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Introduction
In 1990 when the Twin Peaks Phenomenon started I was only 8 years old. I was into things like Disney movies, Disney cartoons and Mr Roger's Neighborhood. I was a simple kid who knew nothing of the adult world and loved the fairy tale type existence I lived. However on the television a remarkable new series was being aired that tested the boundaries of what could be seen/discussed outside of the news. The series was "Twin Peaks" co-created by Mark Frost and David Lynch who to this point was best known as the director of a number of unique films. The series dealt with the murder of Laura Palmer and the effect it had on the small town community of Twin Peaks, an odd town located near the Canadian border. It dealt with supernatural aspects, drugs, violence and many other subjects that were taboo up to that point though are now common place today. Although the ratings and word of mouth were initially good they dropped off and after two years on the air the series was cancelled before it's time.  In 1992 director David Lynch gave fans another chance to journey into the world of Twin Peaks with "Fire Walk With Me" a theatrical feature dealing with the events leading up to Laura's death. While the series was critically acclaimed the film was not so lucky as even a number of the series fans were on the fence with their feelings on the movie.

As is the case with my other David Lynch experiences and up until this DVD they have been rather limited. This is not a passive viewing experience. Lynch is not a director whose films lend themselves to a regular viewing experience. Nine out of ten times when I go to watch a movie both at home or in the theater. I've done a number of things prior during the day and to a certain degree just want to be entertained. Lynch films demand a certain intellectual connection and unclouded mind so they just unravel into your mind. I don't know if I'd be the fan I am today if not for my introduction to the film maker with 2001's "Mulholland Drive". I'll save that entire story for a review of that film but without saying too much if I had screened that film when I initially planned to there might not have been this review.  "Mulholland Drive" made the TV series box set a must purchase and the TV series made this prequel film a must watch.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Movie
"Fire Walk With Me" starts off with the investigation of the death of Theresa Banks (Pam Gidley) a teenager in the small town of Dear Meadow. The FBI get's involved and sends in two agents to investigate the case. Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Issak) and his new partner forensic scientist Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland). However the FBI's presence in the town is unwanted and the local sheriff is refuses to cooperate. Through their analysis and investigate Desmond and Stanley discover a missing ring that was seen on Teresa's finger before her death but is missing on the body. Meanwhile at the FBI field office Regional Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) are startled by the reappearance of long lost agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) but as he reappears Desmond vanishes.  It's here where the film takes a sudden and abrupt jump one year into the future and location and we are introduced to the main subject of the film Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Palmer is a beautiful young girl that appears on the surface to have it all. She's the prom queen, she has two boyfriends, a decent job and a real genuine heart. However we quickly learn that is just the exterior as her life is anything but perfection. She suffers from delusions regarding a man that's out to get her, her father is abusive and she's addicted to drugs.

It's best to leave the description of the events in the film as vague as humanly possible. Although I could describe what I feel is occurring in the film it would only be one man's interpretation. It is however safe to say the film's primary story line deals with the final days of Laura Palmer's life and subsequent death. This isn't the only story that's being told throughout the film as the feature does set up a few character and plot points that were discussed and used throughout the television series. That being said this feature film is a different beast altogether from the television series. In the television series the investigation of Laura's death by Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is only the surface level tale as the series also deals with the nightmarish and supernatural happenings  in the small mountain town. The concepts and themes of rape, violence, murder and death as well as how it relates to the supernatural world are more held back and meant as a back story element. You never see more then slight glimpses whereas in "Fire Walk With Me" the images of violence, death, graphic sex and murder bombard the viewer almost relentlessly throughout the 135 minute running time.

