Eraserhead DVD review
Available exclusively from the davidlynch.com store.
$39.95 + shipping
B&W, Dolby Digital 2.0 Sound
"Stories": Lynch on Eraserhead
Widescreen anamorphic format
The wait is over! After a year of delays, Lynch's new remastered DVD of Eraserhead has finally been released. The disc comes packaged in the same nice cardboard box that the Short Films DVD and Blue Bob come in, though this time they provided a coat of thin plastic over the disc area so the cardboard doesn't scratch the DVD. One problem to watch out for though: the disc is initially held in the case by a small seal. Unfortunately, if the disc slips slightly during shipping (and let's face it, this is UPS, so it will), you end up with sticky goo from the seal on the edge of the DVD surface. So be careful pulling the disc out of the box the first time.
The package includes an 18 page booklet with cast and crew photos, storyboard sketches, part of Lynch's original outline for the film, promotional materials, and a page on restoring Eraserhead for DVD.
The video is the best Eraserhead has ever looked, certainly lightyears beyond the horrible UK version. The film print is pristine, with almost no indications of scratches or blemishes on the image. The disc is in anamorphic widescreen format, allowing for the highest resolution possible from DVD, and the film is presented in it's original 1:85 aspect ratio. There are slight compression artifacts visible at times though, but it's not too bad. Given the length of material with both the film and the extras, this probably should have been a double disc set to get the best image quality possible. Still, it looks really good, and is probably the best we'll ever see Eraserhead until HD-DVD (or whatever it ends up being called) comes out (or projected of course).
The booklet for Eraserhead says the audio is presented as uncompressed PCM audio, however my DVD player says it's dolby digital 2.0. I suspect perhaps that the booklets were printed before the disc was finalized. With the addition of the long "Stories" extra (more on that below), there probably wasn't enough room on the disc for a full PCM audio stream. That said, the audio doesn't seem to suffer too much from compression (no more than is expected anyway), and the quality is pretty clear for an over twenty-year-old soundtrack. It's a pretty good dolby surround mix. I'm sure some will be disappointed by the lack of a new 5.1 mix, as is the trend for DVD re-releases these days. But given all the controversy over the new Fire Walk With Me 5.1 mix, playing it safe with just the newer 2.0 remaster might have been the best way for Lynch to go.
The DVD features a modest amount of extras, all of which are very well done. The first, entitled "Stories," features almost an hour and a half of David Lynch discussing various aspects of the film. This is probably the most complete "making of" Eraserhead has ever had.
Lynch discusses the genesis of the film, as well as tales from the production and the final release. The stories are illustrated with behind the scenes photos and promotional material, as well as some home movie footage shot during filming. Lynch also calls Catherine Coulson for her recollections. The stories told entail not just the film itself, but also tidbits about those who worked on it.
The disc also contains the original theatrical trailer, which has been seen before on various previous DVD releases, though it's presented in widescreen anamorphic format here. There's also an easter egg on the disc that gives members of davidlynch.com the phone number for another booth. This is definitely one you'll want to check out if you're a member.
Unfortunately, as Lynch mentions in the "Stories" section, they were unable to find most of the footage from the deleted scenes to include on the disc (but again, don't forget to check out that phone booth the easter egg leads to). As with most of Lynch's films on DVD there are no chapter stops. Lastly, though I don't really consider this an extra, the menus are animated with an outtake from the film.
All and all, this is a pretty good DVD release. Is it worth the $40 plus shipping it costs? That's something each person will have to decide for themselves. If you love the film and want the best DVD presentation of Eraserhead available, not to mention a lot of "making of" information, then you'll definitely want to order this disc. Sure, there's a little bit of room for improvement, mainly with the amount of compression required to squeeze all the material on one dual-layered disc. But that's mostly nit-picking - it's just as good as the major studios' DVD releases. And the clean-up work done on the original master itself is outstanding. If you can spare the $40, this is definitely a disc worth owning.