After years of having been played like Charlie Brown, and having the football equivalent of the oft-discussed deleted scenes from director David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” pulled away from them by the Lucy van Pelt stand-in of protracted rights discussions, a tangle of other legal issues and—occasionally, it must be stated—disinterest on the part of their creators, fans of the trailblazing television series “Twin Peaks” and its 1992 cinematic prequel finally have sweet, sweet relief.
For those who might be too young to remember, “Twin Peaks” burned white hot, debuting in the spring of 1990 on ABC and quickly becoming a national obsession. Unfolding in a small Northwestern town that only got stranger and stranger, the mystery of who killed teenager Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a pretty homecoming queen whose seemingly idyllic life masked a web of dark and tragic secrets, gripped a nation. Before social media and the golden-age of long-form narrative storytelling for which it would offer itself up in sacrifice, there was the cult of “Twin Peaks,” from Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost — and a special and knowing club of folks who “got it,” realizing that boundaries of television could stretched beyond what thought previously possible.
Now those fans, as well as neophytes, can indulge in the heady, classic show, with the Blu-ray release of “Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery,” which gathers in stunning 1080p the two small screen seasons of the show (along with the alternate version of its pilot), the aforementioned “Fire Walk With Me” and, among loads of other special features (some ported over from the previous “Gold Box Definitive DVD Set,” others new), the more than 90 minutes of material excised from the feature film, meticulously restored, scored and edited into something decidedly “film-like” by Lynch himself.
Prior to its street date, however, fans of the series and reporters gathered alongside Lynch and a coterie of actors and behind-the-scenes players from the series, at Los Angeles’ Vista Theater, for a red carpet premiere entirely befitting for such a landmark event. Series composer Angelo Badalamenti, whose music was instrumental to the show’s arresting mood, brought younger family members and other friends, and chatted with Russ Tamblyn, who played zonked-out Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, one of only several men seemingly bewitched by Palmer. Others in attendance included the previously mentioned Lee, Ray Wise, Madchen Amick, Grace Zabriskie, Lenny von Dohlen and Miguel Ferrer.
On the red carpet outside, prior to the screening, Zabriskie, who played Laura’s mother, Sarah Palmer, recalled the visceral quality of her grief-stricken reaction to intuiting her daughter’s death. It was so raw and pained that it still raises goosebumps today, for the manner in which it taps into the primal, howling quality of losing a loved one. “I had to trust David pushing me further and further, long after I felt as though I was over-the-top several takes (prior),” she said. “And I still tell him that I don’t think he used the most extreme takes — that he actually did push me past what even he ended up wanting. But that’s the kind of thing an actor never really knows.”
In a show full of quirky characters, Catherine Coulson also immediately made an impression—as a woman known as the Log Lady, who carried a sawed branch of a tree around with her everywhere, and pretty much gave everyone the stink eye. Like many of the older actors in the series, Coulson had known Lynch previously, having met him at the American Film Institute and worked with him on his debut film, “Eraserhead.” “I think (TV) was probably just a bit straighter before David Lynch and Mark Frost came along,” she stated. “I think that “Twin Peaks” helped open the door to a lot of things that we now see on cable. I think it was a pioneering show, and that it gave permission to show other sides of people’s behavior, in a really good and creative way.”
That creative dialogue, a give-and-take between the show’s creators and artisans on every level, was evident from the get-go. “We talked a lot about the character’s log, and how she got it,” Coulson recalled. “She was married to her husband, who had fought a fire and lost, and (we really thought through) the whole log relationship — that it wasn’t a person, it was an ‘it,’ but I still listened to the log. I think the Log Lady was very wise, and somewhat of a soothsayer.”
In her character’s honor, Coulson carried a miniature log with her to the event — a twig, really. “This is a token log,” she joked. “It’s too dangerous (to carry the real one). I once called TSA to inquire about it, and said, ‘I have this log and I’d like to carry it on.’ This was after 9/11, and the man on the phone said, ‘The log? Don’t take a chance.’ So it was good advice, I think.”
If only parallel words of caution and advice could have reached Frost and particularly Lynch in the aftermath of the series’ groundbreaking first season, and helped broker a more lasting detente between the show’s runners and ABC, who wanted to wrap up the Laura Palmer plot line posthaste. Piddling censorship (the show still got away with an amazing amount for network television) and narrative dictates contributed to a slide. The alluring weirdness remained, in broad strokes, but the second season stumbled and lost its way midway through, further exacerbating dwindling ratings.
“I never had to deal with the censors, that was done on another level,” said Wise, who played Laura’s father, Leland Palmer. “And when things filtered down to me, it was cool, I just did what I had to do. I know David talked from time to time about little comments that he would get from up above. But I also don’t think he paid too much attention to them. He had a pretty good deal with them — they had pretty good creative control, he and Mark Frost. But they wouldn’t have ventured into it if they didn’t have that type of control. That’s what makes ‘Twin Peaks’ kind of special, even initially — that they were given that kind of freedom on a big network.”
Alas, in the end it wasn’t meant to last. But we’ll always have the memories — and now, courtesy of the stunning new Blu-ray set from distributor Paramount, they’ll be in high-definition 1080p as well.
Written by: Brent Simon