name = Eraserhead
caption = Theatrical release poster.
producer = David Lynch
writer = David Lynch
Jack Nance Charlotte Stewart Jeanne Bates
music = David Lynch
cinematography = Herbert Cardwell
editing = David Lynch
distributor = Libra Films
March 19, 1977( Filmex)cite book
last= Hoberman | first=J. | coauthors=Jonathan Rosenbaum
title=Midnight Movies | isbn=0306804336
publisher=Da Capo Press | chapter=Chapter 8 | date=1991 ]
runtime = 89 min.
language = English
budget = $20,000 [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,923850,00.html The Fantasy Film as Final Exam] , a December 1984 review of "Dune" from "Time"]
gross = $7,000,000
amg_id = 1:15947
imdb_id = 0074486
"Eraserhead" is a 1977
surrealist- horror filmwritten and directed by David Lynch. The film stars Jack Nanceand Charlotte Stewart. "Eraserhead" polarized and baffled many critics and movie-goers, but has become a cult classic.Peary, Danny. "Cult Movies", Delta Books, 1981. ISBN 0-517-20185-2]
In 2004, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the
United States Library of Congressand selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Director Lynch has called it a "dream of dark and troubling things" [ [http://www.lynchnet.com/lh/cinebg.html Cinefantastique Barry Gifford Interview ] from lynchnet.com] and his "most spiritual movie."cite book
last = Lynch | first = David | authorlink = David Lynch
Catching the Big Fish| isbn = 1585425400
publisher = Jeremy P. Tarcher/
date = 2006 | location = New York ]
The film is set in a
slumin the heart of an industrial center. It is rife with urban decay, rundown factories, and a soundtrack composed almost exclusively of the noises of machinery. Henry Spencer ( Jack Nance) is a printer who is "on vacation." At the start of the film, Henry, who has not heard from his girlfriend, Mary X ( Charlotte Stewart) for a while, mistakenly believes that she has ended their relationship. He is invited to have dinner with Mary and her parents at their house. During dinner, Henry learns that Mary has just had a baby after an abnormally short pregnancy. Henry is then obliged to marry her.
Mary and the baby move into Henry's one-room apartment. The baby is hideously deformed and has a reptilian appearance: a large snout-nose with slit nostrils, a pencil-thin neck, eyes on the sides of its head, no ears, and a limbless body covered in bandages. It continually whines throughout the night.
A sleep-deprived Mary abandons Henry and the baby. After Mary leaves, Henry must care for the baby by himself, and he becomes involved in a series of strange events. These include bizarre encounters with the Lady in the Radiator (
Laurel Near), a woman with grotesquely distendedcheeks who lives in his radiator(she sings the iconic song " In Heaven"); visions of the ominous Man in the Planet ( Jack Fisk); and a sexual liaison with his neighbor, the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall ( Judith Anna Roberts).
The film's title comes from a dream sequence occurring during the last half hour of the film. In it, Henry’s head detaches from his body, sinks into a growing pool of blood on a tile floor, falls from the sky, and, finally, lands on an empty street and cracks open. A young boy (
Thomas Coulson) finds Henry's broken head and takes it to a pencil factory, where Paul ( Darwin Joston), the desk clerk, summons his ill-tempered boss ( Neil Moran) to the front desk by repeatedly pushing a buzzer. The boss, angered by the summons, yells at Paul, but regains his composure when he sees what the little boy has brought. The boss and the boy carry the head to a back room where the Pencil Machine Operator ( Hal Landon, Jr.) takes a core sample of Henry's brain, assays it, and determines that it is a serviceable material for pencil erasers. The boy is then paid for bringing in Henry's head. The Pencil Machine Operator then sweeps the eraser shavings off of the desk and sends them billowing into the air.
After waking from this dream, Henry looks out his window and sees two men fighting in the street. He then seeks out the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall, but discovers that she is not home. The baby begins to laugh mockingly, and, shortly thereafter, Henry opens his door and sees the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall bringing another man back to her apartment. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall looks at Henry, momentarily sees Henry's head transform into that of the baby, and appears frightened by her vision. Henry goes back into his apartment, takes a pair of scissors, and cuts open the baby's bandages, which turn out to be part of its flesh (or simply what is holding all of its organs together). By cutting the bandages, Henry splits open the baby's body and exposes its vital organs. As the baby screams in pain, Henry stabs its
lungwith the scissors. This causes the apartment’s electricity to overload, and as the lights flicker on and off, an apparition of the baby's head, grown to an enormous size, materializes in the apartment. Henry is then seen with eraser shavings billowing around behind his head. The last scene features Henry being embraced by the "Lady in the Radiator". They are bathed in white light, and white noisebuilds to a crescendo, then stops as the screen goes black, and the credits begin to roll.
