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Eraserhead (US Blu-Ray Review)

Specs

Specs

Details

Director: David Lynch
Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts, Laurel Near
Year: 1977
Length: 89 min
Rating: NR
Region: A
Disks: 1
Label: Criterion Collection
Release Date: Sep 16, 2014

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Type: B&W

Audio

Audio: English: LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH

Extras
  • “Eraserhead” Stories, a 2001 documentary by Lynch on the making of the film
  • New 2K digital restorations of six short films by Lynch: Six Men Getting Sick (1967), The Alphabet (1968), The Grandmother (1970), The Amputee, Version 1 and Version 2 (1974), and Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (1995), all with video introductions by Lynch
  • New documentary featuring interviews with actors Charlotte Stewart and Judith Roberts, assistant to the director Catherine Coulson, and cinematographer Frederick Elmes
  • Archival interviews with Lynch and members of the cast and crew
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an interview with Lynch from filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s 1997 book Lynch on Lynch

[There is an] issue on the current pressing of the film. It has come to our attention that about 65 minutes into the original camera negative, from which our new 4K master was created, there are 5 seconds of black where there should be a reaction shot of Jack Nance surrounded by fades to white.

We are aware of this issue and are preparing a corrected run of the ERASERHEAD Blu-ray disc and DVD Disc One (DVD Disc Two is not effected). When the replacement discs are available in a couple of weeks, we’ll send you the correct version.

919UOaVl4AL._SL1500_It would be impossible to describe David Lynch’s Eraserhead to someone who has never seen it. There is nothing else quite like it in the annals of film; nothing to really compare it to. The basic plot points are simple enough: a man marries his pregnant girlfriend, she gives birth to a chronically sick child, they try to raise it, but the pressure soon proves too much for the woman and she abandons the family, leaving her husband to care for the baby. Feeling lonely, the man soon falls into the hands of a nymphomaniac living next door to him.

That may not sound very exciting, but plot is not what drives Eraserhead. To put it simply, Eraserhead is a nightmare, an industrial-age fever dream, born of Lynch’s experience of living with his family in Philadelphia, realized through his unique visual and aural imagination.

The Film

“It’s strange how Eraserhead is. It is a personal film,” says David Lynch of his first feature film. The idea first came to him in Philadelphia, but the film itself was shot in and around sunny Los Angeles, with support from the American Film Institute. Considering that, it is remarkable how much of Philly’s dark, industrial atmosphere informs Eraserhead’s aesthetic. Even though the film takes place mostly on interior sets, one can clearly sense the stench of a decaying city all around. It’s apparent in the lighting and in the dreary sets, but also in the endlessly drowning, desolate sound design.

David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

The film tells the story of Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), a man who marries his pregnant girlfriend (much like Lynch himself did in Philly). When the baby is born it looks like some revolting, alien lab specimen. Everything is dark and forlorn in Eraserhead. The one bright spot is a lady who lives inside the couple’s living room radiator, and sings a song about everything being fine in heaven, while squashing giant sperm with her heels, that fall on her from above.

The logic of Eraserhead is the logic of a dream—its relentless vision is as revolutionary and original as Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1929) once was. Only instead of shocking us with something equivalent to Bunuel’s gratuitous slashing of the eyeball scene, Lynch elects to spread his shocks throughout the narrative. They are of the slow burn variety. They seep into you gradually, along with the dust, the bodily fluids, and the cosmic desolation.

I remember in the 1980s, a friend invited me to a showing of Eraserhead at a local theater, telling me that immediately afterwards we would need to watch a “normal” film, to get back our sense of reality. Good advice!

David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

Video

Criterion’s new 4k restoration of Eraserhead was supervised by David Lynch himself, and thus carries the director’s authority. It is a little darker than what most people will be used to on home video, but none of the detail is obscured by this. In fact, image depth and detail are quite striking. The image looks crystal clear in most instances, yet there are no telltale signs of edge sharpening, or degraining. I’m certain that this is the best Eraserhead has ever looked on any home video release.

Audio

The LPCM 2.0 audio track is as excellent as the visuals. The elaborate sound design is of paramount importance in Eraserhead, and every ambient affect is rendered with utmost fidelity. The balance is natural, the dialog clear and easy to follow. I did not hear any age-related anomalies, such as hiss or pops.

David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

Extras

Criterion gives us an extensive set of extra features with this release. First and foremost are David Lynch’s 6 short films: Six Men Getting Sick (1967), The Alphabet (1968), The Grandmother (1970), The Amputee [two versions] (1974), Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (1995). Most of the ones before Eraserhead combine live action with animation, and serve as a wonderful foreshadowing of the glories to come. They are all “must see” especially The Grandmother. All come with video introductions by Lynch.

Next, is an 85-minute documentary, “Eraserhead Stories,” made by David Lynch himself in 2001. Most of the black & white film consists of Lynch sitting in front of a microphone, telling stories about the making of Eraserhead, interspersed with archival photographs. Occasionally, a phone rings and one of his compatriots comes on and adds their own stories. Like most of Lynch’s films, watching this documentary is a strangely fascinating experience.

David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) [Click to enlarge]

Next is a brand new set of interviews with some of the actors and crew of Eraserhead, conducted by Criterion in 2014. This too is punctuated by archival photographs and the stories are quite revealing.

Next is video footage of some of the actors and crew, visiting the original shooting locations at the AFI in L.A. in 1997. Some more great interviews here.

Next is video footage from 1988, of Lynch and Jack Nance visiting one of Eraserhead’s original shooting locations in Los Angeles.

Next is a 17-minute video interview with David Lynch and cinematographer Frederick Elmes, filmed in 1979, at one of Eraserhead’s shooting locations.

We are also given a trailer and a booklet featuring an interview with Lynch from filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s 1997 book Lynch on Lynch.

David Lynch's The Alphabet (1968) [Click to enlarge]

David Lynch’s The Alphabet (1968) [Click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

Eraserhead is a seminal masterpiece, the original “midnight movie.” It’s visual and aural language are like no other, and demand to be experienced by every cinephile. Considering Criterion’s superlative new video/audio transfer, not to mention all the superb extra features that make up this set, Criterion’s edition of Eraserhead is undeniably the best and most comprehensive home video release of this film to date. Don’t miss it!

David Lynch's The Grandmother (1970) [Click to enlarge]

David Lynch’s The Grandmother (1970) [Click to enlarge]

Details Director: David Lynch Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts, Laurel Near Year: 1977 Length: 89 min Rating: NR Region: A Disks: 1 Label: Criterion Collection Release Date: Sep 16, 2014 Video Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Resolution: 1080p Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Type: B&W Audio Audio: English: LPCM 2.0 Subtitles: English SDH Extras “Eraserhead” Stories, a 2001 documentary by Lynch on the making of the film New 2K digital restorations of six short films by Lynch: Six Men Getting Sick (1967), The Alphabet (1968), The Grandmother (1970), The Amputee, Version 1 and Version 2 (1974), and Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (1995), all with video introductions by…

Review Overview

Film
Video
Audio
Extras

Bottom Line

User Rating: 4.55 ( 1 votes)

About Dima Ballin

Dima is the founder and publisher of Diabolique Magazine and the co-founder of the Boston Underground Film Festival. He is currently working on several screenplays and trying to attain enlightenment through Buddhism.

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