Blue Velvet, A Neo-Noir Nightmare

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“What would you do if you found a severed human ear in the woods?” This is the question surreal film director David Lynch asks his protégé with the unpronounceable name Kyle MacLachlan in the perverse neo-noir movie Blue Velvet from 1986.

MacLachlan responds to this situation in the persona of Jeffrey Beaumont, a high school dropout who moves back with his parents to help out with his ill father. Beaumont does what any reasonable person would do and picks the ear up with his bare hands, puts it in a paper bag and presents it to the local police station.

Lend me your ear

Intrigued by the abandoned ear and its former owner Jeffrey wants a status update on the case. A visit to the home of the stubborn policeman leaves him with more questions than answers. After meeting the cop’s teenage daughter (Laura Dern), who overheard many phone calls on the case, he decides to do his own private investigation, based on her clues.

Laura Dern and Kyle McLachlan in Blue Velvet
Laura Dern and Kyle McLachlan in Blue Velvet

Without spoiling this thirty year old classic, we can reveal that Beaumont ends up in at least three situations a polite young man as himself shouldn’t be in. For example hiding naked in the closet of a nightclub singer, played by the Italian actress Isabella Rosselini.

Or in the middle of a criminal plot led by the short tempered and perverted Frank, an excellent performance by the great and late Dennis Hopper. And last but not least in a sleazy bordello where an oddball performs a playback version of Roy Orbison’s In Dreams using an inspection lamp as a microphone.

Mysterious music

The great soundtrack includes Bobby Vinton’s classic Blue Velvet which inspired the title of the film as well as music written by Angelo Badalamenti in his first of many collaborations with David Lynch. Badalamenti also makes a cameo as the pianist, who accompanies Dorothee Vallens as she sings Blue Velvet to a motley crew at the smoky Slow Club.

Jeffrey Beaumont does some private investigation in Blue Velvet
Jeffrey Beaumont does some private investigation in Blue Velvet

Set in the small fictional town of Lumberwood, Blue Velvet sets the scene for what would become one of the most influential and groundbreaking TV series ever: Twin Peaks.

Original trailer for Blue Velvet (1986)