I well remember first reading the news that my favourite film director, David Lynch, had apparently taken American prime-time TV by storm with his latest project...something called 'Twin Peaks'.
It's amusing to think back now how I worried. Could the author of such contorted imaginings as Eraserhead's ''Radiator Lady'' and Blue Velvet's Frank Booth (the scariest psycho ever realised on film?), have sold out to the bland conventionality of commercial television? With TV chock-a-block with your Buffys, Mulders and McBeals, it's easy to forget just what a graveyard TV had become by the late eighties. Basically, you had a choice between Dallas, Dynasty, The A-team or Magnum PI ... and that was just the ''quality'' stuff!
Of course, I needn't have worried. Twin Peaks quickly became a weekly obsession for me, and millions of others. With its unpredictable mix of drama, mystery and humour, the series allowed Lynch to insinuate his obsessions into the consciousness of mainstream TV audiences all over the world. But, Inevitably, it couldn't last...
The plot of the original series, in a nutshell, concerned the discovery of the body of local beauty queen, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), neatly wrapped in plastic sheeting and left on the shore of a lake. After another girl is found badly injured, on the border of the town, Agent Dale Copper (Kyle Maclachlan) of the FBI is called in to investigate.
''Peakies'' -- the devout followers of the show, quickly realised that it didn't really matter what the solutions to its various mysteries actually were; it was the journey not the destination that mattered. But pressure began to mount from the network to bring the show's core mystery to some kind of resolution. A few episodes into the second series, the identity of Laura's murderer was revealed, and the shows audience promptly began to drift away. Without the focus of Laura Palmer, it began to drift into a forced zaniness. By the end of the season it was all over, and the network cancelled the show.
Undeterred, Lynch reassembled the original cast (apart from Lara Flynn Boyle, who was replaced in her role as Laura's best friend Donna, by Moira Kelly), to bring the series to the big screen. ''Fire walk with Me'' was the result.
This film is pure, unadulterated ''Lynch''. Free from the constraints of network television, Lynch really let rip - with a film that starkly depicts brutal murders, drug taking, teenage sex and incest, all filtered through Lynch's fractured narrative and unique visual style. This divided fans of the show; some thought the film's frank portrayal of themes that were only hinted at in the series, detracted from the subtle small-town atmosphere of the original; while hard-core Lynch fans delighted in its willful perversity.
The film starts one year before the events depicted in the series. The body of Teresa Banks has been discovered, and agents Chester Desmond (Chris Issac) and Sam Stanley (Keither Sutherland) are dispatched to investigate. The two meet with indifference and hostility and, while following up a clue, agent Desmond disappears without trace. The film then shoots forward a year, and we follow the tortured Laura Palmer in the last few days of her life. Most of the rest of the film centers on Laura's gradual discovery of what we, the audience of the original show, already know: the true identity of the spectral ''Bob'' -- a frightening apparition, who has been terrorising Laura for most of her teenage life; while simultaneously depicting Laura's drift into drug use and prostitution, and concluding with her inevitable and horrifying confrontation with the murderer.
New Line Home Entertainment have given the film the treatment it deserves for this latest region 1 (NTSC) DVD release. The widescreen anamorthic transfer gives a picture that is clear and sharp, with only a few short scenes suffering from excessive grain. The colours look marvelous, particularly the neon reds and blues in the 'pink room' bar scene, while the blacks are rock solid in the films many outdoor night-time scenes.
There is no chapter selection menu, although the disc does contain chapter stops unlike the recent 'Elephant man' DVD from Paramount. Besides a trailer, the only other extra is a half hour documentary -- ''Reflections on the phenomena of Twin Peaks''. This gives us some info on what various members of the cast have been up to over the past ten years, and their thoughts on the series and film. We also get to here a few anecdotes concerning Lynch and his working methods; and even how to talk backwards, like the shows mysterious ''man from another place'', Michael J Anderson.
With the first series recently making it to DVD, Twin Peaks fans have had plenty to cheer about recently. Some of Lynch's newer fans will be in a bit of a quandary though, since the film gives away, and takes for granted the audiences knowledge of the identity of Laura Palmer's killer. I would advise them to watch the series first for maximum effect but if they can't wait, the film does stand up on its own in my opinion.
Whatever, I highly recommend this movie from America's most original filmmaker