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Eraserhead: Criterion Collection (1977) - Blu-ray Review

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Eraserhead - Blu-ray Review

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5 stars

In my younger and more vulnerable years, I mistakenly thought David Lynch’s Eraserhead was a wicked trip through a sort of nightmarish version of an industrial Wonderland without rhyme or reason.  I dismissed it for being surreal without reason and purposeless in its spellbinding trance.  I was inexperienced and simply wrong.  Eraserhead is a masterpiece of cinema. 

The crisp black and white cinematography tweaks just enough of the reality we all experience that it all could be believable in the post-apocalyptic world – until a mutated baby arrives on the scene.  Henry (Jack Nance) is bizarrely experiencing a series of unfortunate events and Lynch documents this expertly with otherworldly panache.  As an adult with a child of my own, I see its true “colors” in its treatment of male paranoia in the wake of parenthood.

I can think of few films this stark, this abstract, and this fearless in its message and its medium.  Lynch still won’t disclose its meaning but that doesn’t matter; the film breathes just fine on its own.  The audience is the one who creates meaning anyway.  Regardless of what is said about its making, Lynch’s film is still impactful and Criterion Collection – remastering the film for its blu-ray debut – handles the significance of the film with a bevvy of bonus material, showing that Lynch’s surreal style didn’t happen overnight. 

The trippy tone of Eraserhead is so sure of its vision that it simply does not fail in connecting as a fairy tale about the responsibilities/consequences of family life for the male.  For those unaccustomed to the Lynchean universe, the film may annoy with its surreal images (a head melts through the floor for example); images, backgrounds, and scenarios that Lynch would later incorporate in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks

For Henry, the nightmare is the reality – including the temptress (Judith Anna Roberts) across the hall and the constantly sick premature “baby” - and, it seems, he dreams up the fantasy that has him placed on trial for his guilty conscience and beheaded as a result.  The two worlds shouldn’t merge their atmospheres and Lynch does his best work keeping them fluid with great camera placement, practical effects, and the sweetest of all: a woman (Laurel Near) living – singing and dancing – inside a radiator.  Eraserhead also has one of the most surreal moments in any man’s life - the “meet the parents” moment of his panic-stricken girlfriend, Mary (Charlotte Stewart).     

Still unsettling, Eraserhead – even if seen only once – remains unforgettable.

Eraserhead - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
89 mins
Director
: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Cast:
Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph
Genre
: Horror | Mystery
Tagline:
Where your nightmares end.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I put every damn pipe in this neighborhood. People think that pipes grow in their homes. But they sure as hell don't! Look at my knees! Look at my knees!"
Distributor:
Libra Films International
Official Site:
Release Date:
1977
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
Deptember 16, 2014
Synopsis: Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child..

Eraserhead - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 16, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Locked to region A

This high-def transfer from Criterion is extraordinary.  Eraserhead in 1080p is a revelation for those of us who have never had the chance to see it on anything but VHS or DVD.  This transfer, supervised by Lynch, is very dark, but it's meant to be.  The benefit of the high-def transfer is that you can see so much detail in the dark scenes. I n the film's signature shot, Henry stands in front of a cloud of (eraser) dust billowing around him and it's like you can pick out each speck.   The film's original sound mix was monaural but in 1994 Lynch and Alan Splet created a stereo mix from the original recording.  Criterion has stayed true to this with a linear PCM 2.0 audio track. This is one of the best transfers from a company known for the best transfers.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

The supplements include five of Lynch’s early short films, including “The Alphabet” (1968) and “The Grandmother” (1970).  Also included in the package is Eraserhead Stories, a feature-length making-of documentary in which Lynch predictably ducks any and all questions about the film’s meaning or creative genesis, though he’s more than happy to recount his memories of the extended shoot (which took several years, on and off, during the entirety of which Nance, a real trooper, retained Henry’s ludicrous hairstyle).  The supplemental material from the DVD box set that Lynch’s company released in 2001 is included (“Eraserhead Stories,” a 90-minute documentary on the making of the film), along with a new piece featuring interviews with actors Charlotte Stewart and Judith Roberts, assistant to the director (and wife to Jack Nance at the time) Catherine Coulson, and DP Elmes. Additional archival interviews and trailers and the illustrated booklet containing an interview with Lynch rounds out the package.

  • 1977 (1 min)
  • 1979 (17 min)
  • 1982 (2 min)
  • 1988 (7 min)
  • 1997 (17 min)
  • 2001 (86 min)
  • 2014 (27 min)
  • Eraserhead Stories (90 min)
  • Short Films :
  • Six Men Getting Sick (4 min)
  • The Alphabet (4 min)
  • The Grandmother (34 min)
  • The Amputee (6 min)
  • Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (1 min)

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