“In heaven, everything is fine,” but in Eraserhead (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) nothing is fine. It’s grim, disturbed, mutated, claustrophobic, a world that appears to be unraveling—or, more accurately, decaying—before our eyes.
Jack Nance stars as the doughy, dim factory worker who is suddenly thrust into marriage and parenthood and escapes his grimy, droning life by watching the icky mutant cabaret that plays under his radiator. That’s as clear a description of the plot you’re bound to get. This is an existence where dinner squirms to get away as it’s being carved up and the newborn offspring of a dumbstruck couple is a freaky chicken baby that mewls and cries until it drives the maternal impulses right out of its horrified mother.
Lynch shot the film over the course of a year with a loyal cast and crew that, at times, lived with Lynch on the very set of the film. There was nothing like it when it emerged in 1977 and became the quintessential midnight movie experience. Seen today, it is pure, primordial Lynch: a nightmare world of industrial slums and alienated folk, set to a soundtrack of grinding noise that gets under your skin and your skull.
Always the maverick, Lynch personally supervised the remastering of his earliest films on DVD and released them on his own private label, so no surprise that he was intimately involved preparing the film for its Blu-ray debut on Criterion. Lynch supervised and signed off on the 4K digital transfer from the original negative and it looks beautiful. As does the film. Lynch creates beauty out of what others would find ugly and this master preserves the quality of film grain and sculpted light of Frederick Elmes’ cinematography. The stereo soundtrack was created by Lynch and sound editor Alan Splet in 1994 and it is as evocative as the imagery. The film is immersive and short of a theatrical screening of a new 35mm print, this is as rich a presentation as you will likely ever find.
It also feature 2K restorations of six Lynch shorts, all previously released by Lynch on DVD, with brief video introductions to each by the director: Six Men Getting Sick (1966), an animated (and self-explanatory) art-installation; The Alphabet (1968), a strange mix of live action and animation; the weird fairy tale The Grandmother (1970), The Amputee, Version 1 (1974) and The Amputee, Version 2 (1974), both starring future log lady Catherine Coulson, and Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (1996), his deliriously weird and unsettling 52-second piece shot on the 19th century Lumiere camera for the anthology film Lumiere and Company. And his 2001 documentary “Eraserhead Stories,” created for the DVD debut of the film on his own label, is centered around Lynch discussing the making of the film. For most directors this wouldn’t be anything special but Lynch had quite conspicuously made himself absent from the supplements of all previous studio-produced DVDs of his work. This was the first time he recorded an interview specifically for the home video release of one of his films. It apparently was painless enough, for it wasn’t his last.
Criterion shot video new interviews with Catherine Coulson (who was Lynch’s assistant on the film), actors Charlotte Stewart and Judith Anna Roberts, and cinematographer Frederick Elmes for this edition and gathers archival interviews going back to 1979, with Lynch and Elmes speaking to a production class at UCLA. There’s a clip of Lynch and actor Jack Nance from the French TV program Cinema de notre temps recorded in 1988, an excerpt from the 1998 documentary Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch featuring Lynch, with actors Nance and Stewart and assistant Coulson revisiting one of the shooting locations, and two trailers. The accompanying booklet features an excerpt from Chris Rodley’s interview book “Lynch on Lynch” focused on the making of the film.
Also note that Lynch has provided no chapter stops. He doesn’t like them and Criterion has honored his preference.
Made a couple of years before Eraserhead, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is one of the great transgressive American horrors and is still the film upon which Hooper’s reputation is built. Dark Sky has released the film before on both Blu-ray and DVD special editions. Now it celebrates its anniversary with three different incarnations: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary (Dark Sky, Blu-ray, DVD), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Dark Sky, Blu-ray+DVD Combo), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Black Maria Limited Edition (Dark Sky, Blu-ray+DVD Combo).
The saw is family in Tobe Hooper’s brutal, brilliant debut, a grungy, grisly horror about a perverse Texas cannibal clan (inspired by the story of Ed Gein) and the teenagers who wander into their home (decorated in furniture constructed from human bones) and wind up on their meat hooks and in their freezer. Shot in the cheap with a primitive look that belies the craft put into it, the film earns its garish title and notorious reputation, notably with the almost pure savagery of the film’s poster-boy Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), the devoted mute son who wields the chainsaw under a mask of human flesh. It’s unrelenting and unforgettable and its raw gore remains its strongest element. Along with Night of the Living Dead and The Last House on the Left, it ushered in the modern age of horror in the 1970s.
