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Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition (DVD)

Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition (click for larger image)Reviewed by Debi Moore

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Peggy Lipton, Jack Nance, Piper Laurie, James Marshall, Joan Chen, Ray Wise, Sheryl Lee, Grace Zabriskie, Michael J. Anderson

Created by Mark Frost and David Lynch

Air Dates: April 1990-June 1991

Distributed by CBS DVD and Paramount


I’m one of the lucky ones. I was at home on Sunday, April 8, 1990, watching TV and saw the pilot for Twin Peaks when it first aired on ABC. I fell instantly in love and was hooked. On its surface the world created by Mark Frost and David Lynch looked, as John Waters put it, “like Peyton Place gone nuts,” but it was so much deeper than that. It was also about the mystery of the woods and the secrets it holds … the mystery of life and death. Sure, all of us watching wondered who killed Laura Palmer, but that was secondary to the diversity and richness of the characters; the campy, soap opera-esque drama and dialogue; the beauty of the locale; the show’s numerous pop culture references; and yes, its weirdness. After all, you can’t have David Lynch’s name on something without there being a healthy dose of weirdness.

Is it really necessary to discuss the storyline of Twin Peaks? Unless you were raised in a cave by wolves, you surely have heard it before: Beautiful and popular high school girl Laura Palmer (Lee) is found dead and wrapped in plastic down by the river at the Packard Mill. Due to the murder’s tie-in with an on-the-loose serial killer, Special Agent Dale Cooper (McLachlan) of the FBI comes to the town of Twin Peaks to investigate and teams up with local Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Ontkean). Laura’s parents (Wise and Zabriskie) are devastated by her death, and while some of her friends are shocked and saddened as well, others aren’t so surprised. They know about Laura’s double life. Not only was she the sweet, unassuming homecoming queen who did volunteer work for Meals on Wheels and tutored a retarded young boy, she was also a hard-partying, cocaine-snorting slut.

Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition (click for larger image)The trail Cooper and Truman follow to uncover her killer is full of enough red herrings and twists and turns to befuddle even the most loyal Lynch fan. We have a mysterious one-armed man who visits Cooper in his dreams, a dancing dwarf (Anderson) in a red suit, a giant who may or may not represent good in the battle of good vs. evil that rages on inside all of us, a wacky Log Lady who seems to have a psychic link to the goings-on in town, a nutjob with an eye patch who develops super-human powers along with her amnesia (you simply can’t emulate a soap opera without someone having amnesia!), and many, many more that I’ll leave to you viewers who haven’t yet watched the series to discover on your own. Those of you who have certainly don’t need me to tell you what you already know: Twin Peaks is a “damn fine” piece of Americana that belongs in everyone’s DVD collection, horror fan or not. They just don’t make them much better than this.

A word of advice to anyone unfamiliar with the series who begins viewing it for the first time upon purchasing the box set: Don’t watch the international version of the pilot until after you’ve experienced Twin Peaks as a whole. It was put together as a stand-alone film before the filmmakers knew if ABC would pick up the show. It “solves” the mystery of who murdered Laura Palmer by introducing us to the Red Room, thus spoiling some key elements of the plot. I put solves in quotes because, really, the key to Twin Peaks’ appeal and success is not its eventual resolution of whodunit but rather the strange and exquisite journey Lynch and Frost take us on along the way. Lynch himself expresses great sadness over the network’s insistence that the killer be revealed by the end of Season 2, and I (and 99.9% of the fans) feel the same. Forcing him and Frost into a box and stifling their creativity caused the show to nose-dive in quality midway through the season although they did redeem themselves when it was all said and done. Nonetheless, Twin Peaks by its very nature should have ended ambiguously. But alas, we’re stuck with what we have, so let’s take a quick look at all the good stuff the show brought us:

  • A chance to reconnect with old friends Peggy (The Mod Squad) Lipton and Michael (The Rookies) Ontkean, icons from TV’s golden years of the late 60’s/early 70’s, as well as movie legends Russ Tamblyn and Richard Beymer, who last worked together in 1961 in West Side Story, and Piper (Carrie) Laurie.
  • An introduction to a slew of attractive and talented newcomers like Dana Ashbrook as Bobby, Laura’s wild and rebellious boy friend who also happens to be sleeping with waitress Shelly Johnson, played by the delightful and gifted Mädchen Amick. James Marshall and Lara Flynn Boyle portray James Hurley and Donna Hayward, Laura’s secret lover and best friend, respectively, who undertake their own investigation into her death and are drawn to each other by their shared sadness and confusion. Others who got their big breaks on the show include Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne, Laura’s classmate who develops a crush on Agent Cooper and helps him every chance she gets; Eric DaRe as Leo, Shelly’s drug dealing, abusive trucker husband who had, of course, crossed paths with Laura on more than one occasion; Heather Graham as Annie, Lipton’s character’s sister, who was brought onboard near the end of the show’s run as a romantic interest for Agent Cooper; and, this reviewer’s personal favorite star to emerge from the Twin Peaks milieu, David Duchovny as cross-dressing DEA agent Dennis/Denise Bryson, who makes three memorable appearances in the middle of Season 2. The number of people who springboarded into successful careers following a brief stint on Twin Peaks is truly remarkable.
  • Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition (click for larger image)

