Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The DVD of this film, like the DVD of Nashville, has to be considered a great disappointment because of what was left out.

The original director's cut of Fire Walk was more than four hours long, and the cut screened at Cannes was 2:35, while the theatrical release was "only" two hours and fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, New Line was not able to secure the rights to the extra footage, so the DVD includes only the truncated theatrical version.

Of course, there is one major difference between this and Nashville. While the Nashville DVD was disappointing for what it excluded, the movie and commentary were excellent. Fire Walk, on the other hand,  is a mediocre film and there is no commentary, and the only noteworthy special feature is a series of interviews with the people who performed in the Twin Peaks TV series.

The film forms a prequel to the TV series which was a brief worldwide phenomenon in the early 90's. Although it contains many of the same characters as the series, mostly played by the same actors, the film is bleak, unnerving, ghastly, and almost totally devoid of the offbeat humor that made the series popular. It is an attempt to re-invent the mystery/thriller by creating a unique storytelling style. Director David Lynch has a rarified eye and ear, a gift which allows him to build a dream world within his small town within his murder investigation. The dream world may be supernatural, or it may be a look into Laura's madness, which was presumably brought on by a long period of incest and cocaine abuse. Even when the film strays away from the purely surrealistic, and is clearly portraying events outside of Laura's mind, it isn't clear whether we should assume a literal interpretation of what we are seeing and hearing. It is an opaque film, to say the least.

The film was universally reviled. It bombed at the box office. Only one of the critics cited at Rotten Tomatoes was positive about it, and even he said it was "pretentious". It is that, for sure. It competes with Greenaway's version of "The Tempest", "Nostalghia", "Mother and Son", or anything directed by Resnais or Antonioni in the battle for the all-time title of King Pretentious. Strangely enough, it was roundly booed at Cannes. It is not easy for a pretentious film to get booed at Cannes, where they worship pretentiousness as a virtue approximately equal in value to faith, hope, and charity.

I have never seen an episode of the Twin Peaks TV series. I was living in Europe when that phenomenon arose and crested, and by the time I returned to the States, the whole thing had fallen into obscurity. I'd suggest that if you are in the same boat, the film will be almost incomprehensible to you. There really isn't much in the way of explanation of the character's odd behavior. I suppose Lynch relied on the character development which he had already accomplished in the 26 hours of the TV show. I saw a lot of beautiful visuals and heard a lot of spooky music, but I really am not too sure what the hell was going on. It's long on style and atmosphere, but its meaning is anyone's guess.


a topless dancer appears in "The Lodge"

Moira Kelly shows her breasts while lying on a table in a strange sex scene.

Sheryl Lee shows her breasts in several scenes, and the side of her hips in lingerie.

Even if you ignore the backward-talking midget who looks like Jonathan Pryce, the old woman who knows everything in advance, her grandson in the Greek tragedy mask with a chicken nose, the dead dude in her bed, the painting that comes to life, and the French-Canadian dope fiends, it's still anything but a standard narrative.

I do now understand why high school student Laura Palmer died. Although still in High School, she was elderly, and simply passed away of natural causes. Get this - I graduated from college and taught high school for three years while I was going to grad school. When I left teaching, some seven years after graduating from high school, I was two years younger than Sheryl Lee was when she played a high school student in this movie. Well, at least the other kids had someone to buy beer for them.

Jeez, I hope she was at least a senior.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • see main commentary

Some time ago, we ran a poll to determine the worst male acting performance of all time. I now regret that I had not seen Fire Walk before assembling the nominees, because Chris Isaak's performance in this movie should be way up on the list.

As for the film, well, consider this. Lynch designed a deliberately surrealistic four and a half hour movie especially for devotees of the series. He then cut out two hours for Cannes. After Cannes, he chopped out another twenty minutes. If that doesn't scare you off, go for it.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ..IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 6.1, obviously liking it more than the critics. 25% gave it a 10/10. It is rated about 6.6 by people under 30, but about 5.6 by those over 30.
  • with their dollars ... $4 million domestic gross.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. A masterpiece of style, atmosphere, and visual craftsmanship, but also a muddled, nearly incomprehensible narrative. If you are a Twin Peaks fan, or a David Lynch fan, or just like to see some weird stuff, this might be for you. Mainstream movie lovers - stay away! Masterful sights and sounds, but a script so flaky it would embarrass Criswell.

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