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win Peaks Retrospective

Twin Peaks Retrospective

A small and tranquil town (Population 51,201) snuggled into the hollow Washington state valley is torn apart after a mysterious death uncovers a series of sinister secrets and lies.

Surprising and confusing audiences in 1990, the relatively low-key introduction of the now cult television show Twin Peaks, shocked audiences used to straight-forward prime time viewing. Pre-internet and social media as we know it, interpretation created opinion. People were instantly addicted, talk around the water coolers of the world set in motion rumours of what exactly was going on. It was also the most complained about show of the time but nobody could stop watching. From the outset, negative and hostile reactions came from church related family groups intent on its demise. No end of controversy surrounded the show, adolescence taken in the opening stanza stirred up emotions.

The discovery by a local old timer Pete (Jack Nance) on his morning walk of a body laying on the misty water’s edge during the opening scenes, then his call to police, ‘She’s dead, wrapped in plastic’, set the scene for the complete bizarre, very dark story to follow. 30 episodes over two seasons dismissed conventional plots for dreams, hallucinations and premonitions into a labyrinth of odd story arcs and revelations constantly embarking on the ludicrous. The puzzling investigation asked the question and timeless catchphrase, Who killed Laura Palmer? Her prom queen photo also became symbolic. Beautiful and happy from a supposedly good wholesome family, Laura’s death sets off a chain of events revealing the girl next door led a sordid double life.

A second girl is discovered, badly injured walking along railroad tracks. In a semi-coma she is not much help. However Laura has a tiny typed letter R found under her fingernail discovered that may lead to her last known whereabouts. Special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is sent to check out what’s happened, interacting with the help of local authorities and a web of odd town folk, that one clue leads to another and so on, many more questions than answers are revealed. The entire enigmatic cast were all dedicated, sincere and in rare form to their oddball traits.

Created by Mark Frost and legendary Director David Lynch, each episode, other than rare exceptions represented one day chronologically. Lynch was known for peculiar movies, Erasurehead and The Elephant Man, but his unique take on network television took viewers into a whole new stratosphere.

An array of weird characters such as the one armed man and the giant were only the beginning. There was a red room where a little man from another place would be talking backwards alongside the spirit of Laura Palmer, then often out of nowhere, a woman known as the log lady appeared with cryptic musings to proceedings. Among other random observations, owls were significant, as was damn good cups of coffee.

For a tiny town, Twin Peaks certainly has a complex amount of people involved. Laura had a doppelganger, her cousin Maddy that turns up to assist the grieving family only to turn father Leyland Palmer’s hair grey overnight in fright. Nothing is normal in this show and it wasn’t a series where you can start watching half way through. A Golden Globe winner, the show was a phenomenon, book tie-ins including Laura’s Secret Diary was a best-seller. The visitor’s guide to Twin Peaks was another, it inspired the actual filming location to be swamped by tourists unsettling the normally quiet lumber mill town. The soundtrack was hot, hitting the top of the charts with haunting theme song ‘Falling’ by Julee Cruise an unlikely #1 radio hit.

Other networks scrambled to make similar shows, Northern Exposure was the only one which came close in popularity, not similarities. An upcoming show called Wayward Pines is much closer. The original pilot episode of Twin Peaks was cinema-released around Europe and Australia. I saw it myself not knowing a thing about the plot – was mesmerised and became hooked. The theatrical pilot included an alternative ending and was longer in running time than what was broadcast. Following release on VHS it became one of the most stolen tapes in video shops that year.

Reluctantly agreeing, the creative pair of Lynch and Frost were forced to reveal the killer by studio executives at the end of Season One, which indirectly killed off the global viewing interest levels. Season Two went in different directions and introduced new characters with many of the familiar ones receiving less screen time. Current film stars Billy Zane and Heather Graham were now part of the cast. Petering out in 1991, an unfortunate rush to finalise certain sub-plots soured the creativity.

A year later, a prequel feature was released. First screened at the prestigious Cannes film festival, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, was jeered and booed to oblivion. Featuring David Bowie, Keifer Sutherland and Chris Isaac alongside regular cast members, it explored the downward spiral of sexual depravity and drug abuse during the week leading up to Laura’s demise. On its own, it didn’t make a great film but in the context to the series, Fire Walk With Me is brilliant. Actually the whole series is special to me to this day, I intently watched my old taped videos over and over much to the total bewilderment of my parents who didn’t understand my satisfaction of Miami Vice either.

The Blu-ray release with all new artwork cover, TWIN PEAKS: THE ENTIRE MYSTERY, is ten discs of leaving no stone unturned into this incredible milestone of television suspense. Everything from hours of deleted scenes, bloopers, out-takes, image galleries, new and archived interviews are part of the special features. Instructions on learning to speak backwards in the red room and  a documentary called ‘Lucy’s Bumpers’ will excite die-hard fans. Picture and sound quality has been remastered overseen by David Lynch himself from original negatives, introductions to each episode by The Log Lady is a fun addition. Both international and US versions of the pilot are available, as is the full unedited, Fire Walk With Me, to ponder. For a limited time only exclusive to JB HiFi. RRP $149.00.

Shane A. Bassett

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