A History of Twin Peaks on Home Video
February 8th 2008
Copyright ©2008 Dugpa.com
A few months back, sitting at a bar in Silverlake, I found myself talking to a guy who had worked on the Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box DVD Set. During our conversation, he said to me that Twin Peaks Fans are some of the most critical and demanding fans that he had ever encountered. I told him there was a reason for that. As I felt a long rant coming on, the words that came out of my mouth were “Home Video of the past has left Twin Peaks Fans bruised and abused.” He gave me an awkward look and probably figured I was a total freak. Just then the bar maid took our order, he grabbed his glass and walked away.
I never got my chance to explain. Even so, it probably wasn’t the time or place as we were rejoicing over the amazing work that had been done on the Twin Peaks Gold Box Set. Alas, tonight, after a few failed attempts to complete what was supposed to be a review of the new Twin Peaks Gold Box DVD set, I’m finally able to try and explain my veiled statement and hopefully explain why it now after years of frustration, it is simply history that has been rectified by a magnificant release.
More than any TV show that I can think of, Twin Peaks has had one of the worst treatment in terms of Home Video releases than any other TV show property in existence. Period. It all started back in 1991. Warner Bros. first released the International version of the Twin Peaks Pilot on VHS with an extended ending. Back before the days of retail priced VHS, the Pilot originally was steeply priced for rental at $79.95. True, it was the Pilot, and you could rent it for a buck or two, but if you wanted to be the first in line to own it, you would have to shell out some serious cash. In addition, fans wishing to use it as a starting point on their journey to the world of Twin Peaks would be ultimately confused as the version released on VHS featured the closed “International” ending. More on that later.
Following this release, Worldvision released the Season One boxed set, containing the first seven episodes of Twin Peaks on VHS for a retail price of $99.95. The box art was atrocious, designed to look like a log. It’s only saving grace was each of the Episodes were recorded in SP mode. Notably missing was the Pilot Episode. You see, Twin Peaks since the early days was plagued with rights issues as Warner Bros. held the US distribution rights to the Pilot and Worldvision held the distribution rights to the rest of the series (Episodes 1-29) minus the Pilot. So now you’ve arrived home and are ready to view the Pilot and Season One back to back. Well, low and behold, by the end of the Pilot, you were left scratching your head. Since Warner Bros. only released the International version (also known as the Euro-version) of the Pilot, the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer is solved in the last 15 minutes of the extended ending. So as a viewer, and especially a first time viewer, going from the Warner Bros. VHS of the International Pilot straight into the Worldvision “Log Box” in an attempt to recreate what it would be like watching the Series as it aired on TV would take a bit of planning. Back in the old days for those of you that Usenet groups, particularly the alt.tv.twin-peaks group, which was like we now know as modern Twin Peaks discussion forums only back then it was without the fancy pictures, private messages, hell, even web browsers weren’t out back then. All you had was blocks of text with messages from fans, and Twin Peaks FAQ’s where you could find some kind soul that diligently posted detailed directions, down to the time code, of where and when to hit the stop button on your VCR when watching the Euro Pilot just so you could pick up and begin watching the Season One VHS box set just as it was first seen on TV. A far cry from seamless but it was the only way to go at the time.
Later in 1991, Twin Peaks Season One Episodes 1-7 were released on laserdisc by Image Entertainment. While the release on laserdisc was the best quality that you could get at that time, the price per each box retailed for $124.95. Of course, the laserdisc sets didn’t all come out at one time. Volume 2 on laserdisc consisting of Episodes 8-14 were released in 1993 again at a retail price of $124.95. A year later, Volume 3 was released on laserdisc consisting of Episodes 15-22 streeting for that same retail price of $124.95. Finally if you weren’t broke by then, you were again plunking another $124.95 for Volume 4 which was released later that year consisting of Episodes 23-29. So if you were a big fan and wanted to have the cleanest, crispest version of Twin Peaks on laserdisc, you would have to throw down roughly $500 retail over a three year period. Of course again, this did not include the Warner Bros. Euro Pilot which also received a laserdisc released for an additional $34.95. But wait.. There’s more. Of course there’s more.
In 1993, Worldvision released another Twin Peaks VHS Box set; retailing for the price of $99.95 only this time containing all 29 Episodes of the Twin Peaks TV Series on 6 tapes. Once again, minus the pilot. A portion of the original run of this 6 Tape VHS set was found to be defective as many reported issues with tape one jumping from episode 5 to episode 8 (season 2 premiere). Imagine how confusing it would have been to someone NEW to the series, wondering what all the fuss was about–going from the discovery of Jacque’s apartment to Cooper laying shot on the floor! Later runs of the VHS set were corrected. Each of the 6 VHS tapes were recorded in EP (slow) mode. While it was great to finally see the Second Season on VHS, anyone that owned this set can attest to what a piece of sh*t it was. The box art was equally as bad but the special thing about this set was that it included a “hidden bonus feature”. The video quality was already very poor and the more often you played the tapes, the worse the picture would get. I swear to you that I’m not lying when I tell you that over the years and several viewings, the VHS tapes in this box set degraded so much that the color of the video started to deteriorate into a muddy orange hue. And that wasn’t all. The audio began to fade in and out almost as if you were listening to it outdoors while swinging on a swing set.