A grunge classic in its own right, with sweltering, sunburned color, gloomy interior darkness, and its own atmosphere of southwestern gothic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shot on 16mm film and blown up to 35mm for theaters. You can tell on the new 4K digital transfer, which is true to the texture of film without turning the film grain it into a digital grainstorm. In other words, it’s present but not accentuated. The 7.1 surround sound mix created for this release was supervised by Tobe Hooper and he keeps it modest, with most of the dialogue and music up fronts and no distracting effects.
Two new commentary tracks were recorded for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary (Dark Sky, Blu-ray, DVD): a solo track by director Tobe Hooper and a production track by cinematographer Daniel Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll, and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou. Carried over from previous disc releases are two more commentary tracks, one with Hooper, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, and actor Gunnar Hansen, the other with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger, and art designer Robert A. Burns.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Dark Sky, Blu-ray+DVD Combo) is a four-disc set with the feature and commentary tracks on both Blu-ray and DVD discs, plus a bonus disc in each format with additional exclusive supplements.
Anchoring the bonus disc is a pair of feature-length documentaries carried over from the previous Blu-ray and DVD special editions: the 73-minute “Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth” and the 74-minute documentary “Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw.” Also carried over from earlier releases are “A Tour of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre House with Gunnar Hansen (which offers before and after walk-throughs), “Dr. W.E. Barnes Presents ‘Making Grandpa’,” an interview with co-star Teri McMinn (the girl on the meat hook and in the freezer), deleted scenes and outtakes, a blooper reel, and outtakes from “The Shocking Truth.” All of the archival extras are in standard definition except the Teri McMinn interview, which was originally shot for film’s Blu-ray debut.
New to this edition are: “The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman,” who gets into the tangles of legal complications and disputes following the film’s release in addition to stories from the shoot; “Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan,” the actor who played Grandpa; and “Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview With Editor J. Larry Carroll,” which looks at the post-production process as well as more stories of shooting in the Texas heat; the 2006 “Horror’s Hallowed Ground: Texas Chain Saw Massacre” with Sean Clark taking a video tour of shooting locations; plus a new collection of previously unseen deleted scenes and outtakes (shown without audio). Most (but not all) of these new supplements are HD.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Black Maria Limited Edition (Dark Sky, Blu-ray+DVD Combo) adds collectibles (boxed in a replica of the iconic ‘Black Maria’ cattle truck from the end of the film) to the package. This edition is available exclusively through Gorgon-Video.com for 30 days (after which is becomes available from other venders).
Hangmen Also Die (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Party (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Juggernaut (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Across 110th Street (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Cotton Comes to Harlem (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Killer Elite / Noon Wine (1966) (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Salvador (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
The Dogs of War ((Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Che! (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
La Bamba (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Star Trek: The Compendium (Star Trek / Star Trek Into Darkness) (Paramount, Blu-ray)
The Great Train Robbery (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Meteor (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Avalanche (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Cinderella (1965) (Shout Factory, DVD)
Pumpinkhead (Shout Factory, Blu-ray)
Prom Night (Synapse, Blu-ray, DVD)
Dreamcatcher (Warner, Blu-ray)
Congo (Warner, Blu-ray)
Ghostbusters / Ghostbusters II (Sony, Blu-ray)
Any Given Sunday (Warner, Blu-ray)
The Slave (Mondo Macabro, Blu-ray+DVD Combo)
Graduation Day (1981) (Vinegar Syndrome, Blu-ray+DVD Combo)
Seizure (Scorpion, Blu-ray, DVD)
Short Eyes (Scorpion, DVD)
The Crow: Salvation (Lionsgate, DVD)
Eternals Motion Comic (Shout Factory, DVD)
Crazy Dog (One 7, DVD)
Prince of the Night (One 7, DVD)
Top Model (One 7, DVD)
Prisoner of Paradise (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)
Peekarama: Cry For Cindy / Touch Me / Act of Confession (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)
Peekarama: Mail Lin vs. Serena / Oriental Hawaii (Vinegar Syndrome, DVD)