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Eraserhead DVD Review

ERASERHEAD - Special Edition DVD

Review by jmichael79

Technical Specs & Disk Features:
-Newly Restored and Remastered, Black & White
-Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
-Original Widescreen Aspect Raito 1:85; enhanced for 16x9 televisions
-New 90 minute feature, Stories, featuring David Lynch & Catherine Coulson
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Easter Egg
-20 page collectable booklet
-Fully animated menus
-TV Calibration
-Custom 8x8 box

Review Hardware:
-Sony Trinitron 36 inch flat screen television
-Sony AVS 2019 Digital Receiver
-Boston Acoustics 5.1 surround speakers

The long awaited, much ballyhooed and endlessly delayed special edition DVD of David Lynch's premiere feature film is here at last. Eraserhead has come. Since the very first days of DavidLynch.com, the director himself had promised a truly special release for Eraserhead, vowing to restore the picture until it was "the cleanest film you've ever seen." After a painstaking restoration process yielded a pristine new print, the release was delayed by problems in compressing the film onto disk without a loss of quality. Over a year later, Lynch was finannly satisfied and the new Eraserhead began shipping. After so much hype surrounding the release, the delays and big promises from the director, no doubt some fans may be wary. Rest assured however, that this release delivers enough to please any midnight movie maniac.

First, a word on the film itself. If you have never seen Eraserhead, then this DVD is the best introduction to its strange beauty that you can get. Filled with what we now consider Lynch trademarks (Curtains, dreams, bizarre sex, dark jazz music), the film is a 90 minute buffet of dark and disturbing images. Perfectly complimenting Lynch's eye for minute detail, the photography by Fred Elmes and Herb Cardwell is stunning, only to be topped by the amazing sound work of Alan Splet. The glue of the film, however, is the performance of Jack Nance as Henry Spencer. Though he is onscreen for almost the entire film, Henry has very little to say. Nance is able to convey so much in a wordless glance or a rare smile that one regrets that he never again was given the chance to carry a film.

If Nance is the star of the film, then the star of the dvd is the beautiful new transfer, suprervised by Lynch himself. Indeed, as promised, the print is totally pristine. For a twenty-five year old film, the quality is amazing, with no trace of dirt or scratches visible. There is a lot of detail in every frame of this film, and it comes off crisp and crystal clear. It is a real testament to the value of film restoration. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Eraserhead has never looked better, running at 192kps. Short from a new print being shown in a theatre, this is the best presentation you're going to get.

Equally impressive is the new Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, produced by Lynch and his audio guru, John Neff. Though an essay in the dvd's booklet says the sound is uncompressed PCM stereo, a small card in the box notes the change to Dolby. Though it may have been nice to have the uncompressed track, it seems that little or nothing was compromised in the switch to Dolby. Like the picture, the sound has been remastered to remove all traces of age and analog hiss. Even without a new 5.1 mix, this audio track will give your speakers a good workout, with the constant industrial noise providing enough bass to keep your subwoofer rattling the floor. Eraserhead contains very little dialogue, but when characters do speak (or sing), it all comes across clear and well balanced.

The joy of this new release does not end with the feature itself. A nice collection of bonus materials have been created to supplement Eraserhead. Fitting snuggly into the 8x8 custom designed box is a beautiful 20 page booklet. Inside, you'll find photos of the cast and crew, storyboards, Lynch's original story outline, original promotional material and an essay on the restoration. A real improvement over the somewhat empty Short Films booklet, this is a great item. On the disk, viewers are treated to animated menus featuring a short but funny deleted scene which plays in a loop. The original theatrical trailer has been included, created for the film's midnight movie run. Hidden away is an Easter Egg containing a secret code that can be used at DavidLynch.com.

The feaurette, Stories, is the last and best special feature on the disk. Running at just under 90 minutes, this is one of the best documentaries to be included on any Lynch dvd. Lynch is the main participant, taking the viewer from 1969 to 1977 as the long journey of Eraserhead unfolds. Lynch not only tells making of tales, but also several side stories about his many friends who contributed to the film. About thirty-five minutes into the piece, David calls on Catherine Coulson to help him share tales. More then just a straightforward interview, the documentary also includes many still photos from the time of production and even some rare home videos of Lynch directing on the set! Stories is well done and a lot of fun, a testament to the spirit of independent film making. Be aware however, that this was made with exisiting Lynch fans in mind, and somethings, like eating at Bob's Big Boy and gloomy days in Philadelphia, are referenced without being fully explained for a newcomer.

Eraserhead is a film that stays with you long after you've seen it, love it or hate it. Presented here with optimum video and audio, along with a well put together sampling of bonus materials, this new dvd is a must have for fans of the film, or for fans of independent filmmaking. Available only through DavidLynch.com, the $39.94 plus shipping price tag might be a little hefty for the casual viewer, but creating both the film and dvd were labors of love for Lynch and it shows in the quality. Though one may be just in grumbling that Lynch has made a deleted scene available only to paying members of his website, in this reviewer's mind, it is neither here nor there. DVD is first and foremost about movies, and this set is worth is for the gorgeous transfer. The well made supplements are just icing on the cake, ranking this release just under MGM's special edition of Blue Velvet.

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