..

TWIN PEAKS
Definitive Gold Box Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Peggy Lipton, Jack Nance, Everett McGill, James Marshall, Piper Laurie, Kimmy Robertson, Eric DaRe, Joan Chen, Ray Wise, Sheryl Lee, Russ Tamblyn, Miguel Ferrer, Grace Zabriskie
Creators:  David Lynch & Mark Frost
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  1501 Minutes
Release Date:  October 30, 2007

WHO KILLED LAURA PALMER?

Shows ****

Murder in a small town…like a pebble in a pond, the ripples spread out far and wide, disrupting the serenity and peeling back the layers of wholesomeness to reveal the darker underpinnings at work in our very human souls.  All in a days’ work for David Lynch.

Twin Peaks debuted as a two hour pilot on ABC April 8, 1990…Easter Sunday.  The brainchild of Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, Twin Peaks was like someone’s dream of a northwestern town…the sawmills buzz, the majestic trees sway in the ever-disruptive wind, and the owls…well, are not what they seem.

In this setting came a mystery that, even in the beginnings of a decade, would practically come to define that decade’s television.  Against this backdrop of Norman Rockwell Americana lay a brutal murder, and that murder became the key to unlocking the darker side of Twin Peaks.

It was quirky and eccentric, but also dramatic, funny, and sometimes downright eerie.  In fact, though I’m someone who doesn’t scare easily, more than a few episodes robbed me of peaceful dreams the night I watched them.  Something about David Lynch goes right past your conscious mind and into your psyche, where he delights in toying around with the knobs.

Right from the start when Pete Martel (Lynch regular Nance) finds Laura Palmer (Lee) dead on the shore and wrapped in plastic, we start to suspect nothing in this town is exactly as it appears.  The murder shocks the citizens…school and businesses are shut down for the day.  A good sheriff Harry S. Truman (Ontkean) pairs up with an eccentric but brilliant FBI agent Dale Cooper (Golden Globe winner MacLachlan) to begin to put the puzzle pieces together.  Turns out, the crime has happened before…and it almost happened again, as we learn when a dazed and brutalized girl wanders in from the tracks.  She was to be the third victim.

Who could have done it?  Each suspect’s relationship to Laura Palmer gets revealed, and in many cases, it opens up more questions than answers.  Was it her hot-headed boyfriend Bobby (Ashbrook), or her secret lover James (Marshall)?  Was it the town’s bigwig Benjamin Horne (Beymer) or his attention-starved daughter Audrey (Fenn)?  Was it the glowering violence-prone truck driver Leo (DaRe) or his cheating wife Shelly (Amick)?  Or do the secrets lead us someplace even darker than we ever suspected?

Well, if you think I’m going to answer that, you’ve had one too many cups of joe.  I would only like to say that I, like a lot of Americans, became obsessed with the show.  In fact, in a big box in my closet lies strews of tapes that I made back in 1990…a good move on my part, because before this set, the original pilot was never released on video in this country. 

When I moved to Savannah before the start of season two, my roommates asked why I loved the show so much.  I challenged them to watch that pilot episode…if they liked it, they could watch my tapes and catch up.  If not, they could go about their lives.   Long story short, in about a week’s time, they had gone through the entire season in a marathon session.  The show just had that effect on viewers.

That pilot episode remains the greatest TV show debut I’ve ever seen.  It pulls you in, breaks your heart, tickles your funny bone, and gives you just enough hints at something sinister to keep you coming back.  The mystery remained unresolved in the first year, so fans had to wait, discuss, and theorize for months before getting back into it.

Sadly, in some ways, it seems the show authored its own “jump the shark” moment by revealing the killer.  That particular episode was as brilliant as it comes…haunting, terrifying, and unforgettable.  But what was left?  There were more possibilities to explore, but the cards seemed stacked against Twin Peaks.  Both David Lynch and Mark Frost took breaks from the show to produce other projects.  They came back, but it was too late.  The network kept moving the time slot around, and fans couldn’t even find the show much of the time.  Then the first Gulf War broke out, and several weeks of the show ended up pre-empted for news coverage.  All indications were that Lynch and Frost were refreshed and had a whole new vision for the third year, but ABC ‘pushed the plug’, and one of television’s most memorable and defining shows was no more.

