With Twin Peaks, David Lynch created a truly postmodern thriller here it is not the solution to the mystery but the compulsiveness of the atmosphere Lynch plunges us into that is important. Lynch certainly jolted smallscreen viewing audiences rape, bondage, sadomasochism, serial killings and occultism were heavy duty material for a tv series to cover. All get their airing here and the subsequent series became a wilfully mind-bending conundrum involving drug smuggling plots, prostitution, murder, incest, kidnapping, buried pasts, cryptic clues and precognitive dreams, ghostly giants and very strange dwarves, mad chess-obsessed FBI agents on the revenge trail, possession and messages from outer space, even a then-unknown David Duchovny as a cross-dressing FBI agent.
Twin Peaks was labelled Blue Velvet meets Peyton Place (1964-9) by some critics, which is a spot on summation the idea of a soap opera turned on its head to expose a dark underbelly. The opening credits set against beautifully photographed scenes of automated logging operations and picturesque falls, which anywhere else would be a perfectly normal picture of Northern Middle-America, seems offsetting by its very normalcy. David Lynchs weirdness is a weirdness of hyper-emphasized mundanity. In his oblique deadpan way, Lynch observes trivia twirling fans, dropped telephones and the muted cries of grief from the other end, Sherilyn Fenns peculiar shoe fetishes amidst mounting hysteria. Frequent Lynch collaborator Kyle MacLachlans performance is one of the most weirdly normal things about the film the character is cut through with an unnaturally intense Ivy League squareness that is both a parody of sincerity and the most warmly familiar thing in the film. MacLachlans entrance into the film sweeps everything along behind it, stirring up the twisted labyrinth of secrets behind the towns facade of normalcy and Lynch follows throwing in a string of haunting clues she was the one, people enigmatically whisper and downright irrelevancies an autopsy scene for no apparent reason is shot in flickering strobe-light; in a later scene, a moose head sits in the midst of a table for no ostensible purpose while keeping the plot squirming and twisting with a mercurial brilliance. There is a constantly akilter weirdness to the film, like Kyle MacLachlans narrations into a mini-recorder to his never-seen assistant Diane, Im holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies. Or Why am I whittling, he answers a question from Michael Ontkean, Because thats what you do in a town where yellow lights mean slow down instead of speed up. The dark ominousness, the surreal banality and atmosphere of akilter offbeatness results in a film and tv series of utter compulsiveness.
Angelo Badalamentis rock instrumental with its guttural bass-line is one of the most haunting things about the film/series. The voice of Julee Cruise, singing a number called Falling in Love, which was co-written by Lynch (who later wrote and produced several albums for her), is something so beautiful that it seems to come from another world altogether.
After the series was an unexpected success in the US, the 96-minute pilot (reviewed here) was given a cinematic release internationally. To further add to confusion, there are two different versions of the pilot in release one the 96-minute pilot that was seen on tv, the other with an extra 17 minutes added for cinema/video release by David Lynch to explain Laura Palmers death. The tv version is by far the better of the two ending as it does on the spookily haunting image of a mysterious hand digging up a necklace buried by Lara Flynn Boyle and James Marshall. The cinematic version came about because Lynch and Mark Frost raised funding to make the pilot by selling the video rights to European companies but were contractually obliged to deliver a film that was not open-ended. The Red Room sequences were shot by Lynch for the film and then later incorporated in the third episode of the series.
The theatrical/video version follows the pilot right up almost to the end, the point where Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) and Josie Packard (Joan Chen) meet on the porch and are revealed as lovers. (The only new material added before that point is a single shot of the one-armed man entering a lift while Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman are at the hospital). Things diverge from there on. Essentially what happens is: Lauras mother (Grace Zabriskie) remembers seeing the killer in Lauras room and calls the sheriffs station. Agent Cooper has a dream from which he awakes with knowledge of the murders. This leads him to the hospital where the one-armed man identifies the killer as Bob (Frank Silva). It is revealed that both the one-armed man and Bob were touched by the devilish one and had the tattoo Fire Walk With Me placed on their arms, but the one-armed man had a vision of God and cut his arm off. Cooper and Truman corner Bob in the hospital basement but the one-armed man bursts in and shoots him.
Coming after watching the series, this plays like a fascinating alternate version of the series storyline. It follows the series storyline similarly but diverges on a number of essential points Bob is still the killer, the one-armed man is still his nemesis, however there is no mention of Leland Palmer being possessed by Bob, indeed Bob appears more as a mundane crazed lunatic than the spiritual entity he was in the tv series. While this version is fascinating to watch in retrospect of the series, it is less coherent as a self-contained film. It is obvious that David Lynch has attempted to patch up what was never originally intended as a complete story. This also means that the surrounding mystery is merely superfluous weirdness that does not amount to anything.
Certainly, the scenes in the hospital maintain an atmosphere of genuine eeriness. David Lynch also adds an epilogue using material that he later incorporated into the third episode of the series where Agent Cooper has a dream of meeting Laura Palmer in the Red Room of the White Lodge 25 years later. It comes filled with typically non-sequitir Lynchian dialogue: Ive got good news. That gum you like is going to come back in style. Or: Are you Laura Palmer? I feel like I know her but sometimes my arms bend back. For one intensely eerie second, the large silhouetted shadow of some alien bird silently flaps past behind the curtains. Do remember that up until this point the cinema audiences had seen nothing of The White Lodge or The Man From Another Place so the coda must have been genuinely surreal.
The Twin Peaks tv series only lasted for 30 episodes. Audience interest died off after Laura Palmers murderer was revealed. Even though the series started to become even better after that point, the weirdness on its own was not enough and the networks killed the show off. David Lynch let the series go out on a real humdinger a 50 minute surrealist journey through the topsy-turvy world of the Black Lodge all lit in strobe light, arriving at the startling twist ending where Agent Cooper returns possessed by Bob. A couple of years later Lynch returned to Twin Peaks with the cinematically-released film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), which told of the events that led up to Laura Palmers murder, although this met with a mixed reception. The success of the series did inspire a number of other smalltown weirdness tv series, including Eerie Indiana (1991-2), Northern Exposure (1991-5) and Picket Fences (1992-6).
David Lynch conucted an eighteen-episode revival of Twin Peaks in 2017, reuniting most of the original cast.
David Lynchs subsequent films are: the surreal identity exchange film Lost Highway (1997), the non-genre The Straight Story (1999), the Hollywood noir Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Inland Empire (2006). Lynch has also produced other genre films such as The Cabinet of Dr Ramirez (1991), Nadja (1994), Surveillance (2008), My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009) and Black and White in Colors (2010). Lynch has made several attempts to venture back into television but all these have been abject flops the likes of On the Air (1992), which lasted 7 episodes, and Hotel Room (1993), which lasted only three episodes. Even Mulholland Dr. started out as a tv series before being canned by the network, purchased back by Lynch and expanded out into a film that then had him nominated for that years Best Director Academy Award. Lynch (2007) and David Lynch: The Art Life (2016) are documentaries about Lynch.
TV Pilot trailer here:-