October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard
Blue Velvet and Stand By Me are both films about small town America and the 'end of innocence'. Both. too. strip away the veneer of conventional suburban life to expose a more sinister reality.
David Lynch's Blue Velvet is much the cleverer, wittily combing genres — psycho-thriller and boy- meets-girl romance — and extending them to their absolute limits. The film opens with a picture of benign American suburban life: white painted clapboard houses, brilliant yellow tulips against a white fence and brilliant blue sky, verdant lawns, cheerful children, serenity and harmony. The spoof becomes obvious when a fire engine, complete with cheery, waving fireman, passes down the street in slow motion. The genre switches to that of thriller when the central character. Jeffrey (played by Kyle Maclachlan) finds a severed human ear on wasteground and sets out to discover who it belonged to. In so doing he enters a sleazy world that he had no idea existed, inhabited by the maniacal mobster. Frank (Dennis Hopper), and the mysterious Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) and observes, and becomes caught up in. their sado-masochistic relationship. At the same time Jeffrey is playing his part in the wholesome romance with "girl-next-door", Sandy.
Blue Velvet is clever, well-observed and at times extremely funny. But there is a serious side to it. Although both sides to the film — apple-pie American and grotesque underworld — are caricatures. they are familiar images. The former could be advertising cornflakes or soap powder, the latter is typical of countless B movies. The fact that reality lies somewhere between the two extremes makes the film no less disturbing.