Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition Review

David Lynch sees the world differently than most people and watching his films might very well make you do the same. When Lynch decided to give television a try with Twin Peaks, he ended up changing the medium more than conforming to it. In the decade and a half since the series left the air, numerous other shows have taken obvious inspiration from Lynch’s strange little town and networks have put things on the schedule that surely would have never been approved or even thought of prior to Twin Peaks. Groundbreaking, then, may be an understatement in describing its impact, not only with regards to the programme’s themes and storylines, but also its production values and overall cinematic feel. For a show often synonymous with “weird” or “odd,” it’s remarkable how current television has now caught up enough to make Lynch’s baby look comparatively quaint, though still affecting.Twin Peaks debuted on the ABC television network in April 1990 with a 2-hour pilot (including commercials) directed by Lynch, who also co-wrote the script with the show’s other driving force Mark Frost. Seven hour-long episodes followed in the first season and established the central mystery. A fictional Washington hamlet is shaken by the murder of popular high school student Laura Palmer. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan) arrives in town to work with local law enforcement, including Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), as they attempt to solve the murder. During this process, Cooper and the viewers discover that almost nothing is as it seems and that the Double-R Diner serves both a damn fine cup of coffee and some of the best cherry and huckleberry pies you could ask for. Throughout our time in Twin Peaks, we meet myriad characters of varying interest who almost always have secrets buried just a little less deep than they think. If you’re looking for more specific plot points check out Wikipedia or, better yet, watch the show. It’s a journey well worth taking at least once and to spoil anything along the way would be almost criminal.

In an ideal world, one without the need for closure, first-time visitors to Twin Peaks might be content to stop watching after episode 16. Following the shocking cliffhanger to season 1, a buzz built throughout the summer of 1990 as viewers eagerly awaited an encore. What these 7 episodes plus the pilot did was nothing short of incredible. Even seeing them today, they play as invigorating and entirely engrossing. The accomplishments of season 1 are as impressive as any American dramatic television series had been up to that point and rival the vast majority of what’s come since. By September, the Lynch-directed 2-hour answer to season 1’s finale managed to avoid answering the immediate question while asking a whole lot more. It also kept a healthy interest in the show despite being stuck in the absolute worst timeslot of the week - Saturday at 10:00 PM. Then came an epic flame-out.After Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed in episodes 15 and 16 (8 and 9 of season 2), things went downhill at warp speed. The claim is often made that the mystery surrounding the killer’s identity was a sort of MacGuffin, or excuse to introduce the distinctly soapy residents of Twin Peaks. Aside from not personally buying into this reasoning, I think it’s obvious that the remainder of season 2, following the unveiling of the killer, misses the spectre of Laura Palmer tremendously. The realisation that Twin Peaks rapidly went from a high point in television history to nearly unbearable is an unfortunate truth that can be tough to stomach. All parties involved now seem to blame the network for pressuring the show into revealing the murderer. Lynch’s wounded comment that the mystery of Laura’s murderer was like a goose laying golden eggs seems apt, as does his questioning of why you’d kill such a productive gift.

But what eggs they were while it lasted.More than merely a peculiar whodunnit, Twin Peaks was, at its best, a multi-layered “beautiful thing” that combined deadpan comedy, intriguing mystery, and truly compelling character situations, all while resisting categorisation. One moment might have the hysterical pitch of soap opera while the next would unravel the dark side of perceived innocence. Winding from the absurd to the surreal and back again, the show was unafraid to challenge ideas of what’s normal in its depiction of the bizarre, displaced reality of the Twin Peaks world. The serene, yet violent image of a mammoth waterfall included in each episode’s opening credits provides the perfect metaphor for what the show had in store. Truly terrifying images and ideas (particularly found in the entries directed by Lynch) are unexpectedly mixed with not just humour, but also characters who are decent, honourable human beings who live amid staggeringly beautiful scenery. Despite the unseemly side of Twin Peaks, Cooper, and by extension the viewer, sees the pervasive amount of good struggling against these unspeakable evils in the town.This dynamic, featuring a character that can only be described as evil incarnate, began to crumble in the show’s second season and completely collapsed following the reveal of Laura Palmer’s killer. An attempt at rebuilding what was once great occurred near the end of the show’s run, but it was much too late and arguably wrongheaded to boot. Wonderfully weird was sacrificed for intentionally strange, an artificial substitution that viewers then and now easily picked up on. Storylines and characters were no longer compelling and the beloved quirks that endeared fans initially began to define the show instead of complementing it. The show and Agent Cooper both became bland, ordinary, and, most damning, uninteresting. The addition of Cooper’s former partner Windom Earle as a new foil failed to capture the show’s previous success, as well as seeming counterintuitive to the idea that the web of Laura Palmer was what made Twin Peaks whole. A decidedly provocative series finale, directed and apparently improvised by Lynch, conjured up some of those old feelings, but left me highly unsatisfied.


