Is On Fire and contains such lyrical gems as "Carve a smile / On your face / Everything's great / Suffocate".

     Blue Velvet is a very good film, and Kyle MacLachlan's reputation as the "boy next door, if that boy spent lots of time alone in the basement" (Rich Cohen, Rolling Stone, 1994) is well-deserved. If you have never seen it before, I recommend giving it a look, but taking care to brace yourself. If you have seen it before, then the question is how well it scrubs up on this format. Read on…

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Blue Velvet was shot anamorphically on 35mm film. It was shot on a six million dollar budget. Not exactly chump change in 1986, but far from what we would call an A-list feature (Aliens had a production budget just over three times this). The transfer tends to reflect this.

     The transfer is sharp enough that subtle features like changes in actors' hair colour or the details of such props as the ear stand out, but not up to the standards of similarly-aged films (the aforementioned Aliens for example). Compounding this, and a good deal more of a problem, is the shadow detail. In the shot when Laura Dern appears and talks to Kyle MacLachlan for the first time, the entire frame appeared to go black for a second and change (watching this shot in a room with controlled lighting reveals a little more detail in the image, but not a great amount). The portions of the film that are not brightly lit are very limited in shadow detail, with only the barest minimum to make sense of the shots visible. Fortunately, there is no low-level noise.

     The colours in the film follow two schemes. In daytime scenes, especially the "idyllic" type shots, the colours are generally quite warm and rich. Any time the action takes place at night, on the other hand, the colours are very subdued save for a few exceptions such as Isabella Rossellini's lips. Both colour schemes are rendered faithfully. Bleed is visible in the opening "lookit how nice and happy this lil burg is" shots, but otherwise does not occur and I believe is deliberate in that instance. Misregistration does not occur at all.

     The transfer is compressed in the AVC codec and does not show any compression artefacting. Film to video artefacts are not evident, either. Film artefacts in the form of small white and black marks are visible from time to time throughout the entirety of the film, but considering that the film is now twenty-six years old, these artefacts are well within acceptable limits.

     The transfer is presented with English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles. They are presented in a white font with a black outline. The font is small, so readability might be a concern on screens smaller than fifty inches. There are some variations from subtitle to spoken word at times, but they seem to be accurate enough to keep the intended users abreast of what is being said. (For the record, I prefer smaller fonts, but with effort to keep the whole line on the screen and usage of the frame that does not suggest intention for a screen of 0.5:1 or similar.)

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio transfer is very good, with a couple of small caveats. A total of seven soundtracks are presented on this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio with 5.1 channels. Dubs in Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, French DTS 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian DTS 5.1, German DTS 5.1, and Spanish DTS 5.1 are also offered. Although the volume of the dubs is somewhat more consistent than one might expect with a film of this age, their quality is still rather variable.

     The volume of the English soundtrack overall is a bit low, and many of Kyle MacLachlan's lines prompted me to turn the volume up until I was about eight points above my usual listening level. Once this problem is accounted for, dialogue is generally quite easy to understand, even with Kyle MacLachlan's soft speech and Isabella Rossellini's heavy accent. No audio sync problems were noted.

     The music in this film consists of a score by Angelo Badalamenti and some "additional music" composed by David Lynch, along with some soul numbers from what was even then a bygone era. The Bobby Vinton song Blue Velvet features prominently, as I am sure one might expect. The score music is perfectly matched to the film. That is, it is freakish, disturbing, and seemingly designed to draw innocent young men like Jeffrey Beaumont in. As I have said, artists like Mr. Bungle have quoted from this film, so the music in this film is going to stay in one's memory as persistently as the film itself.

     The surround channels are used very sparingly for environmental effects such as birds tweeting, parts of the music, and the very occasional Foley. As I have said about another recently-heard soundtrack, one could lose the rear channels from this transfer and not miss a thing.

     The subwoofer is used a little more to support musical numbers or violence. Unlike the surround channels, it could not be removed without being missed. It is integrated well in the moments it appears, but stands out due to infrequency of use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     A moderately-sized, mostly standard-definition, but also frequently interesting collection of extras is present.

Menu

     This disc appears to be an earlier generation than I had presumed when purchasing. No Top Menu is present, only a Pop-Up. The Pop-Up Menu is pleasingly quick to respond to remote inputs, and relatively well-organised. A total of twenty-eight Chapter Stops are provided. This is not quite the "one sequence, one Chapter Stop" amount I like, but it is a lot better than some other discs that I could name.

Featurette - Mysteries Of Love

     At seventy minutes and forty-five seconds, this featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Its volume appears to be somewhat higher than that of the feature. It is worth a watch for a number of reasons, including hearing how Kyle MacLachlan sounds when speaking normally.

Featurette - Newly Discovered Lost Footage

     Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, this is fifty-one minutes and forty-two seconds of footage that never made it into the finished film and, as the title states, was believed to be lost forever. As an adjunct to the film, it is interesting, but the decision to remove the footage from the film was the right one. No annotation is provided to explain where the footage fits in with the finished cut, but it is at least chaptered.

Featurette - A Few Outtakes

     Ninety-three seconds of flubs and mistakes, presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Featurette - Siskel & Ebert "At The Movies" (1986)

     Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0, this ninety second snippet is of the titular critics arguing about why they liked or disliked Blue Velvet. Worth seeing for a small sample of how bitterly reactions to the film were divided in the year of its release.

Featurette - Vignettes

     A collection of recordings of people talking about certain parts of the film. In order, these are I Like Coffee Shops, The Chicken Walk, The Robin, and Sita. Strangely, no Play All option is offered. Each of these mini-featurettes is presented in 1.33:1 with severely windowboxed footage from the film in 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Of these snippets (which are way too short), Sita is the most interesting (it refers to a novel about the oppression and abuse of a girl, the vignette being offered as a refutation of the position that the film is misogynistic).

Theatrical Trailer

     Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this ninety-one second trailer does a good job of advertising the film without giving much away.

TV Spot 1

     Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with very quiet Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this thirty-two second spot is pretty forgettable.

TV Spot 2

     Also presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with very quiet Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this thirty-two second spot is also pretty forgettable.

R4 vs R1

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

      A quick look at the High-Def Digest review of the Region A disc leads to the impression that, like almost all Fox titles I have done this comparison with, the two discs only differ in terms of language options. Given that I acquired the local disc as part of a three-for-forty deal, and the Amazon price is currently just under seventeen US dollars, I cannot say the Region A disc is worth the bother to import.

Summary

     Blue Velvet is a very powerful examination of the disparity between how people see the world they live in when they are allowed to maintain illusions, and how they see it once those illusions are shattered. In other words, how much better a happy life can be when one knows not to take it for granted. Kyle MacLachlan should have had a much more prominent career after performances like this, he totally hits it out of the park as an alter-ego for David Lynch. Lynch is exactly the kind of director we need more of in today's media, even if his more recent work does not quite do it for me. Basically, although this is a long way down from my favourite film, I feel a life is not complete without having seen it at least once.

     The video transfer is good, with the primary issues arising from the source materials.

     The audio transfer has some issues with volume and front-orientation, but is otherwise good.

     The extras are moderate in number, have some great content in them, and are even high definition in a couple of cases.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. 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-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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