Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

The original television airing of Twin Peaks in 1990 coincided with my recent interest in the films of David Lynch after renting a copy of Blue Velvet on video and the break between the first and second seasons also saw the release of Wild At Heart at the cinema which launched a sudden and unexpected wave of Lynch mania that swept across both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Around the same time I visited America for the first time, landing in Los Angeles in January 1991 I couldn’t wait to pick up a copy of the L.A. Reader so I could see Lynch’s notorious cartoon strip The Angriest Dog in the World with my own eyes!

Twin Peaks has recently been celebrating its 20th Anniversary and is back in the public conscious with current shows like Psych reuniting some of the original cast members in the Dual Spires tribute episode which revolves around a Laura Palmer style copycat murder. After the initial distribution rights battle which prevented the second season being released on DVD for years, CBS Paramount have now released the entire show in its David Lynch approved Gold Box set and it’s even available to download on iTunes in HD which has sparked talk of a potential Blu-ray edition to follow.

When I met my wife-to-be one of the first things we did was sit through the original series, she was instantly hooked and we watched the pilot and all 29 episodes back to back followed by Fire Walk With Me within the space of one long weekend. To mark our recent Wedding Anniversary we have just watched them all again for the first time in 5 years and it remains an astonishing landmark in the annals of mainstream television history; all credit is due to creators Mark Frost and David Lynch as few programmes can claim to have been as groundbreaking or influential as Twin Peaks.

The show was cancelled in the middle of the second season due to falling viewing figures once Laura Palmer’s killer had been revealed and a spate of weak, largely comic subplots failed to fill the void despite a tour de force performance from Kenneth Welsh as Agent Cooper’s former partner and Nemesis, Windom Earle and the introduction of a Sci-fi element with the Project Blue Book investigations into the local Black and White Lodge mythology; there was still much to enjoy in the show and many questions were left deliberately unanswered in the final episode which is very reminiscent of the end of Patrick McGoohan’s seminal 1960s series, The Prisoner.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was released in cinemas during 1992; a year after the bemusing final episode had left Agent Dale Cooper trapped inside the Black Lodge. The film serves as both a prequel, as it examines the death of Killer Bob’s first victim Teresa Banks and the last 7 days of Laura Palmer’s life leading up to her murder providing psychological insights into the deranged mind of her father Leland, and a sequel as it clarifies the fate of Agent Cooper, expands the Dugpas back-story and lays to rest Laura’s troubled spirit in the closing moments. For many unfamiliar with David Lynch’s darker movies this was a total shock as the show’s amusing supporting characters were not present to offset the deeply disturbing secret that had always been at the heart of the series and it was actually booed by hostile audiences at the Cannes Film Festival premier.

There is no getting around the fact that there are some gut wrenching scenes in the film that deal head on with the psychological pain of acknowledging that stripped bare of all of its fanciful mystery this is the story of the long term physical abuse of a teenage girl by her father and this is something that Lynch had felt had been long forgotten by the end of the second season and he had remained troubled by the character of Laura Palmer. Actress Sheryl Lee who had only got to play Laura in stylised flashbacks or her lookalike cousin Maddy in the TV show wanted to truthfully bring her to life and give her doomed existence an element of closure.

There are many Hitchcockian influences in Lynch’s work the obvious one here is the name of Maddy Ferguson, a nod to Vertigo in which Kim Novak had a dual role; she plays Madeleine who Scotty Ferguson (James Stewart) falls madly in love with and also Judy who Scotty meets after witnessing Madeline’s apparent suicide and whilst in a psychotic state he re-styles Judy in Madeline’s image, changing her hair and clothes to conjure up the woman he is morbidly obsessed about.

When Hitch was asked if he could cut the “rape” scene from his 1964 film Marnie by hired screenwriter Evan Hunter who felt that it would make the character played by Sean Connery unsalvageable at least in the eyes of the female members of the audience, Hitchcock refused explaining that the only reason he wanted to make the movie in the first place is because of that one scene and replaced Hunter with renowned feminist playwright Jay Presson Allen who reworked the screenplay keeping the “non-consensual sex” scene between Connery and Tippi Hedren firmly in place. Likewise, I believe the only reason Lynch wanted to make Twin Peaks was due to the abusive father/daughter relationship at the core of the story and Fire Walk With Me is his way of emphasising that point.