* John Nance - Henry Spencer
Charlotte Stewart- Mary X
Allen Joseph- Mr. X
Jeanne Bates- Mrs. X
Judith Anna Roberts- Beautiful Girl Across the Hall
Laurel Near- Lady in the Radiator
* Vivienne Phipps-Wilson - Landlady (long version)
Jack Fisk- Man in the Planet
* Jean Lange - Grandmother
* Thomas Coulson - The Boy
* John Monez - Bum
Darwin Joston- Paul
T. Max Graham- The Boss (as Neil Moran)
* Hal Landon Jr. - Pencil Machine Operator
Jennifer Lynch- Little Girl
* Brad Keeler - Little Boy
* Peggy Lynch - Person Digging in the Alley (long version)
* Doddie Keeler - Person Digging in the Alley (long version)
Gill Dennis- Man with Cigar
* Toby Keeler - Man Fighting
* Jack Walsh - Mr. Roundheels (as Raymond Walsh)
"Eraserhead" developed from "Gardenback", a script about
adulterythat Lynch wrote during his first year at the Centre for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute(AFI) in Los Angeles.fact|date=September 2008 The script for "Eraserhead" was only 21 pages long. Because of the film's unusual plot and Lynch's minimal directorial experience, no movie studio backed the project. Lynch eventually won a grant from AFI, and filmed most of it atGreystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, which was at the time the headquarters of the American Film Institute.cite web| url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE0D6113FF937A25752C0A966958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print| title=A Dark Lens on America|publisher=The New York Times|date=1990-01-14]
Aside from the AFI grant, the movie was financed by friends and family, including actress
Sissy Spacek, wife of Lynch's childhood friend Jack Fisk; Fisk appeared in the film.fact|date=September 2008 Because of the lack of reliable funds, "Eraserhead" was filmed intermittently from 1971 to 1976, with sets disassembled and reassembled several times.
Ben Barenholtz, the founder of Libra Films, watched the film a few weeks after its Filmexopening, and before the film was at its midway point, had decided it was a "film of the future". By that summer (1977), Lynch and his wife had arrived in New York and were staying at Barenholtz's apartment; Lynch then spent two months working with a lab to get a print of the film ready for its New York opening. The film opened in fall 1977 at the Cinema Village for a midnight show, and eventually "became a hit on on the horror circuit in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London."
A January 1977 review of "Eraserhead" by "Variety" called it a "sickening bad-taste exercise" which "pulls out all gory stops in the unwatchable climax....the mind boggles to learn that Lynch labored on this pic for five years." [ [http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117790719.html Review of "Eraserhead"] from "
In a December 2007 review of a new 35mm print,
Manohla Dargisof " The New York Times" called it an "amazing, still mysterious work" which "brings together many of the now-familiar Lynchian visual themes and narrative figures, including the naïve man, the slatternly woman, the shabby period furniture, the contorted flesh and forms, the yawning orifices and oozing, leaking fluids." [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/07/movies/07eras.html Distorted, Distorting and All-Too Human] , a December 2007 review from " The New York Times"]
Reactions from other directors
After seeing the film,
Mel Brookshired Lynch to direct "The Elephant Man" (1980). [cite web| url=http://www.lynchnet.com/snyder97.html| title= The Late Late Show, Feb. 26, 1997 - Interview with David Lynch]
Stanley Kubrickonce stated in an interview with Michel Ciment that he would have liked to direct this film, as it was one of his favorite films. [Ciment, Michel. "Kubrick: The Definitive Edition". Faber & Faber, 2003. ISBN 0571211089] Before beginning production on "The Shining," Kubrick screened "Eraserhead" for the cast to put them into the atmosphere he wanted to convey. George Lucaswas a fan of the film and after seeing it, wanted to hire David Lynch to direct " Return of the Jedi". Lynch declined, fearing it would be more of his own vision rather than Lucas'. [ [http://www.davidlynch.de/tiplynchtrans.html David Lynch interview 1985 ] ]
Lynch has said its protagonist is "living under the influence of those things that existed for me in Philadelphia": [cite web| url=http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/articles/2740| title= A Fish in the Percolator| publisher=
Philadelphia Weekly|date=2001-03-14] :"There was a sense of dread pretty much everywhere I went. I didn't live in any good parts of Philadelphia, and so dread was my general feeling. I hated it. And, also, I loved it.".