Lynch followed up the show with a feature film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (not included in this “definitive” set), but it’s really in his other films where you can see echoes of the show. Beginning with MacLachlan’s pitch-perfect channeling of a sort of fantasy version of Lynch, right down to his unique cadence of speech and squeaky clean demeanor, many of the show’s most successful elements are distinctly Lynch signatures. The sordid underbelly of small town America (here with impossibly beautiful women at every turn) is right out of Blue Velvet. The “woman in trouble” at the heart of Twin Peaks is a favorite Lynch theme, notably explored to great length in Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire. The constant struggle between good and evil, and the unwillingness to come to terms with those realities, is yet another of the director’s frequent motifs and perhaps the best key to understanding the show. Far from being a television version of Lynch’s greatest hits, though, Twin Peaks is more like a roadmap detailing where he had been and some of what was (and possibly is) to come. Lynch credits co-creator Mark Frost as being responsible for “at least 50%” of the show, but it’s clear that the most successful parts of Twin Peaks bare much more resemblance to the work of the one who made Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart than the writer of the Fantastic Four films.

The Definitive Gold Box Edition



The entire television run of Twin Peaks is included in Paramount’s Definitive Gold Box Edition. Housed in a striking gold box, the set’s ten discs are individually layered in plastic trays stacked atop one another. Both the broadcast version of the pilot and the international version are included on disc 1. The international version is slightly longer and tacks on a self-contained ending that provides an answer to Laura Palmer’s murder. It was made for markets outside the U.S. and intended to be shown theatrically. The remainder of the first season is divided between discs 2 and 3, with the second season occupying discs 4 through 9. Special features are included on disc 9 and the entirety of disc 10. A collection of 12 Twin Peaks postcards, out of a total of 61 randomly inserted among all sets, are included in an envelope and an advertisement insert for David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee is thrown in as well.
The R1 (also encoded for R4) NTSC discs’ video quality is quite impressive, presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. I have nothing to compare against, but it looks quite good to my eyes. An interview here indicates that the original camera negative was restored and used for the set. Colours skew very warm towards red and brown, presumably due to the use of red filters when the series was shot. Detail is nearly perfect, with noticeable, but not excessive grain. A speck of dirt here and there might be seen if you look very closely, but nothing to worry about. Black levels and contrast are both excellent. All episodes appeared to be transferred progressively except, strangely enough, chapter 4 of the pilot. Most of the extra features are interlaced, though, and show very minor combing.Audio is similarly exceptional. A new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix was made for this release and sounds great. Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score and various roars, honks, screams, etc. are all spread out among the channels nearly without flaw. Audio levels are very strong and consistent throughout the show. The original Dolby Digital 2.0 is also here and, from what I heard, presents no problems. Dubs and subtitles for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, as well as yellow English subtitles, are included too.

