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“I think this is a great definitive Twin Peaks Gold Set.” — FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole

“Diane, Regional Bureau Chief Cole is correct. The 10-disc Gold Box Edition is the ‘Peakness Cup’ of java-infused goodness.” — Special Agent Matt Anderson

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Comes with Bureau Chief Gordon Cole's personal approval
Comes with Bureau Chief Gordon Cole’s personal approval

No matter how you slice the cherry pie, Twin Peaks is landmark television.

It started out like a Category 5 hurricane, a pop culture phenomenon that midway through its first full season would wrap up the biggest question since “Who shot J.R.?” and, in succumbing to the insecure hand-wringing of ABC TV execs, schedule changes, and numerous preemptions due to the Gulf War, would quickly fizzle out. As they say, the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

Back in 1990, the question being asked at water coolers from coast to coast was “Who killed Laura Palmer?” She was the promiscuous, experimental, beautiful teenage wild child prom queen who, at the show’s start, was found dead, her naked body wrapped in plastic and washed ashore.

The pilot wasn’t the standard TV movie. Not by a long shot. It was David Lynch’s foray into TV and curiosity abounded. After all, the very name of the man behind movies like Eraserhead and Blue Velvet carried with it all sorts of notoriety and expectations for something “different.” That pilot was a very cinematic piece of work, front-loaded with incredible servings of drama, anguish, and grief. Seeing grown men cry wasn’t common on TV, but it was front and center within the first few minutes of Twin Peaks.

It was different. And, given the mainstream nature of network TV, it was also Lynch’s most accessible work, The Elephant Man notwithstanding.

The high drama gained an unusual sense of immediacy because it was brought on so suddenly, with very little in the way of set up or character introduction. Angelo Badalementi’s masterful theme music so organically reinforced the onscreen action, it became clear Twin Peaks was going to turn the TV set on its side and rearrange its tubes.

Then Special Agent Dale Cooper entered the scene and the show’s trademark quirkiness and offbeat humor became the sugar that helped make the shows dark, dark hue more palatable, even seductive.

Northwest Passage

There are 51,201 stories in the quiet, picturesque Pacific Northwest hamlet called Twin Peaks. This series covered quite a few of them but, as noted on more than one occasion, the show was ultimately the story of great evil in a beautiful world.

Now, for the first time on a U.S. DVD release, the entire Twin Peaks TV experience has been brought together in one box set. The original series pilot is presented both as it was broadcast in the States and as an “international version,” which is basically a closed-ended movie ABC required for broadcast in the event they didn’t pick up Twin Peaks as a series. The latter sort of wraps things up. Sorta. It’s a conclusion pilfered from Cooper’s red curtain dreams in the early going of the series and it doesn’t name Laura’s killer.

That mystery was the glue that held the show together and it was the drawing force for people to tune in week after week. The questions surrounding her murder increased as dreams, old home movies, and numerous rumors created an image of a dazzling lifeforce, but one with secrets, many deep, dark secrets.

Even so, that mystery wouldn’t matter much if it weren’t for the appeal of the show’s terrific cast. Lynch recruited a contingent from Dune, including Jack Nance and Everett McGill, along with the perfectly sublime casting of Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper, a sharp-as-a-tack investigator with a strict moral code and a penchant for Eastern metaphysics. Heck, Lynch himself took on the role of the near-deaf FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole.

And there are also the gorgeous ladies of Twin Peaks. In their breakout roles, Sherilyn Fenn, Madchen Amick, and Lara Flynn Boyle are each so sultry in their own way. Heather Graham makes a late-series appearance working at the RR Café years before she would don rollerskates in Boogie Nights. And Sheryl Lee became an instant TV legend as Laura Palmer and her dark-haired cousin, Madeleine Ferguson.

Fire Walk With Me

On a very superficial level, Twin Peaks is a send-up of all the TV soap operas that have gone before. There’s even a soap opera within this soap opera called Invitation to Love that, within mere moments, nails one stereotypical situation after another.

But Twin Peaks brings with it a style all its own, a panache for heightened, crimson-hued drama, and a flair for the cliffhanger. At the end of Season One, Cooper finds himself at the wrong end of a gun. Shots ring out and.. fade to black.

