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Blue Velvet (re-issue)


Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Brad Dourif, Priscilla Pointer, George Dickerson, Jack Nance, Frances Bay

Director: David Lynch

For all its deficiencies, there never has been a film quite like Blue Velvet.

It's not just the presence of Hopper, who frequently seems on the edge of himself, and Stockwell that makes Blue Velvet redolent of an American-International film of the 1950s - although one that the then-censors could never have passed.

Those were the days of drug gangs, dark colour photography and a feeling of real danger in an alternative America, elements that are certainly all captured in Lynch's seminal film.

So that, even though the dialogue seems sometimes laughably over-the-top, the films itself grinds its way across our sensibilities, creating a black, horrifying underbelly of its own.

MacLachlan, here looking like a young Robert Vaughn (and a tad long in the tooth to still be at school) is the small-town student whose discovery of a human ear in a field leads him (the arm of coincidence is heavy here if not quite overstretched) to a sensual Italian torch singer (Rossellini, at her most Bergmanesque) in whose apartment the amateur investigator is discovered when posing as an exterminator.

She has to make love to him at knife point, but is stopped by the arrival of Frank (Hopper), a screamingly vicious drug dealer, who seems to have a hold on her that goes even beyond her own voracious sexual desires.

From here to end of the not-too-complicated plot, both direction and music (the latter by Angelo Badalamenti) help a great deal in creating a highly-charged atmosphere which helps offset shortcomings in the script and some of the performances.

MacLachlan is suitably hypnotised as the boy, while Hopper and Rossellini charge with frenzied abandon at their sexual deviates. But Dern is not at her best as MacLachlan's girl and supporting acting tends to be over-mannered, even if this might be to draw red herrings across the trail. At times like some nightmarish sideshoot of a more conventional thriller, the film mainly lurches uncertainly between film noir and film bizarre. Even so, it certainly commands the attention, and remains hard to extract from the memory.

David Quinlan

USA 1986. UK Distributor: Park Circus (originally 20th Century-Fox). Technicolor.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 28 Nov 2016