It was a quarter century ago that David Lynch scored one of the greatest comebacks in cinema history by rebounding from the epic fail of Dune with the art house neo-noir that was Blue Velvet. The creepy crime flick — starring Kyle MacLachlan as a peeping tom amateur detective and Dennis Hopper as a gas-huffing, F-bomb hurling deviant — earned the then 41-year-old Eraserhead auteur an Oscar nomination (the second nod of his career; The Elephant Man gave him his first) and set the stage for the pop culture phenomenon of Twin Peaks. Blue Velvet is full of offbeat, seemingly gratuitous choices, from the celebrated shot of ants grappling with each other in the suburban soil to Dean Stockwell serenading Hopper’s Frank Booth with a licentious lip sync of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.” (“Here’s to your f—, Frank.”) And yet, Blue Velvet casts a mesmerizing spell; everything feels essential to the hypnotic whole, nothing feels grossly indulgent… unless you hate the movie. And a few people do, most famously, Roger Ebert.
It’s hard to imagine Lynch’s not-a-(weird)-moment-wasted journey into psychosexual darkness running nearly an hour longer than its 120-minute running time. But in another universe — perhaps the same one where a convicted wife murderer can escape prison by morphing into Balthazar Getty — there exists a very different bolt of Blue Velvet. The 25th anniversary edition of the movie released on Blu-ray last week offers a sense of what-coulda-been via 50 minutes of never-before-seen deleted scenes, including comic subplots involving a college girlfriend for MacLachlan’s Jeffrey Beaumont (played by Megan Mullally) and a high school football jock boyfriend for Laura Dern’s Sandy Williams. [WARNING! The remainder of this post will discuss the deleted scenes in detail. So SPOILER ALERT! for those who’d prefer to discover and experience them without the taint of “commentary.”]
In an interview with EW, Lynch explained that the discarded sequences have been missing for years. Seriously? “As lost as lost can be,” insists the director, calling from Paris where he’s currently participating in an art exhibition and celebrating the opening of nightclub called Silencio, inspired by the dream theater featured in the 2001 picaresque puzzler that gave him his third Oscar nod, Mulholland Drive. “The scenes were found in a storage facility near Seattle. I don’t know how come they couldn’t be found, but apparently there were a couple of pieces of paper that ended up being like a Rosetta stone that connected the dots and led right to them. Every single frame. Nothing was lost … It’s a super, super gift, really. I loved these things, even though they weren’t right for the film, on their own, I adore them.” Lynch is particularly fond of the scenes with Jeffrey’s Aunt Barbara, played by Frances Bay. (Remember the lady who fought with Jerry Seinfeld over the marble rye? That’s her.) In one deadpan quirky and vaguely sinister passage, Aunt Barbara goes hunting for termites. The helmer says it’s a “great sadness” to him that the actress, who died on Sept. 15 at the age of 92, “never saw how great she was.”