Movie Review: Blue Velvet (1986)

Frank Booth: Fuck you, you fucking fuck!

This is essentially what we all worry suburban America will be like to visit, even now; slightly odd, over-the-top and addictive. The narrative is staunch and absurd, but regardless to our pre-conceptions and hearsay about this famous flick, it only reinforces the opinion that Lynch is a master of film.

We are easily sucked in by the hypnotic soundtrack put together by long term Lynch sidekick Angelo Badalamenti, paired with some clever unintentional product placement akin to Tarantino’s later ventures (The enthralling beer scene in Django Unchained) that inevitably wish you had a cold Heineken to hand. This is American pop culture incarnate.

But what really sucked me in were the performances, Dennis Hopper ripping through his lines like a madman is a particularly enjoyable thing to watch. The story line, although not entirely original, centers on a young man (Kyle MacLachlan) who stumbles across a severed human ear and thereafter decides to become an amateur private investigator.

As he gets further involved, he starts to meet some rather odd characters that are all linked to a women that wears (and sings the song) blue velvet as played by the excellent Isabella Rossilini, who catches our main protagonist peeping at her in a cupboard. Don't ask dear, just watch.

Lynch is still important and we can see how he has influenced directors both young and old including Ben Wheatley and Denis Villeneuve where we can see Lynchinism at work in films like Kill List and Enemy, bodies of work that contain disturbing imagery, horror and thrills that impact our eyeballs and leave our mouths dragging somewhere on the floor.

I can normally only tell if a film like this is appealing to me long after the credits have rolled. I like to sleep on it and re-evaluate it in the morning, the first test being if I remember to do even that in the first place. If the film passes phase 1, then phase 2 is to rate it. This is one of those films.


“Shut up! It’s Daddy, you shithead! Where’s my bourbon? Can’t you fucking remember anything?”

As the plot progresses and a bizarre love triangle forms, we are kept guessing about things generally by the invigoratingly OTT acting of Dennis Hopper who shares a severely dysfunctional and obscene relationship with Rossilini. 

Is the gas tank (supposedly Amyl Nitrate) even physically connected to anything in begin with? Do we even see one attached to the mask? Towards the end we see it is, but this in itself warrants another watch and hints towards the madness of his character wonderfully, or indeed mine.

“Shut up! It’s Daddy, you shithead! Where’s my bourbon? Can’t you fucking remember anything?”

Not everyone is going to like everything and Blue Velvet is a film that will (and long has) inevitably divide critical opinion. It’s scenes of violence, bizarre fetishism and absurdity can still shock today 31 years on.

One IMDB user’s anonymous review:

“anonymous from Canada:
3 January 1999
There isn’t much more to say. This movie is the sickest, grossest and most disgusting perversion, like anything else Dennis Hopper has ever done. Isabella Rosselini should have thought twice about appearing in this dog.”

Personally, I find this kind of comments quite amusing though they have obviously never seen 120 Day of Sodom (1975). The reviewer is genuinely disgusted, but clearly knows nothing of Dennis Hopper previous acting career of doing more straight edged roles, like in the essential Easy Rider (1969).

He seems to be taking it personally though, as while the film does display the sorts of perverse behaviour he is describing –—it has a reason to be there. In fact, David Lynch would probably be quite happy with that 1 star out of 10 review, as the movie has clearly had a substantial effect on the victim, I mean viewer.

Although only made in 1986, I have a worrying feeling that for most, the date of creation will be enough to put a lot of viewers off. My partner thinks anything older than the 90s is 'old' and redundant, so I am in no way pejoratively writing about the plight of the millennials (sounds like a Lynch film in itself) but to those of you that are easily put off by things like that, grin and bear it.

It has aged well in terms of cinematography and although somewhat avant garde, it's not pretentious or overbearing in complexity.

Rating out of 10:

7.8 – Good

While it’s not Lynch’s most accomplished piece of work, it hits home hard and added an unsettling stance to the blue prints of your typical noir thriller. It’s over the top, gloriously shot and assaults us with cerebral style even in 2017.

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Movie Review: Blue Velvet (1986)