J.D. Lafrance
Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition DVD Review

Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition

October 29, 2007

Director: David Lynch, Tim Hunter, Lesli Linka Glatter, Caleb Deschanel,
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Warren Frost, Michael Horse, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Peggy Lipton, Jack Nance, Everett McGill, Piper Laurie, James Marshall,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Twin Peaks holds a special place in my heart because it was responsible for getting me seriously into movies. I had always enjoyed watching them but once I saw the Pilot episode of Twin Peaks, directed by David Lynch, I had to track down and watch everything else he had made. This led to Blue Velvet (1986) which immediately became my favourite film of all-time and made me realize, for the first time, that a movie could be so much more than just entertainment. What struck me about Twin Peaks is that Lynch took a lot of the themes from Blue Velvet (evil hiding under the facade of small-town innocence, voyeurism, a woman in trouble, and so on) and brought them into mainstream television, changing the medium forever. What Lynch and his collaborators did was create mini-movies that lasted just under an hour every week, drawing us into a strange and engaging world that nobody had ever seen before.

The show was kick-started by the murder of Laura Palmer (Lee), the beautiful teenage high school girl and homecoming queen who is found washed up on a beach, naked and wrapped in plastic. The outpouring of grief throughout the town is emotionally gut-wrenching as we see how news of her death affects her family, her friends, and even those who barely knew her. In some way, she touched everyone’s lives. When another girl from her school is found wandering along a deserted stretch of railway tracks, beaten and raped, the FBI is called in to investigate. Enter Special Agent Dale Cooper (MacLachlan), an eccentric fellow who records his every thought and the minutest details into a tape recorder.

He meets with Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Ontkean), a plain-spoken man who feels a little like Dr. Watson to Cooper’s Sherlock Holmes. The FBI agent relies on his intuition and most intriguingly, his dreams to provide clues into the possible identity of the killer. This culminates in a fantastic episode (directed by Lynch) where Cooper dreams of meeting Laura in an otherworldly dimension known as the Red Room where she whispers the killer’s identity into his ear while a backwards talking dwarf dances to groovy jazz music. When this episode aired it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen on T.V. Lynch’s avant garde sensibilities where harnessed by co-creator Mark Frost’s sense of structure and storytelling and the result was some of the most compelling television as the nation became swept up in the mysteries of the show.

What makes the first season so strong is the strength of Frost and Lynch’s vision for the show. They hand-picked every director and writer for the episodes they didn’t do themselves and this resulted in a solid consistency. The Lynch-directed Pilot episode was the series blueprint in terms of style and tone that everyone else adhered to. It’s not surprising that the weakest episodes are the ones that diverge too far from this template.

One can’t talk about Twin Peaks without mentioning the unforgettable music by Angelo Badalamenti. He had worked previously with Lynch on Blue Velvet and really stepped up on the show to provide rich, atmospheric music that enhanced every scene it was used, so much so, that it is almost another character on the show. Who can forget the haunting theme for Laura Palmer or the jazzy score for the Red Room? And, of course, there is the show’s theme song that is instantly recognizable. Every time I hear the opening strains, it gets me every time.

The show featured a fantastic cast of actors that ranged from Lynch regulars like Kyle MacLachlan (Dune, Blue Velvet) and Jack Nance (Eraserhead, Dune, Blue Velvet), to veterans like Piper Laurie (The Hustler) and Richard Beymer (West Side Story), to newcomers like Sherilyn Fenn and Madchen Amick. They inhabit their eccentric characters so well and really make you care about them, from the pure of heart Agent Cooper to the wife-beating truck driver Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re). While these characters are either on the side of good or evil, they have plenty of layers that are fleshed out over the series.

The problem with the second season is that after the murder of Laura was solved, the show lost its way for a spell as the writers struggled to create a storyline as compelling. This is evident in brooding teenager James Hurley’s (Marshall) clunky film noir storyline or Nadine’s (Wendy Robie) bizarro regression to her teenage years albeit with a steady supply of adrenaline. Cooper even started wearing flannel shirts – a flagrant betrayal of the spirit of his character and symptomatic of how the show faltered with the absence of Frost and Lynch’s guiding influence.

Twin Peaks improved significantly once Cooper’s ex-partner Windham Earle (Kenneth Welsh) arrived in town to play a deadly game of cat and mouse (and an actual game of chess) with Cooper that builds to an unforgettable final episode that infuriated many viewers but remains one of the most exciting and unpredictable swan songs for a series in television history.

The legacy of Twin Peaks is impressive with the likes of such diverse talents as Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Bryan Fuller (Wonderfalls) and Damon Lindelof (Lost) inspired and influenced by the show (to name but only a few). It broke through and proved that challenging, cinematic, serialized T.V. could find a mainstream audience. Even though Twin Peaks didn’t last long it paved the way for future shows of its ilk to flourish.

Special Features:

Several years ago when the first season of Twin Peaks debuted on DVD it was heavily criticized for not including the Pilot episode. This was due in large part to rather complex legal reasons. Now, fans can throw away their bootlegs because this new box set collects every episode of the show, including the Pilot episode and its European cut which features a tacked on ending that Frost and Lynch were required to add in case it didn’t get picked up as a series. The Lynch-approved transfer for this episode is breathtaking to behold and you can also enjoy it in a new 5.1 surround mix or the original 2.0. This holds true for the rest of the episodes.

Of note, if you own the separate first and second seasons, hold onto them as the extra material they have are not included on this new edition. I did notice a few soundbites from some of the interviews on the second season set but not all of them.

The ninth disc includes only four deleted scenes that are apparently the only extra footage to survive from the show (although, if you look on YouTube there is more). We get more of Audrey’s autistic brother Johnny while Cooper and Truman question Dr. Jacoby. We also get footage of Lucy and Deputy Andy buying doughnuts for the rest of the police department and more insight into the dysfunctional Horne family.

An interesting addition is the “Production Documents,” a collection of call sheets and production breakdowns that provide a look at the mechanics behind the show.

The tenth disc features the bulk of the extras, all created with the care and craft of someone who is truly a fan of the show. “A Slice of Lynch” reunited Lynch with cast members Madchen Amick and Kyle MacLachlan over, you guessed it, pie and coffee. They are joined by Lynch’s long-time assistant John Wentworth. Lynch briefly talks about the origins of the show while Amick and MacLachlan talks about how they got their respective roles. Everyone tells some entertaining anecdotes about working on the show, like the episode where Lynch and Amick’s characters kiss. Lynch is clearly still frustrated that the network pressured him and Frost to solve Laura’s murder and seems to still be a little sweet on Amick which is a lot of fun to see play out.

The most substantial extra is a detailed look at the making of and legacy of the show in a feature-length documentary called, Secrets from Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks that can also be viewed in four separate features

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 99%



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