Director David Lynch and "Hill Street Blues" co-creator Mark Frost joined forces to take the television world by storm with "Twin Peaks," which mixed the small-town melodrama of PEYTON PLACE with the sinister quirkiness of BLUE VELVET, and had viewers across America wondering who killed
Laura Palmer? Overseas audiences had to settle for this self-contained two-hour pilot, complete with additional footage which solved the mystery in a manner unlike the US series. Laced with bizarre plot twists, eccentric characters, and sly humor, the pilot earned two Emmys (with a total of 14
nominations) and the Peabody Award.
In the sleepy lumber town of Twin Peaks, a body washes up on the shore one morning, wrapped in plastic. Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) determines that the victim is high school sweetheart Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Laura's father, Leland (Ray Wise), then views the body, as news of the
murder stuns the town. In various subplots, married Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) and teenager Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) are having an affair; debutante Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) shows off her rebellious side; and lumber mill owner Jocelyn Packard (Joan Chen) shuts down the plant for the
day. Laura's parents are also questioned, while the police take her diary in as evidence.
That morning, another high school girl, Ronnette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine), is found wandering a bridge, in a state of shock. Enter FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), who's thoroughly taken with the local trees, the homemade pies, and the current mystery. Checking the body, Cooper finds a
tiny letter "R" buried under one of Laura's fingernails, and then discovers the abandoned train car where the murder took place. More dark secrets in Laura's past are exposed, in addition to her appearance in Flesh World magazine.
A town meeting is held, where Cooper announces that Laura was not the first victim. As various friends and townsfolk are suspected, Laura's mother, Sarah (Grace Zabriskie), has a vision of a strange man crouching behind her daughter's bed. Cooper is awakened in the night by a phone call from a man
claiming to know the killer, and meeting this one-armed man (Al Strobel) in the local hospital, he tells Cooper and Truman that the killer, Bob (Frank Silva), is in the hospital's basement. Finding Bob crouched next to a circle of candles, he admits to the murder, and explains that the letter
under her fingernail stands for his name, Robert. The one-armed man then guns down Bob.
An epilogue, set 25 years later, has Agent Cooper sitting in a strange, red-draped room, with a midget (Michael J. Anderson) and a woman who looks like Laura Palmer (also played by Lee). The midget speaks in a distorted voice and says the girl is his cousin. As the midget dances, the woman kisses
Cooper and whispers something into his ear--which the viewer never hears.
In other hands, this overheated concoction could've been little more than standard soap opera. But Lynch laces the proceedings with offbeat tidbits and a high style not often found in movies, much less on the small screen. He lends an underlying quirkiness to all of the characters, as well as the
entire mystery. Even the hoariest plot twists are given a texture and offbeat humor which breathes new life into them, and Lynch has such a fascination with the peripheral details, that solving the murder often seems like a secondary concern to him.
The film is an actor's field day, since Lynch gives each character, no matter how small, a chance to shine--from a deputy who can't stop crying when faced with a crime, to the bizarre "Log Lady." At the forefront, this is a career-making role for MacLachlan, who's innocent, professional, and
intuitive in a way which is altogether original. Equally important, all of the technical aspects come together in perfect unity, from Badalamenti's evocative score and Ron Garcia's crisp cinematography, to the appropriately woody production design.
Yet despite a brilliant set-up, full of intriguing possibilities, the film works best as the pilot it was originally intended as, instead of a self-contained entity. The new ending seems tagged on, and after laying down so many intriguing characters, they're never given the time to develop. Even
with the changes, this remains an entertaining, subversively expressionist vision which turns the usual expectations of commercial television inside out. (Violence, adult situations)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1989
- Review: Director David Lynch and "Hill Street Blues" co-creator Mark Frost joined forces to take the television world by storm with "Twin Peaks," which mixed the small-town melodrama of PEYTON PLACE with the sinister quirkiness of BLUE VELVET, and had viewers acro… (more)