Review Date: November 3, 2007
Released by: Paramount
Release date: 09/30/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Full Screen 1.33:1
One of the primary principles of surrealism is the fact that it exists outside the norm, outside of the popular. In its non-linear, non sequitur arrangement of the benign and the fantastic, it could combat the conformity of popular thought. The work of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Luis Bunuel have been fundamental in critiquing the moors of religion and politics by speaking from a vantage point outside the mainstream. So what happens, then, when surrealism becomes mainstream? For a brief moment, there, in 1991, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks
seemed to bridge an impossible gap between avant garde surrealism and mainstream acceptance. Twin Peaks
was huge, a cult show whose primary question “Who killed Laura Palmer?” somehow became nearly as big as Dallas
’ “Who shot J.R.?”
Nearly as fast as it broke out it was gone, ending after only 29 episodes. Its life on DVD would be equally as puzzling, with the first season coming out sans pilot from Artisan, and the second season unreleased until earlier this year. Such an enigmatic history seems fitting for a show that, despite its mainstream success, always aimed at the surreal. Finally though, thanks for Paramount, the whole damn thing is out in one tidy package. That’s right, the pilot, the European pilot, the first and second seasons, the log lady introductions and plenty of other pieces all finally assembled for one definitive package. Brew up some coffee, warm up some pie, and let’s pay a visit to television’s favorite land of seclusion.
After the deceptively ordinary opening credit montage of insubstantial small-town sights, the film quickly dives into the unordinary. The next shot of Joan Chen applying a white mask seems fitting for the rest of the events that are to follow, as nothing is what it seems in the town of Twin Peaks
. Pete Martell ([b]Eraserhead[b]’s Jack Nance
) heads out fishing, when he sees what seems to be a body lying just off the shore. It’s “wrapped in plastic”, as he famously affirms to the town sheriff, Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean
). Upon rolling the body over, they discover it to be the town’s golden charm, high school homecoming queen, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee
). Immediately we’re introduced to our wide cast of diverse characters as they hear the news, and we watch from a distance as a quiet little town suddenly becomes turned on head. Dark secrets suddenly come to the forefront, and everyone’s a suspect.
Brought in to try and solve the case is FBI Special Agent, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan
). Immediately he’s warmed by the excellent coffee and even better cherry pie, but that’s literally only a taste of what he’s to find in Twin Peaks
. There’s a litany of unanswered questions, both in terms of the death of Laura Palmer, and in the private lives of the people who inhabit the town. There’s the log lady (Catherine Coulson
) who caresses her chopped piece of wood. There’s the seductive school girl, Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn
), who quickly becomes the town madame. There’s Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) and her abusive husband, Leo (Eric Da Re
). There’s Laura’s best friend Donna Hayward (Laura Flynn Boyle
) and her rebel boyfriend, Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook
). Somehow they all hold a piece to the mystery surrounding Laura Palmer, and Dale Cooper is determined to find out.
In Twin Peaks
, though, with every answer comes two questions, and with every question comes a new mystery. Laura’s death becomes only one of life’s many unanswerable questions. Cream corn…what is it? Why is it? As the series would continue onward, it would be less interested in Laura’s death than it would be in the everyday mysteries of reality. David Duchovny would show up in drag, Laura’s doppelganger would mysteriously arrive, and there would be this wear room with tiled flooring, red curtains and indecipherable gibberish. It started off a small, inconsequential saw mill town, but Twin Peaks
would end as surrealism’s most important microcosm.
Surrealism strives on subtext, and what makes Twin Peaks
such fascinating viewing is the way it tells a subversive story by way of popular storytelling. It does the impossible by combining the experimental free-flow of surrealism with the rigid, fact-based development of the typical police procedural. If Luis Bunuel ever directed an episode of Law & Order
, it would likely turn out like this. That’s the beauty of Twin Peaks
, a crazy, dream-like assault on the status quo, all masked by that iconic, and accessible, question: “Who killed Laura Palmer?”
