Blue Velvet


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Home from college, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) makes an unsettling discovery: a severed human ear, lying in a field. In the mystery that follows, by turns terrifying and darkly funny, writer-director David Lynch burrows deep beneath the picturesque surfaces of small-town life. Driven to investigate, Jeffrey finds himself drawing closer to his fellow amateur sleuth, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), as well as their person of interest, lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini)—and facing the fury of Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), a psychopath who will stop at nothing to keep Dorothy in his grasp. With intense performances and hauntingly powerful scenes and images, Blue Velvet is an unforgettable vision of innocence lost, and one of the most influential American films of the late twentieth century.

Picture 9/10

The Criterion Collection has upgraded their Blu-ray special edition of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet to 4K UHD, presenting the film in Dolby Vision on a triple-layer disc with its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition release is sourced from the same 4K restoration used for Criterion’s previous Blu-ray edition, sourced directly from the 35mm original camera negative. Included is a standard Blu-ray disc featuring a 1080p version of the film and all special features from the 2019 release.

The 4K presentation offers a noticeably sharper and cleaner experience compared to the Blu-ray, though my expectations for it may have led to feeling a little underwhelmed. The Blu-ray does hold up remarkably well in the end, even if the encoding could be a bit better, but it renders the grain well and was far better at handling blacks and shadows compared to previous editions. The 4K edition, enhanced by HDR, does further improve those areas, allowing for smoother gradations in the shadows. Colors are also notably sharpened, which is particularly evident in Dorothy’s (Isabella Rossellini) stage performances where the reds and blues of the lights blend with striking clarity. This clarity and expanded contrast in the film’s low-lit scenes contribute to a more natural, photographic quality that I found quite appealing.

However, as I alluded to, my expectations for the 4K release were perhaps too high. While HDR improves darker scenes, overall brightness levels, especially in the neon lights of the exterior shots of the club where Dorothy performs, felt slightly subdued, which was a bit disappointing. Highlights, such as the gleam on Frank’s (Dennis Hopper) leather jacket, are well-rendered but didn’t quite stand out as expected. Yet what was probably most underwhelming was how, even in 4K resolution, the film doesn’t look that much “sharper” than the previous 1080p presentation. This has primarily to do with the photography, which has a slightly dreamlike, faintly fuzzy quality to it, so whatever my expectations were, they were probably never in the cards.

Despite all of this, the improvements in grain rendition, colors, and shadow detail make this 4K upgrade a worthwhile one, and I still prefer it over the Blu-ray edition. It might just be a matter of keeping expectations in check.

Audio 8/10

Criterion includes two audio tracks for Blue Velvet, both presented in DTS-HD Master Audio: the original 2.0 surround presentation and David Lynch’s remastered 5.1 surround track, created for the 2002 DVD release. For this review, I focused on the 5.1 track.

The 5.1 surround mix on this release isn’t overly aggressive, but it effectively utilizes the split channels to enhance the auditory experience. The ambient sound effects and the score are nicely dispersed across the speakers, and I still like the ethereal quality of Mysteries of Love in the film’s climactic moments.

Low ends are subtle and the overall dynamic range is very impressive and comprehensive, never faltering when it reaches the higher ends. Dialogue is also sharp and clean.

In the end, it’s still a very effective presentation.

Extras 8/10

All features are found on the included dual-layer Blu-ray. Since the disc is a duplicate of the 2019 edition, all material has been ported over, including what was carried over from the MGM/Fox edition.

The most prominent feature here is still The Lost Footage, which is 53 minutes’ worth of material cut from the film. The old 2002 DVD edition presented its own deleted scenes feature but it was made up of stills and text descriptions since the footage was thought to be lost. The footage is presented here the same way it was on the previous Blu-ray, edited together by Lynch, almost making a whole other film, which shows the film could have had a very different flow and feel. A lot of the excised footage deals with Jeffrey’s old college life and his family, particularly his having to head home because of his father’s health. There’s also more material involving him and his relationship with Sandy. It all looks to have been edited in order (other than the opening portion, which features Frank’s joyride stop at a bar), and if it was left in, it would have basically added another 45 minutes or so to the first half of the film (before Jeffrey’s joyride with Frank). It’s interesting to see how this film could have been but I feel Lynch was probably right in cutting most of this material. The current opening works so much better at putting the viewer off guard, and the extra exposition really doesn’t help anything. It would have just slowed the film to a crawl. At any rate, it’s here, and it is presented again in 1080p (it was actually restored for the previous Blu-ray, which was a bit of a surprise, and in some areas, it looked better than the main film on that disc). In a nice touch, Lynch ends the scenes with a cast list of all of those who participated but apologizes in a note for being unable to find the names of all of those involved.