Lynch also wrote a short chapter about the film in his 2006 book "
Catching the Big Fish". In that book, he wrote "Eraserhead" is my most spiritual movie. No one understands when I say that, but it is." He went on to write about the difficulties he was having making sense of the way the film was "growing" and didn't know "the thing that just pulled it all together." He then reveals it was the Biblethat provided the solution::So I got out my Bible and I started reading. and one day, I read a sentence. And I closed the Bible, because that was it; that was it. And then I saw the thing as a whole. And it fulfilled this vision for me, 100 percent.Lynch states in the book that he doesn't think he will ever reveal what the vision-fulfiling Biblical verse is.
This movie was once difficult to acquire as a Region 1 (
North America) DVD.fact|date=September 2008 Until recently, the only way to acquire it was to purchase it (at $39) through [http://www.davidlynch.com davidlynch.com] . The version of the film on the official Region 1 DVDs was remastered for the medium by Lynch himself.
Customers who ordered the film from Lynch's website received the disc packaged in a special presentation box.fact|date=September 2008 The DVD included a deleted scene and a 90-minute documentary about the making of the movie, which consists of Lynch sitting before a microphone, smoking cigarettes, and talking about his memories of making the movie (almost like a director's commentary track, but with video). During the piece he also calls
Catherine Coulsonand they reminisce together about the making of the film.
January 10, 2006, "Eraserhead" was made commercially available by Subversive Cinema. This re-release had normal DVD packaging instead of the large boxset from David Lynch's website, but the content on the disc itself was the same. The UK DVD release is Region-free, as is the Korean DVD release.fact|date=September 2008
In August 2008 it was announced that the film will be re-released in Region 2 in the UK on
October 20, alongside a Region 2 release of " The Short Films of David Lynch". [ [http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=68419 DVD Times - Eraserhead & David Lynch Short Films (R2) in October ] from dvdtimes.co.uk]
Charles Bukowskireferenced the film when interviewed on the subject of cable television, Bukowski said, "We got cable TV here, and the first thing we switched on happened to be "Eraserhead". I said, 'What’s this?' I didn’t know what it was. It was so great. I said, 'Oh, this cable TV has opened up a whole new world. We’re gonna be sitting in front of this thing for centuries. What next?' So starting with "Eraserhead" we sit here, click, click, click — nothing." [http://www.artdamage.com/buk/ginsoaked.htm]
A number of rock bands take their name from the film: the 1980s
rockabillygroup Erazerhead; the Northern Californiaband Eraserhead, and Eraserheads, a popular Filipino band. [ [http://home.pacbell.net/mcrandy/index.html Eraserhead "Alternative Rock-N-Roll" ] ] The band Henry Spencertake their name from the main character. Apartment 26are named after Henry's address and they feature a sample from the Lady in the Radiator's "In Heaven" at the end of their song, "Heaven." The 1980s London indie band "Henry's Final Dream" also owe their name to this movie.
hardcore punkband Dead Kennedysrefers to this movie in their song "Too Drunk To Fuck" with the line "You bawl like the baby in Eraserhead."
In Heaven", the song sung by the Lady in the Radiator, has been covered by Bauhaus, Devo, Norma Loy, WC3 (à trois dans les WC), Haus Arafna, Miranda Sex Garden, Annie Christian, Pankow, The Pixies, Desolation Yes, Bang Gang, Donny Who Loved Bowling, and Tuxedomoon. Indie rockers Modest Mouseborrowed lines from "In Heaven" for "Workin' on Leavin' the Livin'", as did the anarcho-punkband Rubella Balletfor their song "Slant and Slide". The goth rockband Sex Gang Children's song "Dying Fall" makes a mention of "the lady in the radiator." Scottish 1980s band Win!covered the Lady in the Radiator's song as a B-sideon their 1986 hit single "You've Got the Power".
"Eraserhead", along with five other low-budget 1970s films ("
The Rocky Horror Picture Show", " Pink Flamingos", " El Topo", " The Harder They Come" and " Night of the Living Dead"), was the subject of a 2005 documentary by Stuart Samuelscalled "". [imdb title|id=457414|title=Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream] Lynch was interviewed for the documentary.
* [http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:15947~C "Eraserhead"] at
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