People watched to solve the puzzle, but Lynch gave everybody bogus pieces. This wasn’t a story to be solved, but instead one to be experienced. It’s amazing all the lucid, existential critique that Lynch was able to comfortably fit in a series otherwise tailored comfortably for television. It was great television. Now though, the central quandary that hooked audiences takes second place to the random disassociation of all of Lynch’s surrealist devices. I started off looking at this set linearly, but after the first few episodes, I just sort of skipped around. I’d watch the Lynch directed episodes, some from the start, some from the end…it didn’t really matter. I know who kills Laura Palmer. What keeps me coming back though, is all the layered intrigue of Lynch’s dream world, where even the most mundane of objects or statements takes on the most profound level of existential analysis.
The catch phrase to the entire show would be Kyle MacLachlan’s emphatic appreciation for the cherry pie at the local diner, and this seems the most fitting example of how in Lynch’s surreal universe, even the most generic of objects becomes a grand metaphor for our lives. There’s nothing more universal than American pie. Both in Twin Peaks
and in pie itself, the top, visible layer is one of great plainness. It’s uniform and bland. Yet, once you dig in, all the complex layers reveal themselves, oozing out in passionate red. The further you get in Twin Peaks
, the messier it gets, and with each bite tastier than the next, you won’t be able to put it down.
Whether it’s the pilot, the first season or the second, all the visuals here have a uniform look to them, as if they were all mastered from the same source. Since the second season here is identical to what Paramount already released, and the pilot obviously looks much better than the cheapy version available only overseas. Thus the true point for comparison is Artisan’s heralded transfer of the first season. When comparing the two, the differences are only slight, but this new box earns it’s name and emerges as definitive.
The most noticeable benefit from this new Paramount transfer is the increased detail. It’s visible in the clarity of the title from the first shot, and in the textures of the faces in all the others. It’s not a huge improvement, but definitely a worthy one, undoubtedly making this the clearest presentation the series has ever enjoyed. The brightness has been taken down a notch on this new transfer, and it provides a moodier and more flattering image, especially since detail is also gained in the process. The colors too, seem a bit more lifelike, as some of the Artisan shots exhibit a slight haze in comparison. By all accounts, this new visual transfer is without a doubt the best Twin Peaks
has ever looked.
That said, the log lady introductions are still much softer than the actual episodes, which was a problem before in the Artisan release as well. Still, even they exhibit better color than the previous release, so even if they could still be improved, at least they show signs of progress.
David Lynch approved these new remastered audio tracks, and Artisan must have gotten it right on their own, because they sound very similar to the ones featured on the original Artisan first season set. The first season is a slight downgrade here though, with the DTS options removed. Still though, this was a show shot in 2.0, so a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is gift enough. The tracks all sound great, and for remixes these are quite accomplished. Badalamenti’s score is so important to the series, and it helps boost these 5.1 remixes with tons of increased ambience. A great job all around.
There’s an entire bonus disc worth of features, but before we get there there are a few other tidbits on various discs. First, all the log lady introductions are there, and should definitely always be watched before each show. They are probably my favorite aspect of the show, the most enlightening window into Lynch’s strange brain. One thing that noticeably isn’t included, though, are the “previously on Twin Peaks
” openers, which are featured on the Artisan DVDs. While they don’t necessarily add anything new to the know, many will remember them, and since this set aims to be definitive, their absence is striking. Still, we get both the pilot and the European pilot (which hastily reveals who killed Laura), and all the log lady intros, so virtually everything else is here.
Before the final disc, there are 6-minutes of deleted scenes culled from an old tape source, and while some are interesting, they don’t really have the magic that the rest of the show possesses. There are also a few “production documents” included, mostly odds and ends production sheets of little interest to anyone who wasn’t part of the show. Those are probably the only two forgettable aspects of this set though, because the final disc is, as the set proclaims, “Gold”.
The biggest supplement is the feature length documentary, “Secrets From Another Room”. Lynch is nowhere to be found, but don’t worry, he’s coming. Many of the other key collaborators are here though, including co-creator Mark Frost, Angelo Badalamenti, Kyle MacLachlan, Madchen Amick, Julee Cruise, Sheryl Lee and many, many more. Not only does this 105-minute documentary look great, but more importantly it really offers a large window into a show otherwise shrouded in secrecy. It begins with Mark Frost discussing how he first met Lynch, and how they never imagined ABC would even take two looks at their crazy screenplay. Then it starts to feature the actors, with everyone from Ray Wise to Kimmy Robertson talking about how they first landed their parts. Divided into four sections it goes from discussing the pilot to creating the first season, to creating the music and to finally season two and its aftermath. Make sure you know who killed Laura Palmer before watching, but once you know, you’ll love this doc.
