Let’s rock! David Lynch’s underrated masterpiece that crucially redefines Laura Palmer, comes to the Criterion collection

Back in 1992, David Lynch returned to the much loved Twin Peaks-verse with a film intended to not only serve as prequel to the show, but to inform and flip much of the preconceptions about it. The expectations were much akin to the recent return on Showtime. People expecting an oddball mystery a side of cherry pie were thrown for a loop. Instead they were served up a intense, jarring, and at times brutal glimpse into the terrors that enveloped both Twin Peaks and Laura Palmer herself. Time has deepened appreciation for Lynch’s audacious effort, and with the recent return of the show to our screens, it’s entry to the Criterion Collection is both as timely as it is deserved.


In the town of Twin Peaks, everyone has their secrets — but especially Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). In this prequel to his groundbreaking 1990s television series, David Lynch resurrects the teenager found wrapped in plastic at the beginning of the show, following her through the last week of her life and teasing out the enigmas that surround her murder. Homecoming queen by day and drug-addicted thrill seeker by night, Laura leads a double life that pulls her deeper and deeper into horror as she pieces together the identity of the assailant who has been terrorizing her for years. Nightmarish in its vision of an innocent torn apart by unfathomable forces, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is nevertheless one of Lynch’s most humane films, aching with compassion for its tortured heroine — a character as enthralling in life as she was in death.

The beginnings of the film introduce Teresa Banks, A murdered prostitute, wrapped in plastic, with a piece of paper under her fingernail bearing the letter “T”. We meet new FBI agent Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland), working alongside Gordon Cole (David Lynch) to investigate this incident. information on the case comes from missing agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie), and Lil, who communicates clues on the case through interpretive dance. It’s a mystifying beginning, even for those familiar with where Lynch eventually leads the viewer. New agents, new cases, but very much tied to the series as we know it. A precursor as events begin…again.

When it was released in ’92, it certainly defied the expectations of those seeking resolution as to the fate of Agent Cooper & co. Granted intent and reception was muddled by the reluctance of Kyle MacLachan to play any major part in the production, as well as the replacement of Lara Flynn Boyle by Moira Kelly as Donna. But Lynch wasn’t seeking to answer questions but instead follow an artistic path that had become very clear in his own mind while making Twin Peaks, a path necessary to put Laura Palmer at peace. It’s an unusual word to use when referring to Fire Walk with Me, as it is a most disconcerting endeavor. Not just a shift chronologically, but in tone too. Verdant greenery replaced by more garish tones and neon, set to unsettling jazz tones again composed by Angelo Badalamenti. Events and imagery more horror than curio, shaking off the restrictions of network TV. Not just showing the dirty underbelly of Twin Peaks, as much as wallowing in it. A place where Laura Palmer too has thrown herself.

Lynch himself said in the book Lynch on Lynch, “I was in love with the character of Laura Palmer and her contradictions: radiant on the surface but dying inside”, “I wanted to see her live, move, and talk”. His unfinished business with her is what truly defines Fire Walk with Me. In the original series she was iconic, the darkness that enveloped her hinted at, beneath what is revealed as a facade of wholesomeness. In truth she was a tormented soul, indulging in sex and drugs, haunted by the abuse from her father Leland driven by the demonic entity BOB….or was he? Indulging these darker pursuits offer some escape from her pain, but also perhaps a way to dispel BOB’s interest. The entity is drawn to her purity and in embracing her darker impulses she hopes to rid herself of BOB. A broken psyche, a cycle of abuse and self-abuse. Two strands woven together, the mystical with the very real raw one of a girl living with the pain of the torment caused by her own father.

Fire Walk with Me charts the end days of that horrifying experience. Driving it home with discordant, nightmarish sequences that only Lynch can deliver. But it crucially reshapes her demise. A broken girl, holding herself together as best she can, stirring herself to one final act of defiance. Sheryl Lee’s performance is crucial to the film, showing an impressive mastery of the shifts in emotion and tone, turning that lifeless body, so iconic of the original series, into something transcendent.

Fire Walk With Me, despite it’s darker tone and themes, give Laura her escape. It also adds to the show’s mythos. In doing so it becomes a crucial part of the overarching story, especially the one continued in The Return. Sowing seeds for various plot threads including Laura Palmer’s diary, the ongoing ‘Blue Rose’ investigations of the FBI, the intent and cyclic nature of the entity known as BOB, and notably the Black Lodge and it’s various denizens. But at it’s core, it is about one girl’s soul, fighting to survive. Lynch’s ambition here is impressive, as is the skill he demonstrates, marking it as one of his finer, if underrated, efforts. Time and context have rightly changed perception of Fire Walk with Me, a film that enriches what came before and what came after, in an already enthralling tale.

The Package

As you’d expect from Criterion, the image quality is impressive. A natural restoration, preserving and enhancing grain, detail and color. It’s a sharp, vibrant image that gives the film a whole new lease of life in comparison to older DVD releases. The release comes in a solid card case and outer slipcase, rather than a plastic one. The fold out sleeve inside showcases artwork and images from the film. Also included within is a nicely produced booklet, containing additional images, details on the film’s restoration and transfer, and a portion of an interview with the director from the 2005 book Lynch on Lynch by Chris Rodley. Special features include:

  • The Missing Pieces, ninety minutes of deleted and alternate takes from the film, assembled by Lynch: The good stuff. Over 90 minutes of deleted, expanded, and alternate scenes from the film that was first released back in 2014. Essential viewing for any Twin Peaks completest
  • New interview with actor Sheryl Lee: New feature recorded by Criterion in 2017. The actress opens up about her relationship with Lynch, as well as her feelings about Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me. It’s a pretty candid interview, tidbits about specific scenes, relationships with other cast members, the music and more are shared. She also delves into the lore of the show. Very much worth your time
  • Interviews from 2014 by Lynch with actors Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and Grace Zabriskie: Pre-The Return, but still a great extra to include. A round table chat, hosted by Lynch, that reunites the whole Palmer family on what resembles a set from the show. Anecdotes and insights aplenty, and some great moments from Lynch
  • Interview with Angelo Badalamenti: Another new feature produced by Criterion this year. The composer for the show/movie shares details on how he conceived of and executed the music for the show. This includes how he collaborated with Lynch and their inspirations for various sounds and pieces. Music is a crucial aspect of the show and this feature highlights it’s contributions

The Bottom Line

Time Peaks Fire Walk with Me serves as an enthralling example of David Lynch’s talents, as well as a crucial piece of Twin Peaks lore. At it’s core, an unnerving tale of how abuse can pervert an innocent, while redefining the central figure that is Laura Palmer as a survivor rather then victim. A timely and impressive release from Criterion.

Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me is available via Criterion from October 16th

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