Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Nance (Jack Nance), Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph
Written by: David Lynch
Directed by: David Lynch
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 19/03/1977

Eraserhead (1977)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Radiator Days

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

David Lynch's unusual and powerful black-and-white Eraserhead (1977) may be the greatest debut by an American director after Citizen Kane (Cassavetes' Shadows comes a close second).

Jack Nance stars as the fright-haired Henry Spencer, who lives and works in a buzzing, humming industrial section of some unnamed nightmare city. He goes to dinner at his girlfriend's house and learns that she's pregnant. The girlfriend (Charlotte Stewart) moves in with him but soon disappears, leaving him to take care of the creepy, phallic baby all by himself.

At the same time, Henry dreams of a cheerful girl with ovary-like bumps on her face who lives in his radiator. She dances and squishes little sperm-like things that fall from the sky, and, well... Suffice it to say that Eraserhead is one of the weirdest movies ever made -- but it's certainly not just weird for weird's sake.

As we can now see by comparison to his subsequent work, it's a vintage Lynch film, full of his personal whims, desires and fears, both funny and disturbing. Especially notable is the stunning sound design calculated to make the audience feel anxious at all times.

It's one of the few movies outside of Bunuel's oeuvre that captures the elusive feel of dream logic. Anything can happen at any time, including the still-hilarious sequence that explains the title. There's also something slightly compulsive about watching it, which explains its success as a midnight cult film during the Rocky Horror-era.

DVD Details: One of the most unusual and powerful American films ever made, David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977,, $39.94) has finally been released on DVD in the USA -- though the Region 2 British version has been available for some time now. But because of mysterious, still-unresolved copyright issues, the new Eraserhead DVD is only available through mail order via David Lynch's website.

It comes in an 8" square pie-box, which does not fit on the shelf with any other DVD box, and the disc rests inside one of two flaps on the inside. A booklet explains the painstaking process that Lynch and his team went through to digitally restore the film. And indeed, they did a beautiful job. The black-and-white film is now letterboxed in an unbelievably clean transfer with brilliant sound design. The disc even gives you guidelines for adjusting your TV set for maximum quality. The new DVD comes with a feature-length sit-down interview with Lynch, who covers just about every aspect behind the film, except for what it means. (That's up to us.) It's an absolutely essential DVD and well worth the steep price.

Note: as of 2006, the deluxe Eraserhead DVD is happily available everywhere.

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