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The Elephant Man Criterion Blu-ray Review

“The Elephant Man” is a David Lynch classic.

1980’s “The Elephant Man” tells the true life story of Joseph Merrick (AKA John Merrick) who was a severely disfigured man in 19th Century London. Through the film, we see how John was physically and mentally abused by a monstrous ringmaster (Mr. Bytes) who exploited him for a freakshow. Eventually, he is discovered by a surgeon (Frederick Treves) who saves him from the deplorable situation and puts him up at a hospital. While John finds kindness from Treves and a nurse (Mrs. Mothershead), he still becomes a sideshow at the hospital. Worse still, Mr. Bytes wants him back for his business. 

When it comes to the filmography of director David Lynch, “The Elephant Man” is certainly an outlier. The cult filmmaker is perhaps best known for surreal and original works like “Mulholland Drive” and “Twin Peaks,” but with “The Elephant Man,” Lynch takes on a historical drama/biopic about Joseph/John Merrick. Of course, given that this is a Lynch film, he puts his own stamp on the project while also managing to make an extraordinary film in the process. 

Written by David Lynch, Christopher De Vore and Eric Bergren, “The Elephant Man” is not the type of movie you will want to pop on a lot as it’s quite an emotional, tragic and often deeply heartbreaking story about fearing what we don’t understand, humanity (warts and all), exploitation, and kindness. Yes, there are moments that will lift you up, but seeing the darkside of humanity within this story can be painful to watch (not to mention a painful reminder of similar human behavior in modern times). Still, Lynch’s approach to a historical drama is decidedly unique and it stands out from, well, pretty much any historical drama out there. This isn’t simply a movie about a historical figure. It’s telling a much larger story thematically.

With the help of the brilliant makeup artist Christopher Tucker, John Hurt gives an absolutely transformative performance as John Merrick. He completely disappears into the very physical role. You’d never know it was him if he wasn’t billed in the credits. Hurt isn’t the only one who shines here as Anthony Hopkins is in top form here as Treves while Freddie Jones (Mr. Bytes) and Anne Bancroft (Madge) also make a big impression. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? Even though a 4K exists of this title in the UK, Criterion has only released the film on Blu-ray with a 4K digital restoration (it’s time to get on the 4K train, Criterion!).  With that said, the print itself of the B&W film is positively glossy and striking.  

Audio Track: Uncompressed Stereo. How does it sound? Expect a nice layered Stereo track.
Extras:
* 3 radio spots and a trailer for “The Elephant Man.”
* 2009 interviews with John Hurt and David Lynch (separately), a 2018 interview with producer Jonathan Sanger and a new interview with stills photographer Frank Connor
* A 70 minute audio recording of David Lynch and co-author Kristine McKenna reading from their book “Room To Dream.” The book itself is a sort of autobiography of Lynch that is nothing short of fascinating about his life and career.
* 6 archival extras that include a 50 minute audio interview with David Lynch from the AFI in 1981, a 2001 documentary about the film featuring interviews titled “The Terrible Elephant Man Revealed,” a deeply informative self-explanatory 2005 20 minute extra titled “Joseph Merrick: The Real Elephant Man” (which also talks about the film itself), a 2006 interview with Lynch by Mike Figgis, a 1980 interview with John Hurt, and “Skintricks: Christopher Tucker and John Hurt” (which is an interview with the two).
* A booklet featuring credits, photos, interview excerpts from “Lynch On Lynch,” and a letter from the real Francis Culling Carr Gomm.

September 29, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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