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After a particularly troubling set of nightmare images, Jeffrey wakes up in his old bedroom. Looking for comfort, or verification of some unseen fact, he reaches up along the wall and Lynch’s camera settles in on a weird object hanging there. Some suggest it’s a birdcage made by our hero in his youth, a reminder of his parents continuing love of their son and his presence in their house. Others have argued it’s a shrunken head, or a crude representation of a vagina dentata (or toothed vagina). In either case, it’s a striking visual that sticks with us long after the scene is over.
There is perhaps no better moment is all of Blue Velvet. Agreeing to attend a high school party with what is rapidly becoming his girlfriend, Jeffrey asks Sandy to dance as Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting “Mysteries of Love” (sung by Lynch collaborator Julee Cruise) plays in the background. The ethereal, operatic tune, with its grandeur and sonic spectacle, is the perfect fuel for the growing infatuation between the couple. It’s a beautiful sequence, one that sets up the serious and disturbing situations to come, including angry high school jocks and a naked and beaten Dorothy crying out for help.
Dean Stockwell was a former Hollywood player whose career cache was then limited to low budget B-movies - when they were offered. But thanks to an industrial light fixture, a long forgotten Roy Orbison tune, and a brilliant bit of mimicry, he transformed his short scene as brothel owner Ben into one of the most memorable musical moments in all of cinema. As Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth looks on in a combination of nostalgia and nastiness, Stockwell sells the sentiment, leaving us ill prepared for the rest of Jeffrey’s jaundiced joyride.
Another song reference, another amazing scene. We know that Jeffrey is about to be beaten, called out for his concern over Dorothy and his presence in a place where no one believes he should be. Before Frank “finishes’ him off, he warns our hero about receiving a love letter (read: a bullet from a gun). The reference is original and revealing, and takes on an even greater import when Lynch places the song “Love Letter” by Ketty Lester on the soundtrack. It reconfirms Frank’s obsessions and Jeffrey’s false frame of reference.
Toward the end, when it looks like the police will crack the case against Frank Booth and capture the baddie in his factory row hideout, Jeffrey stumbles into Dorothy’s apartment and discovers a sickening scene. The Man in the Yellow Suit and some unknown figure are arranged, as if on purpose, their bloody wounds seeping as they stand/sit almost motionless. For a moment, our lead is convinced they are dead. Then a police radio bulletin comes across on a nearby walkie talkie and Mr. Yellow reacts violently. He’s still alive, even with part of his brain exposed. Death shouldn’t be so surreal, but that’s David Lynch and his amazing movie for you.