21st Oct2020

‘Eraserhead’ Blu-ray Review (Criterion)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates | Written and Directed by David Lynch

David Lynch is well known for being a director who is not ashamed to go to some bizarre places, a man known for his surrealism, his specific and individualistic tone in works like Twin Peaks, Lost Highway and this, the feature debut of the legendary writer/director. It is a weird film, that’s for damn sure, but there’s something truly haunting about it too. Amongst the peculiar imagery lives an eerie undertone that became something of a staple, a trademark, for Lynch.

With Eraserhead, the film that preceded The Elephant Man, which arrived some three years later, Lynch delivered to the world a nightmare of visual terror, a tale of a factory worker named Henry Spencer who is driven slowly mad by the cries of his newborn mutant baby. This isn’t, even 43 years later, a conventional or predictable film, nor a film made to appease appetites or appeal to the widespread audiences. It’s an abstract monochrome symphony of dread and unearthly visions, and it’s a bloody joy to see the masters over at Criterion put it out on Blu-ray.

Oh, and what a Blu-ray it is, too. Eraserhead looks and sounds better than it has ever looked or sounded, yet keeps that visual grit that it has always had. It’s clean, yet still dirty. Crisp but still all kinds of messed up. Aside from the new 4K restoration is a terrific 2001 documentary on the making of the film, a new documentary including interviews with some of the film’s stars, and a bunch of short films from Lynch, of which I enjoyed 1995’s Premonitions Following an Evil Deed the most. The package also comes with a lovely booklet, because it wouldn’t be Criterion if it didn’t go the extra mile and deliver some other delights.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director David Lynch, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • “Eraserhead” Stories, a 2001 documentary by Lynch on the making of the film
  • New 2K digital restorations of six short films by Lynch: Six Men Getting Sick (1967), The Alphabet (1968), The Grandmother (1970), The Amputee, Version 1 and Version 2 (1974), and Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (1995), all with video introductions by Lynch
  • New documentary featuring interviews with actors Charlotte Stewart and Judith Roberts, assistant to the director Catherine Coulson, and cinematographer Frederick Elmes
  • Archival interviews with Lynch and members of the cast and crew
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an interview with Lynch from filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s 1997 book Lynch on Lynch

There’s something truly special and remarkable about Eraserhead, not just because it is the debut feature of a man who would go on to bring us some absolutely unforgettable films and a TV show that remains a cult favorite among so many, but because it still exists on a plain of its own. It is unlike anything that came before or has come since, with the truly enigmatic performance of Jack Nance, as Henry Spencer, driving it to another level altogether. It’s a chaotic wild child of a motion picture, and this release from Criterion is the absolute best way to see it. Smashing features and a wonderful restoration make this an unmissable release for anyone who is a fan of the film, or anyone who is yet to experience it. Fantastic.

Eraserhead is out now on Blu-ray from Criterion.

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