French distributor MK2’s Blu-ray release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is never going to be the definitive edition, whilst the full 1080p picture quality is a marked improvement on the DVD version and the DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack is solid and fixes the infamous mixing problem in the “Red Room” sequence which was subtitled due to the excessive volume of the club’s live music; on the previous DVD release the music had been turned right down so you could clearly hear all the dialogue rendering the onscreen subtitles ludicrous.

I am pleased to report that after almost 25 years the entire mystery has been released in one Blu-ray boxset, including the much coveted 90 minutes of deleted scenes!  Not for the feint hearted and probably only really for true fans of Lynch’s oeuvre as a whole Fire Walk With Me is a fitting footnote to a landmark television series and a cathartic release and appropriate closure to a story steeped in the indignant suffering of its central character, it also marks the end of a period when for a fleeting moment David Lynch was the coolest cat on the planet.

This entry was posted in Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

  1. You latest article strangely reminded me of all the nights I spent trying to figure out what was going on. I believe it was the eden of the “continuance series” long before poorer cousins like “Lost” and “Heroes” came along.

    A truly haunting, weird, but wonderful series tied off by a great film. Or was it that way around? Maybe my psyche has just been permanently damaged!

  2. JEFF GORDON says:

    I love both Twin Peaks and The Prisoner – much was left unanswered in Twin Peaks but The prisoner was pretty well wrapped up in the finale. We know it was his own people who brought him to the village ( Chimes of Big Ben) and we also know that HE was number one all along. We get to see this in the finale but also, it was stated throughout the series – “who is number one ?” – “You are, number six”

  3. Laura Palmer says:

    You know, I have created a petition that is about Twin Peaks and another passion of mine, creative architecture.

    I hope that you and your readers will help get this thing going. Even if the project is not in your end of the world ;-)

    Not long ago I came across treehotel.se. It is a place with wonderful creative and sustainable architecture and beautiful nature.

    Then It occurred to me how well Twin Peaks themed rooms would fit into this environment and to the concept of “rooms in the trees”.

    So a petition was created to convince treehotel.se that they need to make one or more of the ideas a reality. It can be seen on the main page on thetwinpeaksgazette.com and also on gopetition.com: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/twin-peaks-themed-rooms-at-treehotel.html

    It is rare to see such a great match and it sure would be a very unique and unbelievable interesting architectural project.

  4. Joel Bocko says:

    Many interesting points. A few reactions:

    1) You mention how the characters in Vertigo were named Madeleine and Judy. My pet theory (completely contradicted by Bob Engels, but let’s ignore that!) is that the “Judy” mentioned in Fire Walk With Me could have appeared in the planned sequel as Bob’s next victim, to be portrayed by Sheryl Lee again, this time as a redhead.

    2) You also note how Lynch made the film to re-emphasize the centrality of incest and Laura’s suffering. This is obviously true in the sense that he decided to make a prequel in which the Bob/Leland relationship was more ambiguous. However, it’s interesting to note that he began with a script full of extraneous, often goofy details (whenever Engels is interviewed, he always emphasizes this playful, zany quality as if it was most characterized their writing sessions). My sense is that he honed in on Laura during shooting and then editing for several reasons, one of which was the unexpected quality and power of Sheryl Lee’s performance, which everyone who was on the set always remarks upon. It’s almost as if he figured out what he was doing in the process of doing it, which certainly would not be uncommon for Lynch.

    3) Lynch as the coolest cat on the planet – it always amazes me (I was way too young at the time to watch Twin Peaks or take note of the phenomenon) the extent to which Lynch was becoming a mainstream celebrity at this time. And yes, FWWM was the final nail in the coffin of that notion. Makes it all the more brave of him to make it the way he did, and also sadly ironic that when most critics attacked the film, they claimed Lynch was pandering for fans and going for easy shocks, basically coasting on his status as pop culture’s favorite surrealist when in fact he was in the process of annihilating that status (for a time, anyway). Talk about adding insult to injury.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>