  • Bizarre, supernatural elements and an otherworldliness that set the stage for all the quirky horror-themed, character-driven shows that soon followed such as The X-Files, Northern Exposure, Carnivàle, and even Lost where as soon as one mystery is solved, two more pop up to take its place.
  • An attention to detail and magnificence in cinematography and sound design not typically seen in episodic network television. The picture has been lovingly, painstakingly remastered with Lynch’s approval every step of the way and a 5.1 mix added. Yeah, it’s just like a soap opera, but what a good looking and sounding one it is!
  • But enough about the show itself. What about this set makes it “definitive”? Aside from the inclusion of both versions of the pilot along with all twenty-nine episodes (a scant seven in Season 1 and a full twenty-two in Season 2), on the mundane side of the coin we get four deleted scenes that were miraculously saved from the trash bin (a measly four is certainly nowhere near how many we want to see, but again, we’re stuck with what’s available); Log Lady introductions, an idea that sounds more entertaining than it really is; image galleries; TV spots and promos; and trailers for numerous TV shows on DVD like Dexter, Ghost Whisperer, Medium, the original Mission Impossible series, and several more Paramount productions. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Also included are a set of random (12 out of a possible 61) “Greetings from Twin Peaks” postcards, Julee Cruise’s “Falling” music video (I defy anyone to not get chills up his/her spine during those first few opening chords), and a look at the Twin Peaks Festival held annually on location in North Bend, Washington, including eight interactive maps that intercut scenes from the show with their addresses and some fairly interesting explanations/additional exposition. After seeing how much fun those fans have every year, I’m ready to book my trip right now for July 2008! Good times. Excerpts from Kyle’s September 29, 1990, Saturday Night Live hosting gig are next. It was the season opener (Sinead O’Connor was the musical guest, but no, she didn’t rip up the Pope’s picture on this one – that was a few years later) and includes a hilarious skit with Kevin Nealon as Sheriff Truman and Phil Hartman as Leland Palmer. On their own, these extras make the box set worth its weight in “gold,” but the true cream of the crop are the featurettes “A Slice of Lynch” and “Secrets from Another Place.”

    “Slice” gives us a peek into the mind of David Lynch as he reminisces with Mädchen Amick, Kyle McLachlan, and post-production coordinator John Wentworth. It runs a half hour and opens in a nicely surreal manner that the show’s followers will appreciate. It continues a bit awkwardly, takes a heartwarming turn, and then flies by with Lynch at the helm, full of stories and information about the birth and evolution of Twin Peaks. It is here where both his admiration of Mark Frost and his regret over the studio-enforced ending are most palpable.

    “Secrets” is the best way to wrap up the Twin Peaks experience. Comprised of four separate segments entitled “Northwest Passage: Creating the Pilot,” “Freshly Squeezed: Creating Season 1,” “Where We’re From: Creating the Music,” and “Into the Night: Creating Season 2,” “Secrets” is a new, in-depth look back at the Twin Peaks phenomenon featuring appearances by just about everyone involved with the show, including the man I was most curious to see, co-creator Mark Frost, who has gone on to work on the Fantastic Four franchise but still obviously retains a great deal of affection for the work he and Lynch put forth onto an unsuspecting but deeply appreciative public.

    The only flaw in this edition, and it’s a minor one, is that the commentaries from the previously released Season 1 DVD’s aren’t included here nor are the extras from the Season 2 set. But since for most of us this will be a double-dip, it makes more sense to pay for new material rather than something we already have, so no real complaints there, especially after visiting the ”Greetings from Twin Peaks” website where you can listen to several immediately recognizable musical themes, view all 61 postcards, read background tidbits about the restoration process, watch video clips, and just generally immerse yourself in the beautiful dream/terrible nightmare that this award-winning series represents.

    Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition (click for larger image)As I write this review, we are in the midst of a strike by the Writers’ Guild of America. Coincidentally, Lynch and Frost first came up with the idea for Twin Peaks just prior to the WGA’s 1988 walkout. Thankfully the powers-that-be remembered it once the dust settled. Could there be another Twin Peaks languishing out there now amidst the picket signs and protests? Sadly, I doubt it. What we had in Twin Peaks was lightning in a bottle … a once in a lifetime gift that was ultimately ill-treated by its network caretakers and abandoned by the majority of its audience. Unfortunately we’ve seen this pattern repeated too many times over the intervening years. Which makes the availability of TV shows on DVD all the more precious. We can relive the magic, experience once again the thrill of crying deputies, shouting bosses, Dictaphone obsession, a fish in the percolator, demon spirits with ordinary names like Mike and Bob, and a cherry pie that’ll kill you.

    I admit to being somewhat intimidated by the prospect of critiquing the Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition given the high regard in which the series is held by both critics and hard-core fans alike. My own affection for it made doing it justice and giving it its due a priority. But today I realized I worried for nothing as my review can best be summed up in five words: Buy it. Watch it. Now.

    Special Features

  • US pilot and international version with alternate ending
  • Log Lady introductions
  • Deleted scenes
  • Production documents
  • “A Slice of Lynch” featurette
  • Four-part “Secrets from Another Place” featurette
  • Saturday Night Live excerpts featuring Kyle MacLachlan
  • “Return to Twin Peaks” featurette with interactive maps
  • “Falling” music video
  • Georgia Coffee commercials
  • Image galleries
  • TV spots and promos
  • Postcards
  • Trailers

    Series:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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  • Debi Moore

    I'll see you on the other side...