While this is called the Definitive Gold Box Edition, that’s not entirely accurate. Both Seasons 1 and 2 have previously been released on DVD in R1 and contain extra features not included here. Rights issues are the likely culprit for the commentaries, etc. missing from the Season 1 release by Artisan since Paramount now has rights to the series but not those earlier supplements. The few things included in Season 2 but not here are probably the result of a decision by DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika. An interview shedding light on these questions and others can be found here. My take is that his reasoning is flawed and requires fans seeking any and every supplement to purchase these episodes twice. Not including the Artisan Season 1 extras is understandable, but omitting what was on the Season 2 set released only months ago is a mistake. An additional obstacle to making this a true "definitive" edition, the prologue/epilogue to the show, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, was released years ago in R1 by New Line and is also absent from this set.So if not exactly definitive, how close is it? Pretty close actually. The supplements rounded up are highly informative and entertaining, sure to please casual and die hard fans alike. Though the pilot might not seem to qualify as an extra feature since it’s such an integral part of the show, the original Artisan Season 1 release didn’t include either the original or the international version. Both are here and the international version can be played with just the alternate ending not included on the original. Log lady introductions (Cooper: “Who’s the lady with the log?” Truman: “We call her the log lady.”), originally filmed for cable re-airings after the show’s initial run, are included for each episode and run usually under a minute. Aside from asking seemingly nonsensical questions like “Is creamed corn a symbol for something else?”, the intros frequently provide some foreshadowing for the particular episode attached. Video quality on these is significantly worse than the shows and audio is quite a bit lower. Each disc allows episodes to be played one at a time or back to back, with or without the log lady introductions.Episodes run approximately 47 minutes apiece, with the pilot and the second season opener (identified here as episode 8) being double that length. The final episode, number 29, runs about 50 minutes and is on disc 9. A few extra features are also included on that disc, labeled “Lost and Found” on the menu. These amount to a quartet of poor technical quality deleted scenes lasting 5:43 total and a series of production documents described as “an unearthed miscellany of call sheets and production breakdowns.”
Disc 10 packs in the bulk of the extras, beginning with “A Slice of Lynch” where the director sits down in an atmospheric set with a slice of cherry pie and actors Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, and frequent Lynch crew member John Wentworth. It’s 30 minutes and an essential supplement because it’s the only one where Lynch is on camera. Everyone here discusses their involvement and memories of the show, as well as its origins and opinions on the direction it ended up taking. Lynch also shares how he settled upon the name for Gordon Cole, his character on the show, and what he really thought about the decision to reveal Laura Palmer’s murderer. “Secrets from Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks” is next in the list of bonus features and certainly the most substantial. Running a healthy one hour and forty-six minutes, the feature-length documentary is divided into four parts, spending half an hour each on the pilot, season one, and season two, and fifteen minutes on the show’s music.Though Lynch does not appear, co-creator Mark Frost adds plenty of insight and many, many principals are interviewed. The cast members and directors who appear here far outnumber those not on camera (Michael Ontkean, Lara Flynn Boyle, Richard Beymer). A consensus does form, that the pilot was amazing, season 1 revolutionary and season 2 a downward spiral, but it’s completely engrossing all the same. The music segment, in particular, is fascinating and consists of lengthy interviews with Angelo Badalamenti and singer Julee Cruise. Badalamenti’s score is inseparable from the show and it’s nice to see some discussion of its creation and influence.Two segments from the 1990 season premiere of Saturday Night Live hosted by Kyle MacLachlan are included. His monologue, where MacLachlan “reveals” Laura Palmer’s killer runs 4:28 and a very funny Twin Peaks skit, also starring Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman and featuring a wordless cameo by Conan O’Brien, lasts 9:08. “Twin Peaks Festival” features a piece on the weekend celebration of everything Twin Peaks that takes place annually in Washington state and is just under 20 minutes. An interactive map detailing the actual locations used for many of the show’s landmarks and the addresses where they can be found is another neat supplement.The final batch of extras, entitled “The Black Lodge Archive,” is like a shoebox full of Twin Peaks odds and ends. There’s a music video for “Falling” (4:20) sung by Julee Cruise and dotted with video clips from the show. I got a kick out of the collection of Georgia Coffee commercials that aired only in Japan in 1993. They have MacLachlan and other cast members reprising their roles with a Japanese man who’s looking for a missing woman while always making time for some coffee in a can. Hilarious and bizarre, the four ads run 30 seconds each. There are also image galleries for photographs taken by Richard Beymer on the set, unit photography pictures, and the fronts and backs of every single Twin Peaks trading card from a 1991 set.

Next, a dozen on-air promos advertise the show’s premiere, remind viewers of a time slot change, try to sell the official t-shirt, wish everyone Season’s Greetings, and let the troops know they have the show’s support during the Gulf War. These total 5:51. The nearly 23 minutes worth of 1-900 hotline propaganda add up to a lot of wasted time, but might be useful for someone out there. For anyone lucky enough to not be familiar with the 1-900 phenomenon, this was a way for shows like Twin Peaks to milk $2.00 the first minute, $1.00 each additional minute from those gullible enough to call a phone number and listen to a recorded message summarising the previous show. There are eight of these audio-only messages and a promo spot enticing would-be callers. Six “Lucy bumpers” consisting of Kimmy Robertson’s character telling us the show will be right back or preying on my already increased desire for donuts last a total of 40 seconds.

Summary

Diane - It's 3 o'clock on a rainy November afternoon. I've just had the pleasure of going through the Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition DVD set. If you ever get a chance to pick one up for yourself, this set is definitely worth a look. Damn fine video quality and extra features that are out of sight. There has been the most God-awful wait for a complete series release that I'm okay with the set not entirely living up to its name. David Lynch is quoted on the outside of the box as saying, "I think this is a great definitive Twin Peaks Gold Set...," and I'm inclined to agree.

Film
9 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
8 out of 10
Overall

TDF SILVER

9

out of 10

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