APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Blue Velvet (1986)

April 27: Until You Call on the Dark — Pick a movie from the approved movies list of the Church of Satan. Here’s the list.

James Shelby Downard once said, “Never allow anyone the luxury of assuming that because the dead and deadening scenery of the American city-of-dreadful-night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of “baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet” that it is somehow outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these “modern” conditions precisely because sorcery is not what 20th century man can accept as real.”

I’d like to think that Downard saw this movie, shook his head a bit and thought, “Well, they got some of it right.”

The Church of Satan film list says of Blue Velvet, “This neo-noir film by David Lynch is meant to be felt and experienced more than understood, Blue Velvet is about the hidden and unknown. It’s both terrifying and erotic simultaneously. The innocent outlook on life is stripped away to stark reality where predator and prey intermingle. 

The Satanic qualities presented are the exploration of the darker side of Human Nature, Lust, Fetishism, the Dominant and the Submissive, the Law of the Forbidden, Self Preservation, and Justice.”

Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) has come home to Lumberton, North Carolina — a town that has a radio station with the call letters WOOD and seems so normal that something has to be wrong — a place named after lumber on the Lumber River. He’s home because his father has had a seizure and on the way home from the hospital, Jeffrey finds a severed ear. He does what any normal boy would do: he takes it to a cop, Detective John Williams (George Dickerson). This allows him to meet the perfect girl next door, the man’s daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). She might always have the perfect boyfriend, football player Mike Shaw (Ken Stovitz), but Jeffrey is able to get into Sandy’s world by being dangerous and investigating someone connected to that ear: lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini, who would appear in the perhaps just as strange Tough Guys Don’t Dance after this). He sneaks into her apartment appearing to be an exterminator, except she catches him and easily overpowers him thanks to her feminine power. As she’s on the verge of assaulting him, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) arrives, sending Jeffrey into a closet and Dorothy to the floor as Frank alternatively cries, screams, huffs gas and beats her into a submissive sexual state.

Yeah, this isn’t working out like Jeffrey planned.

Jeffrey still sees things like either a child or a character in a detective novel, giving people names like the well-dressed man or the Yellow Man. He becomes obsessed with Dorothy while still courting Sandy. He thinks he can save Dorothy’s husband and son Don and Don, but once he gives in to Dorothy’s pleas to hit her while they lie in bed, he’s lost. He’s in over his head. His fantasies that he’d write to True Detective — instead of Penthouse Forum — are consuming. Deadly, too. This isn’t some kind of jerk off dream that barely comes true. This is violent and bloody fucking that winds up with you trapped in a car with maniacs like Booth, visiting suave lounge singers like Ben (Dean Stockwell) and wondering if everyone in the world is against you and probably being right. It’s the kind of fantasy that gets you kissed all over by a lunatic and waking up almost dead in a field far from home.

Normal humanity didn’t react well to this movie. For example, the agency representing Rossellini immediately dropped her as a client after the test screenings and the nuns at the school that she went to in Rome called to say they were praying for her.

Hopper wasn’t cast originally, as Frank was written for Michael Ironside. The Last Movie director called Lynch and screamed, “I’ve got to play Frank! I am Frank!” Lynch also wanted Frank to inhale helium, but Hopper wanted it to be amyl nitrate. Lynch said that Hopper told him, “David, I know what’s in these different canisters.” And I said, “Thank God, Dennis, that you know that!” And he named all the gases!”

In Satan Speaks, Anton LaVey wrote about songs like “Telstar” and “Yes, We Have No Bananas” as Satanic songs.

“The word ‘occult’ simply means hidden or secret,” he says. “Go to the record store, to the corner where no one else is, where everything is dusty and nobody ever goes. Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” is mystical music, dramatic, Gothic, satanically programmed music. But it’s not occult music. “Yes, We Have No Bananas” would be an occult tune.

It’s occult because when you put that record on the turntable, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that there is not another person in the entire world who is listening to that record at that time. If there’s anything, any frequency, any power that exists anywhere in this cosmos, in this universe, you’re gonna stand out like a beacon! It truly makes you elite.”

Lynch understands that by using Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” and Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” — he almost used “Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil, a song that was first played on the last episode of The Monkees by its writer Tom Buckley — in Blue Velvet. Orbison has always seemed like an alien to me, perhaps because of his look, his voice or because he voided the verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus structure. His songs feel like being in, well, a dream.

Frank finds great magic in the words “candy-colored clown” and it feels like Ben is about to break down when he sings “In dreams, you’re mine all of the time. We’re together in dreams, in dreams.” A lot of Roy Orbison made me feel like that when I was a child, like future nostalgia, the same feeling that made me listen to breakup songs over and over crying before I had ever had my heart broken, as if I were saving up for a time when I would finally be unrequited.

The art for this article comes from Unlovely Frankenstein.

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