By Richard Ostrom
With a much trumpeted, late in the game, return to the strange environs of the fabled world of Twin Peaks, Washington at an apparent stand still between chief architect David Lynch and new host network Showtime, I see no better time to pay a quick revisit to the original, legendary series and its most recent home video rebirth. So, while Lynch threatens to turn his back on a proposed 9 part, 25 year’s since an update on whomsoever still remains above ground from the cast, the fine cats at Paramount have, in recent months, sought to grace us all with something undeniably attractive called ‘Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery’.
This enticing, all Blu Ray box set (10 discs in total) collects together the complete (to date) run through of the quirky highs and murky (and often nightmarish) lows of Lynch and conceptual partner Mark (‘Hill Street Blues’) Frost’s intricately fabricated slice of life in the extreme upper Pacific Northwest.
We are presented with all of the 29 parts of the under two season long run of the once stratospherically hip prime time melodrama that first introduced the pop culture universe to Special Agent Dale (Kyle MacLachlan) Cooper, his eternally disembodied assistant Diane (represented only ever by a tiny cassette recorder), Cooper’s philosophy on the value of a damn fine cup of java and how this agent (and his assorted peers) would come to play a crucial role in aiding the wonderful yet far from conventional Twin Peaks locals in finding a solution to the shocking murder of their girl most beloved, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).
Also stuffed inside the set’s elaborately designed packaging is the highly polarizing ‘prequel’ feature film follow up, ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’. With this separately concocted film, David Lynch set to the task of fleshing out the explicit particulars that led a seemingly innocuous ‘good girl’ like Mrs. Palmer down the path of rank deprivation that was to ultimately place her in harm’s way in the very worst fashion. The film also swapped out certain characters from the series (for various reasons) and introduced new key players into the T.P. mythos, including Special Agents Chet Desmond (singer Chris Issak) and Sam Stanley (a pre-24 Kiefer Sutherland) and greatly made use of the content freedoms an MPAA sanctioned R-rating granted.
The legacy of ‘Twin Peaks’ as a whole, from inauguration to this point today, is one of swift rise and fall in the critically fickle context of the public eye with the (at the time) ill advised prequel landing D.O.A. in theaters in late summer 1992. Yet, as a born-to-be ‘Cult Classic’ is wont to do, ‘Twin Peaks’ refused to lay down and die a quiet death. The whole thing gave rise to clubs, conventions (one of which is spotlighted within the set’s special features, more on that stuff in a bit) and fervent campaigns to unearth unseen materials (primarily from ‘Fire Walk With Me’) that were said to hold more overall worth than your average ‘Deleted Scenes’ supplement. The fan-love pushed the saga forward, spawning several home video releases (VHS and DVD) before arriving at this most rewarding confection I am blathering on about here.
Now, the basic storyline should prove familiar to many who’ve dabbled at all in the realm of David Lynch or cult screen curiosities in general. If not, here goes; one foggy morning, the body of town princess Laura Palmer is discovered washed ashore and wrapped in plastic by gentle old Pete Martell (played by ‘EraserHead’ lead man Jack Nance) which in turn sets off a chain of twisty events entwining the citizens of Twin Peaks with the All American Powerhouse known as the F.B.I. Thus the arrival of the relentlessly chipper Agent Cooper to the base of operations of one Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) and his stable of goofy but dedicated cronies. These none too battle tested, bumpkin type police officials turn out to be just the kind of support group our golden boy Cooper was greatly hoping for. The bulk of the first portion of the series details the convoluted specifics of the homicide investigation with growing supernatural influence transpiring across the stomping grounds of a passing carnival of strange and unique personas who love, fight, frustrate and continually work to confound expectations as the inevitable (if sadly premature) network mandated reveal of Laura’s killer looms on the horizon.
Once the murderer is given a proper face though, things begin to fracture and the narrative starts to veer all over the damn place. Sure, a new plot device/villain is slotted in as a long standing rival of Cooper’s, one Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh), arrives deep into the second season to dole out the sadistic head games, but the ensuing episodes became a great deal more, well, episodic. Apparently this was somewhere around the time both Lynch and Frost were becoming immersed in new big screen projects (‘Wild At Heart’ and ‘Storyville’ respectively) so it was all largely left up to the hands of various writers and a wild assortment of directors (among them, Tim ‘River’s Edge’ Hunter and Diane Keaton, doing her very best odd duck Lynch impression) to carry the load, and the results truly did vary. A sudden succession of guest star bits were added to help maintain some semblance of a creative spark (most of note, future X-Files heartthrob, David Duchovny, as an
F.B.I. Agent dressed up in slick feminine attire) but regardless of all this tireless overexertion, the series had clearly lost a major chunk of its mojo and several plot points came off as irrefutably forced (such as a beauty pageant sub-plot) and accordingly, the public interest waned. Pity, as the project as a whole comes across a bit like a small screen masterwork left incomplete (the final episode does provide a fitting cliffhanger). So perhaps the rumblings of a rekindling of that Twin Peaks fire should not seem so surprising, even this many moons on.
This here super-duper box set has so much to share beyond just the series and its companion film. Apart from providing all of Twin Peaks tale in a pristine HD transfer there is a boat load of nuggets from archival and more current sources that work to break the phenomena of the thing down in ‘in depth’ measures. Cast and crew members help to, somewhat enlighten upon the steps it took to make a bit of prime time television history with a collection of new and older interviews and on set asides. Most triumphantly, the long lusted after ‘Fire Walk With Me’ cut footage portion (arranged here by Lynch himself as a 90-minute segment meant to stand on its own) is not likely to elect much in the way of disappointment. Many key ideas and supporting characters receive expanded screen time, including odd bits pertaining to David Bowie’s enigmatic agent Phillip Jeffries and a whole bunch more footage of the prophetic dwarf (Michael J. Anderson) who dwells in that, mostly red, ‘other place’.
Still further elements that never made it anywhere near the final release cut of ‘Fire Walk With Me,’ finally have their day too; Sheriff Truman, his stoic, Native American deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) and the impossibly dense lovebirds Andy (Harry Goaz) Brennan and Lucy the receptionist (Kimmy Robertson) are on hand as they all originally had filmed cameos, as did Pete Martell and the lovely Josie Packard (Joan Chen). The resolution of the whole damn thing (perhaps the entire Twin Peaks universe in total) may have originally held a more cosmic, time melding agenda than viewers were previously aware of, according to a few revealing sequences on display here. Yes, the wait for this missing stuff is finally over, and the rewards do measure up.
Elsewhere in the set, David Lynch enacts his own fond (albeit expectedly eccentric) memories of the project in features both semi-vintage and brand new in which he picks his own cranium as well as those of several key cast members (Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie and others) from the program both in and out of character. There are also plenty of old school promo spots, photo stills of anything from on set action to long obscured trading cards of the show and both the domestic and international (stand alone and slightly longer) versions of the pilot episode that set it all in motion.
Yeah, not much has been left behind. This beast is very concise. Recommended to anyone adventurous enough to hold a fair opinion of David Lynch, or this series in the first place.