One of the bigger differences between the film and the series is the cast of characters and to a lesser degree the actors who played them. It's been rumored that the original cut of "Fire Walk With Me" was as long as four or five hours and contained many more subplots dealing more with the characters from the original series. Most of these have ended up on the cutting room floor and while there are some familiar faces in the film many of them are limited to smaller roles. Returning in their same roles from the series are Ray Wise (Leland Palmer) , Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Eric DaRae (Leo Johnson), Madchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings),  James Marshall (James Hurley)  Grace Zabriskie (Sarah Palmer) amongst others. The role of Donna Hayward played by Lara Flynn Boyle in the series is played in this film by Moira Kelly (The Cutting Edge).  Fan favorite characters like Lucy Moran (Kimmy Johnston) and Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Micheal Ontkean) as well as Audrey Horne (Sherlynn Fenn) are sadly absent from the film. Most noticeable is the small cameo for the Dale Cooper character made famous by Kyle MacLachlan. MacLachlan originally turned down appearing in this film but agreed to the small cameo at the last minute. While most of the actors and actresses appear in smaller roles here, there is one actress that does receive a larger role. Sheryl Lee who plays Laura Palmer get's to make the jump from flashbacks to present time in this film and really proves that the character of Laura Palmer was a strong one to base the entire series around. If not for Laura's life and mysterious death then there would be no "Twin Peaks". Lee who hasn't really made much of a career for herself since this role really does an excellent job here.

By this point in the review you should either be sold completely on the film itself or are now wondering what you were thinking when you thought you might want to purchase this film. And to tell you the truth that's the way David Lynch wants it to be. Lynch is about the most anti-conventional film maker I've come across and in a day and age where everything I see is basically a recycled version of something that came out 5 or 6 months earlier that's exactly what I'm looking for from a director. The way he manipulates sound and picture and narrative to bring the viewer into the film is unlike anyone else out there. His films on the surface appear to take place in our current world but in essence take place in a sort of doppleganger world where things are much darker underneath the surface. His films lend themselves to be studied through repeat viewings and only then may the truth begin to be learned. Although initially I wasn't as pleased with "Fire Walk With Me" as I was with the television series in the minutes and hours following I began to realize just exactly what I liked about the picture. It's often disturbing and it's different but it's still a near masterpiece of cinema that I will revisit as time allows for years and years to come.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Video
It's always a pleasure reviewing New Line titles as the consistency from release to release is very good. All of their video transfers conform to a minimum standard which by definition is very good. Most titles put this minimum standard to shame and border near the reference quality level.  New Line presents "Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the transfer is a simply a pleasure to behold though I wouldn't put it at the same quality as the recent TV series discs. The film has a nice sharpness, is finely detailed and carries a film-like feel to it which should please fans. Colors appear strong with nice naturalistic palettes for the conventional locations and deeply saturated vibrant hues for the more extreme locations. Reds and blues are the dominant colors as they are used as distinguishing factors for some of the key sequences. The red is more of an orangy red but is very reminiscent of the "Red-Room" in the television series and is likely intended to be this way by David Lynch who approved this transfer.  Since the film has numerous fades to black it was easy to test the black level and it clearly passes that test. Flesh tones are also natural though due to the lighting techniques in some scenes the characters appear to glow. Problems are few and far between as they really begin and end with some minor edge enhancement. This is really a minor nitpick as one would really have to look fairly hard for these slight instances. The print is remarkable clean as I can't remember seeing any marks and even if the odd one slipped past me then it'd have to be there for only a fraction of a second.  There is also trace amounts of grain present in some shots but nothing that's a distraction. Overall this is an excellent job on a catalog release and it shows that once again New Line is committed to serving both their day and day and catalog releases which equal care and love.  