When Season Two starts, poor Coop is found lying on the floor of his room at the Great Northern Hotel. He speaks into his ever-present dictation device, his long-distance way of communicating with Diane, his unseen assistant. He talks about his yearnings and the irony of having lifted up his bullet proof vest in order to reach a wood tick.

“It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind,” he tells Diane.

When Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) finally comes to his aid, Coop is given a recap of all the madness he’s missed. A couple people have been shot or strangled, the local mill burned down, a couple suffered from smoke inhalation, another couple went missing, and another person was in a sleeping pill-induced coma.

“How long have I been out?” he asks.

The answer: a couple hours. “It’s 7:45 in the morning. We haven’t had this much action in one night since the Elk’s Club fire of ‘59,” replies one of the locals.

Out With a Bang at the Bang Bang Bar

Sure, the characters are quirky and some are flat out bizarre. But pretty much all of them have a back story that explains why they are so frickin’ weird. Even the Log Lady. Whether it’s the pain of love or the pain of loss, there’s something that drives each character.

All of the events and madness lead up to Episode 14, which is a masterful piece of TV-based cinematic storytelling; it’s one of several episodes directed by Lynch and the chill goes right to the bone. To say more would be wrong. And so would not watching the pilot and 13 episodes that lead up to the pivotal events Lynch pulls off with an amazing degree of grace, for the complete lack of a better term.

With Laura’s killer identified but still on the loose, the series maintains its momentum for a couple more episodes before drifting away from the light.

The charm and magic of the whole series stemmed from its grounding in reality. But, with the tension off following the Palmer resolution and with Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost preoccupied with other new projects, the show trips up on several weak storylines that involve a misplaced metrosexual, a central character recreating the Civil War, another frequent character finding herself with superwoman strength after coming out of that sleeping pill-induced coma, and a pine weasel.

Not pleased with the show’s downward spiral, Lynch and Frost put the show back on the front burner in time to finish off the series with a renewed edge and a more intriguing storyline involving Cooper and a longtime nemesis. Coop and Cole also find love, adding a truly sweet and totally different spin to the show’s otherwise jaded view of romance. The series never returns to the same level of intensity it had in the first 16 episodes, but it does end on the right, extremely Lynchian, note.

Looking back on it all via this single, comprehensive collection, it’s a great opportunity to take the magnificent with the mediocre.

There are indelible images scattered throughout Twin Peaks. Some are major, such as the discovery of Laura’s body in the pilot and Julee Cruise’s ethereal singing at a roadhouse intercut with the revelation of “Bob” in Episode 14.

Others are simpler and goofier, but still as emblematic of Twin Peaks as any other. Like Cooper and Cole flirting with the waitresses at the RR Café in Episode 25. But the slickest, coolest, and silliest of them all is a sweetly innocent yet sexy little flashback scene in which a silhouetted local girl named Louise Dombrowski (Emily Fincher) does a flashlight dance for a very young Ben Horne and his brother in Episode 15. Her moves, Badalementi’s hot-to-trot music, and Caleb Deschanel’s giddy direction make for pure bliss.

DVD Extras

This is the “Definitive Gold Box Edition” and it does indeed live up to the lofty moniker. While this might be considered something of a double dip, since Season 2 was released separately earlier this year, this set was announced concurrent with that set’s release. This Gold Box also brings back Season 1 in fully-restored glory along with the Log Lady intros and, of course, the original pilot. Basically, all other sets can be regarded as obsolete, or relegated to the absolutely obsessive-compulsive completist.

In terms of Twin Peaks stories, all that’s missing is the theatrical release, Fire Walk with Me. But that was a separate release through New Line Cinema. It was an R-rated endeavor that thoroughly earned its rating and it’s readily available as a separate DVD.

The Gold Box includes an envelope with 12 “Greetings from Twin Peaks” postcards. Each DVD set has 12 out of a possible 61. Collect them all... somehow!

Disc One features the original pilot, both the U.S. and international versions. There’s also an option to separately watch the international version’s alternate ending.