Lynch gets his own special segment, “A Slice of Lynch”, which is another professionally shot look back at the show. This one, typical of Lynch, is a bit more artistic, with Lynch ordering up a slice of cherry pie, only to have a vivid dream where Madchen Amick, Kyle MacLachlan and John Wentworth are sitting beside him in a diner. Thus begins a 30-minute dialogue between Lynch and his collaborators, with him asking them questions and them in turn asking him. They cover everything from how they began the show all the way to their favorite moments. While the stuff they talk about is generally what you’d find in an EPK, the way it’s presented, with moody red lighting and Lynch’s trademark eccentricity, make it really stand out. The documentary is more revealing, but this is still quite the trip.
Next are two clips from SNL, one with Kyle MacLachlan’s hilarious monologue where he frankly reveals to an inquiring fan the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer, only to have David Lynch call him on the phone and demand a retraction. The other skit is a send-up of Twin Peaks
, with members like Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Kevin Nealon and even a tough to spot Conan O’Brien (at the time a writer on the show) in varied roles. They both run about 15-minutes combine, and demonstrate that the show was never afraid of showing a sense of humor about their whole success.
The next segment looks at the fandom the series has enjoyed, with fans, Twin Peaks
residents, castmembers and organizers all reflecting on the life these conventions continue to bring to the show. We get testimonials from fans on why the show connects with them and what parts are their favorite, as well as how they all assembled for this “Return to Twin Peaks
”. We get sights of the famous locations and even words from the actors like Kimmy Robertson, eager to answer all the fan’s questions. At 20-minutes, it’s the perfect length, devoting just enough time to exposing this cult that still exists for the show. Also included is an interactive map that shows the locations as they are today, as well as revealing their exact locations for those interested.
“The Black Lodge Archive” offers the extremely unique marketing and franchising the series utilized. First is the music video for “Fallen”, featuring clips from the series. The Georgia Coffee commercials are the best of all, with several of the Twin Peaks
cast selling coffee to Japanese audiences, often in hilarious, esoteric fashion. There are a few image galleries next. Then we come to the on-air promos to show how ABC played up both the mystery and the “must-see” status of the show. Another weird inclusion are the “1-900 Hotline” promos for those who wanted to pay to try to get even more confused about the show through the phone. Lastly are a number of bumpers that would be tagged on just before commercials, with Lucy saying a bunch of quick catch phrases. Without a doubt the most interesting array of promotional material I’ve ever seen on a DVD.
In terms of paper extras, we get a nice little collection of randomized post cards and a leaflet to purchase a coffee cup directly from David Lynch. The post cards are randomly numbered, from 1 to 61, so if you really want the full set, be prepared to pick up a number of these and start trading with fans online. While I would have appreciated an episode guide, you really can’t fault this set for the plethora of extras already included.
was probably the closest mainstream television ever came to creating true art. It was a landmark show that managed to both intrigue the average viewer with its whodunit story, yet at the same time satiate the arthouse with all its surreal imagery and development. Never was surrealism so perfectly commercial. Paramount has done a fantastic job with this set, truly delivering the definitive set they promised. The image is stellar, even improving on the already great Artisan transfer of season one. The sound has all been remastered into 5.1 and approved by David Lynch, so another check there. Lastly, the extras are a fascinating combination of information and entertainment, no two extras ever close to being the same. Even if you hate television I offer this my highest recommendation. Find this set, wrapped in plastic, and pick it up immediately, for this is the final word on television’s most important creation.
Series - A
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A-
Supplements - A
- Running time - 1670 minutes
- Not Rated
- 10 Discs
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Stereo
- English Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Portuguese Subtitles
- Four Deleted Scenes
- Calling Sheets and Production Breakdowns
- "A Slice of Lynch" Interview Featurette
- Four-Part "Secrets from Another Place" Featurette
- "Return to Twin Peaks" Featurette
- Interactive Map
- SNL skits
- "Falling" Music Video
- Georgia Coffee Commercials
- Three Image Galleries
- Promos and Spots
- Lucy Bumpers