But this Definitive Gold Box edition is the most perfect way to relive the magic and mystery that was Twin Peaks.  All thirty episodes from its two year run are included, as well as the original pilot (at last), plus the closed-ended international pilot.  Despite some miscues in the second year, the show remains as fresh and groundbreaking in feel as it did in the early 90s.  TV Guide called it one of the twenty best cult shows of all time, and for many fans, it’s second to none.

For me, Twin Peaks is like a favorite place I can revisit any time and any place.  It feels so familiar, that even watching this new set, I kept thinking, look, there’s the falls!  There’s the Great Northern Hotel…wonder who’s been going in and out of there since last time?  There’s the sheriff’s office, the biker bar, Big Ed's Gas Farm…there’s One-Eyed Jacks!  Amazing how none of it has changed in 17 years.

Like with Blue Velvet, David Lynch instinctively tapped into something we all suspect:  namely, that picturesque postcard small towns have a dark side waiting to be unearthed.  The brilliance of the show was in the way it slowly peeled back the layers, leaving fans wondering how far down the rabbit hole actually could go.  It was both comfortable and surreal, like a dream of a well-known place that just seems a little off-kilter. 

I’ve never been a huge television guy, but Twin Peaks was, for me, an ultimate affirmation of the medium.  It proved that creators and audiences alike were willing to go outside the box, indulge in the dramatically different, and be challenged by the unconventional.  The best part about it all was that no matter how eccentric or quirky, it never once insulted our intelligences.  Unlike other shows that played down to the least common denominator, Twin Peaks never served us anything wrapped in plastic.

Except, of course, Laura Palmer…

Video ****

I’m very impressed with the remastering job on this show…I’ve seen it in various release forms over the years, but this is the best the program has ever looked on home video.  Images are startlingly clear, with solid color rendering throughout.  Some darker scenes in the pilot exhibit some unavoidable grain and a touch of murkiness, but past that, I didn't notice it happening again.

Audio ****

Remastering for 5.1 sound was a wonderful touch…Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable music helped define the show…you can’t remember Twin Peaks without hearing the haunting theme in your mind, or the beautifully heartbreaking “Laura’s Theme”, or the soaring, angelic vocals of Julee Cruise.  The music gives it punch and dynamic range, and really opens up the listening experience.  Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and if you’re a purist, the original stereo tracks are also available.  Some of the scarier sequences, such as the climax of the two hour premiere of season two, deliver amazing impact.

Features ****

What an amazing, fun and memory-invoking features package!  The extras, all on the seventh disc, are a true nostalgia trip.  It begins with “A Slice of Lynch”; an imaginative retrospective that shows David Lynch in a diner having a coffee and slice of pie, and he imagines cast members Madchen Amick and Kyle MacLachlan with production assistant John Wentworth appearing, and they discuss their memories of the show.

The four part “Secrets From Another Place” delves into the making of each of the two seasons, the pilot, and the music, which is my favorite part.  Angelo Badalamenti recreates his stream of consciousness session with Lynch as he scored the visions Lynch put forth.  It’s jaw-dropping.  The whole featurette runs just under two hours, and is peppered with more and more cast and crew interviews as it goes along…it’s pleasingly surprising to see who all shows up!

Something else I had on tape is included here, which is Kyle MacLachlan’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in between the two seasons of Twin Peaks.  His monologue is hysterical, as is the cast’s hilarious take on the show itself.  Priceless!

There is a look at the yearly fan festival as it took place in 2006, where people from around the world show up to visit the fictional town, engage in costume contests, and meet cast and crew members.  There are deleted scenes, an interactive map of the town, Julee Cruise’s music video for “Falling”, and behind the scenes photos.

There is also a cache of promotional materials which really stirred my memory…I recalled just about all of them!  The TV spots where critics proclaimed “this you GOTTA see”, the 900 number ads where fans could call for extra clues and information, the Log Lady introductions, the Sheriff’s Department T-shirt ad (all the phone numbers are blurred out, so no calling now!), plus some of the coolest menu screens of the year.  You can even listen to a cache of Lucy's original commercial bumpers for the show, and see some commercials for Georgia coffee made for Japanese audiences featuring MacLachlan and other cast members reviving their roles.

Oh, and lest I forget, you can watch the episodes with or without special introductions by the Log Lady!

HINT: If you've not watched the show, skip the extras for last...there are some spoilers!

Summary:

Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition is exactly what it sounds like and more…truth in advertising.  It’s one of television’s most heralded achievements in complete form, with a plethora of bonus extras that are fun and entertaining.  This is the best presentation of a TV show on DVD I’ve seen to date, and probably will be for a long time to come.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com