Discs Two through Nine present all 29 episodes of the series. Disc Nine also includes Lost and Found, a section with four deleted scenes and an assembly of production documents. The deleted scenes are prefaced with a note that in the pre-DVD days extraneous footage was routinely destroyed and the four scenes presented, which are worth a peek, are all that survived.

The production documents are referred to as “an unearthed miscellany of call sheets and production breakdowns” and they’re of most value to the extremely hard core fan.

The bulk of the supplemental materials are on Disc Ten. The most amusing is A Slice of Lynch, which is a brand new, widescreen 30-minute reunion of David Lynch, Madchen Amick, Kyle MacLachlan, and post-production supervisor John Wentworth. Appropriately enough, their conversation is held at the counter of a dimly lit café, over coffee and cherry pie. It’s a funny and informative trip down memory lane. Lynch notes with “huge sadness” that Laura Palmer’s murder was never supposed to be solved, it was the need to know that drew in viewers and it was the sacred mystery around which all the others revolved. Nonetheless, studio pressure mandated the resolution.

Also very well done is Secrets from Another Place, a new, 105-minute documentary that follows the show from inception to cancellation. The interviews here are refreshingly and brutally honest as people yip about their dissatisfaction with how the stories went south following the solving of Laura’s murder.

Another great item is an interactive map, which shows the fictional Twin Peaks town map and allows viewers to find out where nine key sites can actually be found in the North Bend / Snoqualmie area.

A related piece is Return to Twin Peaks: The Twin Peaks Festival. This feature focuses on the 2006 fan festival held in North Bend, Washington, and includes interviews with fans from around the country. It’s kinda cool to watch, but it also feels like a commercial for the festival.

The other features create an impressive assembly of archival materials.

There’s Kyle MacLachlan’s lame monologue on Saturday Night Live and the subsequent, and quite funny, SNL Twin Peaks spoof.

The Julee Cruise Falling music video is also neat to see.

The Black Lodge Archive holds a trove of promotional materials, including Lucy’s “bumpers” (the annoying little messages that say “we’ll be right back” before commercial breaks). There’s also a collection of Georgia coffee commercials featuring Twin Peaks characters, courtesy of Coca-Cola Japan. While on the topic of promos, fans were encouraged to call a 1-900 phone number which offered quirky messages from the “sheriff’s hotline.” Those messages are here to enjoy all over again.

There’s also a collection of TV commercials for the show and the original ABC Sunday Night at the Movies introduction to the pilot episode.

Finally, there are three image galleries. One features photos taken by Richard Beymer (who played Benjamin Horne, Audrey’s father), another is a collection of promotional and on-set photos, and there’s also a gallery of the show’s collectible trading cards from the early ’90s.

By the way, as another nice touch, each disc has a different theme setting for the menus based on various locations used throughout the series.

Picture and Sound

In putting this set together, the series went through a thorough restoration process that makes it look absolutely brand new in glorious 4:3. As an extra perk, this set offers the original 2.0 audio and a nice, new 5.1 Dolby Digital track.

Unfortunately, that restoration process didn’t apply to the Log Lady intros. There is an obvious difference in the quality. The Log Lady audio is 2.0 only and the video is fuzzy. The audio’s no big deal, since it is simply footage of the Log Lady giving an enigmatic opening monologue, but the picture could have used a makeover.

Audio is also available in Spanish mono and Brazilian Portuguese mono. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

How to Use This DVD

Diane, please start from the beginning, with the U.S. pilot. There’s no need for you to watch the international version, you’ll see most of that material as the story unfolds through the series. Be sure to watch each episode with the Log Lady’s introduction; her comments oftentimes resonate with deeper meanings.

I’d also recommend checking out A Slice of Lynch and Secrets from Another Place. They have a lot of mainstream appeal while the rest of the extras can be left to those who can never get enough coffee and cherry pie.

You’ve got your work cut out for you, Diane. But I’m sure you’ll follow through with your typical grace and aplomb.

  • David Jones: Nice review. The log lady intros were for cable television, and probably not shot on film, or if they were, the film was tossed. The restoration options would have been limited.
    November 4, 2007 reply