• Wild At Heart

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: April 8th, 2014.
    Director: David Lynch
    Cast: Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Diane Ladd
    Year: 1990
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Directed by David Lynch and loosely based on the novel of the same name by Barry Gifford, 1990’s Wild At Heart took home the Palme d'Or when it played at Cannes and while it didn’t exactly set the box office on fire during its domestic run, it’s rightly gained and maintained a loyal following over the years. Lynch’s films aren’t for everyone, of course, but this one really divided critics, with Roger Ebert famously writing “even its best scenes have the flavor of a kid in the school yard, trying to show you pictures you don't feel like looking at.”

    When the movie begins, a man named Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) is at a party where he’s attacked by a knife wielding assassin. This man is under the employ of Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd), the mother of Lula Pace Fortune (Laura Dern), the girl that Sailor is deeply and madly in love with. Ripley not only takes on his opponent but when the opportunity presents itself he smashes the guys face into a bloody mess against the floor. With this scene, Lynch sets the stage for the barrage of visceral thrills and pulp story trappings to come, not to mention the over the top performances and wild characters that we’ll meet along the way.

    Sailor goes to prison but gets out on parole. He and Lula, who has been waiting faithfully for him, ignore the terms of his release and hop in his car to head to California. Marietta, however, has got a serious hate for Sailor after he declined her proposition and so she brings on a private eye named Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton), her boy toy, to tail the pair. The young lovers begin their journey and things get off to a good start until they come across the injured victim of a car accident (Sherilyn Fenn). When Johnnie doesn’t bring them in fast enough for her liking, she contacts an old flame, a mobster named Marcello Santos (J.E. Freeman), and from there our due wind up being chased by everyone from a killer named Mr. Reindeer (W. Morgan Sheppard) to a psychopath with bad teeth dubbed Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) and his unibrowed girlfriend, Perdita (Isabella Rossellini).

    Pulling from movies as varied as The Wizard Of Oz and Yojimbo (at one point a dog runs out of a room with a man’s severed hand – a direct homage to Kurosawa’s tale of twisted loyalties) with elements of whatever Elvis movie you’d care to name included in heaping doses. It makes for an eclectic and wild ride, a surrealist road movie that at times quite literally burns with a violent and uncontrollable passion. The film features a few moments of strong gore and plenty of energetic sex – after all, Sailor is a man of action and he turns Lula on in ways that most women could only hope for – but at the heart of all of the sex, violence and bizarrely twisted characters is a remarkably pure love story. Does this make Wild At Heart a romance? Absolutely, albeit a very unorthodox one. Lynch’s visuals, his rampant use of bold, bright colors and vivid splashes of red, collide with his strange sense of humor and penchant for warped Americana in fascinating ways.

    Performance wise, Lynch coaxes fantastic work out of his cast. Cage’s crazed, scenery chewing style and real life Elvis obsessions make him the perfect man to slip on the snakeskin coat and win Lula’s heart. “Did I ever tell ya that this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom?” he asks his “dangerously cute peanut” with such conviction and suave style that you can’t help but love him in this role. He and Dern share great chemistry, he a ham and she an unbridled firecracker, as liable to pounce on him in bed as to listen to every detail of every goofy story he’s wont to tell her. She hangs off of him and adores him, he protects her and cares for her. It’s cute, for lack of a better term, and the two leads deliver ridiculously strong work.

    The supporting cast are every bit their equal. Dafoe is about as creepy as they come playing Peru, you can almost smell his rotten teeth through the screen and the way in which he deals with both Perdita and Lula has such obvious misogyny to it that he makes for an appropriately despicable man. Equally impressive, if not more so, is Diane Ladd, Dern’s actual mother. She’s put through the ringer here and goes over the top more than once but in the context of Lynch’s bizarre world it works quite well. Throw in a gored Sherilyn Fenn in one of the movie’s most unsettling scenes, an almost unrecognizable Rossellini and a consistently bizarre cameo from Crispin Glover as Lula’s sandwich obsessed cousin and it’s easy to see why those with bit parts stand out just as vividly as the leads.


    Wild At Heart is presented on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed in its proper 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film was transferred to high definition by MGM in 2004 (supervised by Lynch himself) and it would seem that this same master was used for this Blu-ray release, and there’s good and bad to go along with that. The lighter outdoor scenes look great. Colors are nice and bright and bold in the way that you’d want them to be in a David Lynch movie. The darker scenes? Not so much. There’s some crush in a few spots and they look a bit washed out for whatever reason (see the image with Sherilyn Fenn below). The transfer, however, is quite clean. There isn’t a whole lot of print damage to discuss outside of some small specks here and there, and the film grain has been left intact. When compared to the domestic DVD release from years back the increase in detail, texture and picture depth is quite obvious. Generally speaking the movie looks good. It won’t blow you away the way that a newer scan might and some contrast fluctuations stand out from time to time but overall the movie looks good, just not amazing.

    Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo Master Audio and Spanish DTS-HD Mono Audio with optional subtitles provided in English only. The lossless tracks are of good quality here. The 5.1 mix has more depth and directional effects, obviously, but regardless of which option you go for the dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The score, always an important part of any picture but particularly a Lynch picture, sounds very good here as well with noticeably better depth and clarity than the previous DVD offered.

    Most of the supplements on this release are carried over from MGM’s special edition DVD release, starting with Love, Death, Elvis & Oz: The Making of Wild at Heart, a thirty minute featurette that contains retrospective interview clips with Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Barry Gifford, Frederick Elmes and David Lynch, all of whom shares some thoughts on the film and some stories from the set. There’s some great behind the scenes material in here as well. Also worth checking out is the Original 1990 Making-of EPK, which is a seven minute long promotional piece made to help get the word out about the movie around the time of its original release. The disc also includes the Dell’s Lunch Counter section which is a collection of extended interviews with Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, David Lynch, Willem Dafoe, Diane Ladd and Sheryl Lee. These are split up into different segments: the three minute Lula's Momma, the two minute Sailor And Lula Get Born, the two and a half minute Wild At Heart And Weird On Top, the two minute The Red Pipe, the two minute Pigeons, the two minute The Good Witch, the four minute Cannes, the one and a half minute Not Your Head-Head, and last but not least the two minute piece on The Snakeskin Jacket.

    Specific Spontaneity: Focus on David Lynch is a seven minute featurette that discusses the director’s working style by way of interviews with those he’s worked with over the years, while David Lynch On The DVD is, as it sounds, a segment in which the director talks about his involvement in the 2004 DVD release that runs just over two minutes. Rounding out the extras are a quartet of TV Spots, the film’s original Theatrical Trailer, a Still Gallery and an Isolated Music & Effects Track in DTS-HD. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    Inside the keepcase is an insert booklet of liner notes, once again featuring some insight from Julie Kirgo. Here she writes about the film’s merits both as a road movie and as a romance picture and she offers up some history of the source material that inspired the picture and some analysis of how it all turned out.

    The Final Word:

    Wild At Heart is a film the understandably did and will continue to divide viewers, but one that for Lynch fans, remains thrilling, amusing and occasionally quite touching in its own strange way. The transfer on this Blu-ray release would seem to be comparable to those available in other territories, though the inclusion of all of the extras from MGM’s special edition DVD in addition to the isolated score and liner notes make this the one to go for.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!