Criterion also appends 2 minutes’ worth of outtakes after the closing credits. These were presented separately in the old edition, so I am just pointing this out so viewers don’t turn the feature off once they reach the credits (this also explains the features’ 2-minute longer runtime in comparison to the old edition’s runtime).

"Blue Velvet" Revisited is a newer documentary put together by filmmaker Peter Braatz, who was invited by Lynch to film the production of Blue Velvet at the time. Described as a “meditation” on the film, the 89-minute feature is more avant-garde than a straightforward documentary. Mixing Super 8 footage, photos, and audio, the film just floats through the production, presenting behind-the-scenes footage mixed with on-screen interviews with Lynch, along with audio recordings of Lynch and the actors talking about the film. Hopper proves the most interesting interview subject, talking about the experience, including some of the frustrations that went into setting scenes up, and it’s material like this that made me wish the documentary was maybe a little more straightforward.

"Room to Dream" has been made for this edition, and it’s simply an 18-minute audio recording of Lynch reading from the book “Room to Dream” he co-authored with Kristine McKenna. Lynch reads from a portion of the chapter on Blue Velvet in the first person and simply recounts the production, right from getting off the awful experience of Dune, to having to get the rights for Blue Velvet back from Warner Bros. (after he didn’t realize they actually owned it), to casting, to filming, to getting music, and so on and so forth. He also talks about the horrible experience that went behind the test screening of the film and then shares a rather amusing story about meeting Elizabeth Taylor at an Oscar party. It’s an excellent and funny recounting of the production and I’m happy Lynch was so open about participating in this regard.

There’s an interview with composer Angelo Badalamenti, who also appeared on Criterion’s releases for Mulholland Dr. and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. This is basically an extension of what appeared on the Fire Walk with Me disc, and somewhat surprisingly, Criterion repeats a lot of the material found in that interview. The difference here is that it has been edited to put more of the focus on Blue Velvet and writing the music for it (and getting Rossellini better prepared to sing in the film), which was only briefly mentioned in what appeared on the Fire Walk with Me disc. It runs for 15 minutes.

Following this is a collection of interviews with crew members, found under It’s a Strange World. A lot of material about the production is covered here, from how the idea behind a number of scenes came to be (like Dean Stockwell singing into the light) to the extremes Lynch went to get the correct look for the film, even using real human brains in one scene (and it appears prop man Shaw Burney still didn’t know that he was dealing with real brain for the scene in question, at least according to his appearance here). There are actually a number of surprises in here, and it is probably my favorite addition to the new material.

This edition also carries over the 2002 MGM documentary on the making of the film Mysteries of Love, a retrospective piece gathering members of the cast and crew including, but not limited to, Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern. Not surprisingly, Lynch only appears in older archival clips, yet despite his absence in newer material, we still get a great peak into the making of the film from its early inception all the way through to its release. It’s an entertaining, if not overly remarkable, documentary, not offering many insights into the film and its themes (which is to be expected for one of Lynch’s films), but like most MGM documentaries of the period, it’s incredibly thorough and engaging when it comes to production, running a lengthy 71 minutes.

The disc then closes with a short 1-minute goof feature called Test Chart, which shows footage of crew members holding up a grayscale test chart for the camera, with a few amusing moments. The same 29-page booklet has been ported from the Blu-ray, featuring excerpts from the chapter on Blue Velvet found in the Lynch/McKenna book Room to Dream. This covers the making of the film in more detail in comparison to what Lynch read in his feature on the disc. Unfortunately, Criterion didn’t carriy over the Siskel & Ebert excerpt found on the MGM disc, where the two strongly disagreed with each other on the film. They also dropped the short vignettes, though some of this material is found in the Braatz documentary.

I’m still disappointed we don’t get more scholarly material on Lynch’s releases, but as it is, the features offer a great behind-the-scenes look at the film in a far more substantial way than what the previous editions offered.


Don't get me wrong, the film looks great and is notably better than the Blu-ray, but the upgrade is ultimately less striking than I had anticipated.


Directed by: David Lynch
Year: 1986
Time: 120 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 977
Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 25 2024
MSRP: $49.95
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-100
2.35:1 ratio
English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Surround
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Regions A/None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 The Lost Footage, fifty-three minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes assembled by Lynch   “Blue Velvet” Revisited, a feature-length meditation on the making of the film by Peter Braatz, filmed on-set during the production   Mysteries of Love, a seventy-minute documentary from 2002 on the making of the film   Interview from 2017 with composer Angelo Badalamenti   It’s a Strange World: The Filming of “Blue Velvet,” a 2019 documentary featuring interviews with crew members and visits to the shooting locations   Lynch reading from Room to Dream, a 2018 book he coauthored with Kristine McKenna