Audio
I believe it was George Lucas who made the famous quote that described sound as being 50% of the movie experience. I'd have to agree with him as with the right mix of sound and picture viewers can become totally immersed in the motion picture they are viewing. Director David Lynch has always put a great deal of emphasis into the way his films sound going as far as building his own home studio in which his friend and long time collaborator John Neff creates the mixes for everything Lynch. From the theatrical mix to the airplane and home video and DVD mixes it all comes out of Lynch's studio. Recently Lynch and Neff have been back at the mixing board creating all new 5.1 mixes for Artisan's Season One box set as well as "Fire Walk With Me". As is the case on the Season One box set "Fire Walk With Me" or FWWM as it's become known contains both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio mixes as well as the original 2.0 theatrical mix. However what's surprising is that the difference in the sound mixes (TV series and this film) are as night and day as the pieces themselves.  The TV series mix seems quite open and involving utilizing the entire sound field where "FWWM" is mostly limited to the front speakers.  Lynch's use of sound is very subtle and un involving here and comes as a bit of disappointment to this reviewer whose previous experiences with Lynch's work were more sonically impressive. The main aspect of the film's sound mix is the score by Angelo Badalamenti whose eery and spooky compositions fill the room with their beautiful orchestrations. The Twin Peaks theme seems a bit weak compared to it's recording on the TV series box set but is still quite the treat to the ears. Dialogue is recorded at acceptable levels however there was the odd scene where it seemed to get buried under the music and sound effects. The screams from Sheryl Lee weren't shrill but could have been punched up a little higher in the mix. Sound effects were realistically mixed into the front speakers at times but don't really play much of a role and therefore aren't a major component of this mix. From a technical standpoint there is nothing wrong with the audio mixes on the disc. However from listening experience point of view. It's a bit disappointing considering how good the mixes are on the TV episodes. It's not bad as much as it's just different. Comparisons made between the DTS and DD tracks have DTS coming out just ahead of Dolby Digital for slightly better imaging and a bit better low end.

Extras
David Lynch is one of those directors who likes to let the work stand on it's own and I respect him for his position. To have the complex mysteries of his film's unravelled would be doing them a great disservice. In my very limited experience with his work (2 features and 4 episodes of the series) I've come to respect the master that is David Lynch.  He's never been a big contributor to the DVD editions of his films but it has been widely reported that he was willing to contribute between an hour and an hour and a half of deleted material from this film. Fans have been clamoring for these scenes since the film's theatrical release and although Lynch had final cut on the film he felt that he needed to trim it back from it's original 4 hours to make it more commercially viable. It's been rumored that New Line was having trouble acquiring the rights to these scenes from the French company MK2 which was responsible for a great deal of the film's financing. It's also been rumored to be a money issue though others believe discussion never even got to that stage. It's not unusual for Lynch's work to be tied up in legal disputes after all Artisan's Season One box set does not include the pilot for similar reasons. So with the deleted scenes missing from this release and the obvious lack of a commentary track let's see what New Line has dug up for what they have claimed to be their most requested catalog title.

Up first is a 30 minute original documentary by film-maker Mark Rance who was also responsible for the bonus content on the Artisan box set. Entitled "Twin Peaks : The Phenomenon" it features interviews with the majority of the cast of "Fire Walk With Me" or FWWM as it's been dubbed by fans.  This is an interesting and informative documentary but contains trademark Lynch elements in the way it's been edited together.  The actors talk about working with the genius that is Lynch as well as there thoughts on both the series and the film. Also interesting is the way this piece is shot as it contains a lot of quick cuts with actors finishing each other sentences. Then towards the end things get even weirder as the audio remains at normal speed but the video appears as if it's being fast forwarded. In true Lynch style even the documentaries about his work border on strange and incoherent. There is information to be gained but some effort is needed on part of the viewer as this is not a passive viewing experience. One thing that irked me on the documentary was the lack of on screen titles naming the participants shown on camera. It was sometimes a bit of a guessing game trying to determine who was talking. This will only be a problem for those who aren't die hard fans and though I like to consider myself a fan it'll be awhile before I'm considered a "Peaks Freak".

Also included is the film's green band theatrical trailer presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Overall
Looking back at things I don't know what I was thinking all these years ignoring the films of David Lynch. I had friends telling me to check him out ever since they saw his 1997 film "Lost Highway" and of course I had heard tales of Twin Peaks. I'm glad I took a chance on "Mulholland Drive" which totally unlocked the door for me to someone who is now one of my favorite film makers. As is the case with the majority of his projects it's not for the weak at heart or anyone expecting a straightforward passive viewing experience.  As for "Fire Walk With Me" it's not as good as the series during the first viewing. However return visits to this film will likely provide a richer experience and knowledge of the world of Laura Palmer. New Line does a nice job on the DVD providing good video/audio quality and an interesting documentary. It's a shame that the deleted scenes were not included but that's all in the past now. Perhaps they will surface in the future but for now this is worthy purchase and highly recommended for "Peak Freaks" and newbies alike.


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