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Mysteries, Part 1

Details of a vault search for lost treasure related to David Lynch's masterpiece. Unpublished images follow, of scenes filmed but not included in Blue Velvet.

On October 21, DVD Savant and fellow cinemaphile Gregor Meyer kept an appointment at a small company that specializes in restoring movies called Triage. We were on a mission to see if 38 newly re-inventoried cartons of film elements contained anything remarkable on Blue Velvet, anything desirable for film fans.

Gregor Meyer with workprint box, Blue Velvet.

One of the nice things about being a veteran (by years, at least) film editor is that when you tell lab people or archivists you want to dig through the priceless cans and boxes of a film classic, they trust you to take proper care of things. This has made Savant happily helpful to friends like film writer Darren Gross, who needed a Guild editor to assuage Warner staff when he investigated some film elements there a few months back. Triage is a small but incredibly cool lab-cum miracle shop that works for studios and independents and even the Academy, for which it was screening a final restoration of How Green Was My Valley on the day we visited.

Blue Velvet isn't a film Savant knows well. Gregor does know it, so his help was invaluable. He brought along a shooting script with all the 'missing' scenes, as well as a photocopy of a definitive Video Watchdog article by Bret Wood that explains and interprets them. The likelihood of our finding anything special was not high, but there is an undeniable thrill just being in the presence of rare treasure - as when we unpacked the boxes containing twelve reels of edited 35mm color workprint, marked and boxed like any other pre-digital feature film.

38 cartons, 400 boxes - the negative for a cult classic film.

Almost all of the heavy boxes were uncut negative, the entire B-negative inventory for a not-too- expensive feature. If the negative for the 'extra' scenes was included within these boxes, it would be impossible to find without a workprint, from which to pull reference neg key numbers ... none of which we were even thinking of doing, as ours was a 'check and see' mission. But there were the twelve reels of workprint, which we rolled through carefully and diligently, checking to see if any of the cut material was there. It was good to have along someone so familiar with every Velvet image; like other Lynch films, many shots are dimly lit and entire reels go by where Savant wouldn't have a clue where in the film we were.

A film leader, like any other.

Winding through the film, we made a number of minor observations, even while coming to the expected conclusion that the workprint contained only the final, standard domestic version of Blue Velvet. Savant has seen big Hollywood films in editorial and was pleasantly amused to see that the workprint for Velvet was more like the lower-budget movies I've cut. Many scenes were full of false splices indicating that Duwayne Dunham worked like any other mortal editor, by cutting and recutting. His and Lynch's brilliant dissolves, especially in the dream sequences, were indicated with simple grease pencil lines. Oh for the days of cutting on a Kem again! Only one optical was cut in, besides the ending credits ... a shot of a closeup of Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) dissolving into a screenful of flames.

Also notable was a box of music cues that listed Chris Isaak among the artists whose songs were included in the soundtrack - the tune 'Gone Ridin,' heard when Kyle MacLachlan is taken for a terror-ride by Dennis Hopper and co. Isaak's popularity ballooned with his music for Lynch's Wild at Heart, so it was interesting when Gregor pointed this out.

Savant thought it would be interesting to take DVD Resource Pagers along on a routine vault run, even though nothing of great import was discovered. This is what it's like, looking for movie treasure, about 99% of the time. Usually you find that probably ten seekers have been there before you ( Savant felt like leaving an 'Arne Saknussem' note for the next vault ghoul) but when it's over you learn more. In this case the lessons are pretty simple: the workprint of a masterpiece looks little different than that for an ordinary movie - there weren't strange pieces of blue velvet in the boxes or anything, folks. If the director did not eliminate the extraneous pieces of workprint, he has them safely in his possession (wisely, perhaps). Lynch has an artist's attitude toward his film work and might understandably be concerned about our violation of the elements. We found the boxes in perfect inventoried order (that was a Hollywood surprise!) and left everything just as we found it. Our thanks to Paul Rutan and Tony Munroe and their friendly staff at Triage for letting us use their cutting room.

But that's not all ... As a consolation prize, move on to the second page of this Savant entry to see a short gallery of missing, never-published images from the filmed but disincluded scenes of Blue Velvet.

Revised Note, 6/16/2000: The Blue Velvet DVD has been released now ... and Savant has even Reviewed it.

Second Revised Note, 11/04/2011: Savant confederate and fellow film detective Darren Gross has found the lost outtake scenes for Blue Velvet: read all about it at The Guardian.

Director Lynch with Kyle MacLachlan on the hardware store set.

See a collection of cut Blue Velvet scenes, courtesy Gregor Meyer, on the Blue Velvet visuals page.

New! (4/17/2000) See Savant's Blue Velvet DVD Review.

Text © Copyright 1999, 2000 Glenn Erickson

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