Picks and Pans Review: Blue Velvet

updated 09/22/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

David Lynch, the undisputed wizard of odd as writer-director of Eraserhead, The Elephant Man and Dune, has topped himself with a cuckoo classic. Funny and frightening, the film only occasionally makes sense. Even so, the feverish, erotically charged atmosphere is impossible to shake. Kyle MacLahlan, the stalwart hero of Dune, stars as a college student visiting his sick dad in North Carolina. The setting is a small lumber town, the kind with a chirpy radio weatherman who, on a sunny day, advises listeners to "get out your chainsaws." Shortcutting through a field one afternoon, MacLahlan finds a freshly severed human ear. The police thank him for bringing in the appendage, but offer no explanation. His curiosity aroused, MacLahlan coaxes a few clues out of a cop's smitten teenage daughter, a tremulous Laura (Smooth Talk) Dern. The clues lead to a voluptuous nightclub singer, played with torchy carnality by Isabella (White Nights) Rossellini. This is the point where the film and probably most audiences come unglued. In a smokey bistro Rossellini sings endless off-key choruses of the old Bobby Vinton hit Blue Velvet. Perhaps in revenge, a drug-pushing psycho, played by Dennis (Easy Rider) Hopper, bursts into Rossellini's apartment to force huge chunks of a blue velvet robe down her throat before sexually assaulting her. Hopper has kidnapped her husband and son to insure her continued submission. Later, Rossellini at knifepoint forces amateur sleuth MacLahlan to strip and make love to her. He obliges, balks when she asks to be beaten to heighten her arousal, then obliges again. In short order the Eagle Scout is sucked into a vortex of violent crime and perversion. Despite absurd situations and the dippiest dialogue this side of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the movie makes for vivid visual storytelling. Whether you are attracted or repelled by Lynch's bizarre vision, one thing is for sure: You've never seen anything like it in your life. (R)

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