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|Blue Velvet: Special Edition|
MGM has now released two separate DVDs of Blue Velvet. The first was a somewhat bare bones edition released in 2000. The disc featured a new anamorphic transfer of the film, the theatrical trailer and a "collectable booklet," which was really just a couple of pages of liner notes. The good news is that this is the first time Blue Velvet was presented on video in it's true aspect ratio. The widescreen laserdisc was closer to a 2:1 aspect ratio (see below comparison).
Comparison between the framing of the Blue Velvet laserdisc and the first Blue Velvet DVD
Unfortunately, the print used for the original DVD transfer suffered from a lot of scratches, some nasty edge enhancement and so-so black levels. The audio only included a English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack, with subtitles in Spanish and French. There was one easter egg on the original DVD - a collage of scenes from the movie combined with interesting messages that plays like a commercial for the city of Lumberton. To access the easter egg, highlight (but don't select) "play movie" and press the left arrow key. This adds a new menu option called "Strange World" in the upper part of the screen. Over all the disc was a good start, but certainly left room for improvement.
It was with much fanfare then, that MGM announced they were going to go back and give Blue Velvet the full special edition treatment. The disc was released on June 4, 2002, with an average street price of around $19.99.
The original DVD wasn't too bad, but this one is definitely an improvement. Lynch supervised various aspects of this transfer himself. The picture is presented in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, anamorphic enhanced. Black levels are better than on the original disc. While there are still occasional minor scratches on the film, it's nowhere near the small holes and large blemishes of the original transfer. There is still a bit of grain and the image is soft in some places, but part of that is most likely intentional and the other part is due to the age of the film. Still, it's a great looking transfer. Edge enhancement is noticeably less (MGM always seems to be the worst offender of any of the studio in this aspect) as are the compression artifacts. The bit rate looks to be higher on this disc, no doubt due to the dual-layered nature of the DVD (the original was single layered).
The DVD features a brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, as well as French and Spanish 2.0 soundtracks. The 5.1 soundtrack is outstanding. As with most Lynch films, use of the surrounding channels is subtle. Unfortunately too many people today have gotten used to the loud rumbling explosions found in the surrounds of your average hollywood blockbuster and may be disappointed with the 5.1 transfer, as some were with Fire Walk With Me. But that's not the way Lynch designs his soundtracks, and this disc remains true to his original intent. It was mixed under the supervision of Lynch in his own studio. The audio itself is clear with a reasonable amount of range given the age of the source materials. Also included are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles as well as English close captioning.
Finally, a Lynch film get's the full extras treatment it deserves. While I always feel the film itself should be the most important aspect of a disc, it's nice to see MGM felt Blue Velvet merited the full blown Special Edition treatment. First up is the documentary, "Mysteries of Love." Unlike the fluff pieces on the Twin Peaks discs, this is a true look at the making of the film. Included are new interviews with Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, producer Fred Caruso, cinematographer Frederick Elmes, editor Duwayne Dunham, Angelo Badalamenti as well as archival footage of Alan Splet and Lynch himself from past interviews done around the time of the film's release. The documentary lasts over an hour. You can tell a lot of time and research when into it. Some of the stories are well known among Lynch fans, but it's nice to have everything collected in one place.
Jeffrey and Sandy are debriefed in the missing Epilogue scene. Notice the log on the table in front of them.
Frank leaves behind a gift for Dorothy - the other ear.
Up next we're treated to Siskel and Ebert's review of Blue Velvet from 1986. It's well known that Ebert hates Blue Velvet with a passion. What's interesting is that in the review he seems to have a hard time telling the difference between the real actors and fictional characters. His statements border on being irrational at times, almost as if it was him that all those horrible things happened to instead of Dorothy. It's a credit to Lynch that Ebert reacts with this amount of passion towards the film, even if it is negative. The clip is short but amusing nonetheless.
Following that bit of fun we come to the Photo still galleries. They are divided up into three categories: Lumberton USA, International Posters and Peter Braatz Photos. The Lumberton USA photos are mostly stills from the set featuring Lynch directing. International Posters is a gallery of a few Blue Velvet posters from around the world, though it's hardly complete. The Peter Braatz photos are rare behind the scenes images taken on location in Wilmington. This last gallery is probably the most interesting of the three.
Rounding out the last of the special features is the usual theatrical trailer as well as a couple of TV spots. It looks like the trailer has been cleaned up a little bit (but not much) from the previous disc. The TV spots follow the same theme as the trailer of using quotes from critics playing up the film. The quality is suprisingly good for 16 year old TV ads.
One feature that I know will make some happy is the inclusion of chapter stops and even a scene selections menu. It's commonly know that Lynch dislikes chapter stops on DVDs. Apparently for whatever reason MGM decided not to respect his wishes in this regard. Personally I agree with him, a film should not be broken up into pieces. I don't buy the wanting to "study" the film excuse either, as that's not the purpose nor the intent of the film. But nonetheless, there are chapter stops so those who want to pop back and forth can do so easily.
The other "special feature" included with the disc is a "collectible booklet." It's the same text as in the previous disc but a bit slicker looking.
If you want to find the easter eggs on your own, don't read this part.
Easter Egg #1: On the main menu, go to special features or languages and then press the down arrow again. A picket fence icon will appear over the scene of Dean Stockwell singing. Select it. It will pop you back to the top selection. Go all the way down again with the down arrow to make a robin icon appear over the scene of the robin from the end of the film. Select it and you'll see Frederick Elmes describe how the robin effect was done.
Easter Egg #2: Go to the Special Features menu and press the up arrow to highlight the word "special." Then select it. You'll be treated to Lynch's thoughts on McDonalds and coffee shops.
Easter Egg #3: On the Special Features menu select "Documentary: Mysteries of Love." Then on that page use your up arrow to highlight the word "Mysteries of Love." You'll get a video of Isabella Rossellini discussing the accusations of misogyny in the film.
Easter Egg #4: On the Scene Selection menu highlight chapter 3. Then press the right arrow and an ear icon will appear. Select it and you'll get a video of Kyle MacLachlan talking about the origins of the chicken walk.
MGM took a lot of heat over the quality of their previous DVD release of Blue Velvet. They've certainly redeemed themselves now. This is the DVD release that all other Lynch DVD's will be judged by. A good solid transfer and high quality extras. Great job MGM!
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