Image Entertainment released a laserdisc version of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Sad story to tell on this one. This was around the same time when the studios were really pushing widescreen transfers on laserdisc to help sell the format as being the format to bring the theater to your home. While this was a great way to finally see some of your favorite films in their original aspect ratios, if you ever owned this laserdisc, you will know that the laserdisc transfer of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was done by the blind. Instead of doing a proper transfer of the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, they decided to take the 4:3 VHS transfer and slap black bars on the top and bottom, most notably cutting off the tops of the heads of Leland Palmer in the Red Room and Laura’s Angel. Retail price for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on laserdisc was another $34.99. Geesh! So for all the Twin Peaks completists, to get it all on laserdisc at the time, it would have cost you $569.94 plus tax for the entire set… and this was back in the early 90’s!
Oh, and mind you, they never told you that after investing your hard earned cash on a set of every Twin Peaks Episode and film on laserdisc, the set would only last you about 5-7 years, as many of these same laserdiscs would get infected by something known as laser rot which is a term used for laserdiscs that over time due to inferior adhesives, suffered oxidation and resulted in loss of data, rendering the discs unplayable. I’m not even going to go there. But I will say that I did cry.
Finally, in early 2000, a few interesting things happened. With the advance in technology and a relatively new format known today as DVD, things started to heat up for Twin Peaks in the Home Video world. After moving around from distributor to distributor, Twin Peaks eventually landed at Artisan Entertainment. Finally a gleam of hope. At the VSDA (Video Software Association Show) in Las Vegas, Artisan announced that they had plans to release the entire Twin Peaks Series on DVD. In addition, New Line had made a similar announcement to release the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me film on DVD and to the joy of fans worldwide, they would be releasing the DVD under their Platinum line of DVDs complete with an hours worth of Deleted Scenes supervised by David Lynch.
Fans were ecstatic and it looked as if justice would finally be served. Would 2000 finally be the year to end the suffering and angst that the Twin Peaks fans felt against the previous releases of Twin Peaks on Home Video? Not quite. Both titles were pushed back to 2001 for different reasons. While Artisan had acquired the rights to both Seasons of the Twin Peaks TV Series, they, like Worldvision, did not have the rights secured to include the TV version or any version of the Pilot. Artisan tried to work a deal out with the rights holders at the time, but in the end, they couldn’t make it work and opted to release the set without the Pilot. New Line who previously announced the long awaited Deleted Scenes could not resolve legal issues regarding the release of the Deleted Scenes to Fire Walk With Me and also opted to release their DVD without Deleted Scenes. The fans were devastated. Adding insult to injury, the overseas releases of the Twin Peaks Season One on DVD actually included the Pilot, making the US and Canada the only territories in the whole entire world that didn’t have the original TV Pilot released in the DVD box set.
Both Artisan and New Line hired Three Legged Cat productions to produce joint extras between the two sets which amounted to some basic interviews with the cast and crew. The interviews for the Artisan set were average at best, focusing more on the cast and crew’s personal views on Twin Peaks as a phenomenon without any real substance or feel for what Twin Peaks was all about. The documentary for the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me DVD was a travesty. Horribly edited and done in an almost insulting fashion, the documentary was poorly received by the fans. Where both DVDs shined were in the beautiful video transfers done from the original film negative. Where the DVDs failed were in some of the awkward choices for the new 5.1 audio mixes and the omission of the original Dolby 2.0 tracks.
An original TV version of the Pilot (minus the extended Euro ending) surfaced late 2001. This release was done by the company, Catalyst Logic, a Taiwan based company who smartly decided to release their DVD without any region coding (NTSC Region 0) as an import. Early in its release, being the only Region 0 (playable in all DVD players) NTSC copy of the TV Pilot, this DVD hit Ebay with auctions selling for as much as $150. Sad to say, the video transfer was nowhere near as good as the transfers done by Artisan for their Season One set and only slightly better than the laserdisc. This DVD included an audio track that was horribly out of phase which made most of the scenes sound like they were recorded underwater. And before you ask, yes, I was one of the suckers who paid over a hundred dollars for this DVD. Cue up Scotty J. sample from Boogie Nights. Stupid Stupid Stupid.
So at least the first seven Episodes were out with crystal clear transfers. Surely the next set of Season Two on DVD would be right around the corner. Wouldn’t it?
Six Years Later… Cited as one of the longest gaps in DVD release history between Season sets, and due largely to expiration of rights and legal issues up the wazoo, the Second Season of Twin Peaks on DVD was released in April of 2007, this time by CBS DVD. When it finally was released, it was a great day. Luckily, the Second Season DVD release featured similar transfers from the original negative as well as new 5.1 sound mixes, this time, supervised by David Lynch himself. The Second Season on DVD also featured some great interviews which were done through Lipsynch Productions and produced by Adam Harding and Josh Eisenstadt. These interviews unlike the ones on the Artisan set were well planned out and interesting to watch hitting some of the questions that fans have been waiting years to hear answered. While it was great to finally see the Second Season on DVD, the release just didn’t live up to the hype. Waiting nearly 6 years for this release, the expectations of the fans were through the roof. Most fans, not privy to all the legal issues holding back this release had assumed that CBS DVD had spent the last 6 years working on the set rather than sorting through rights issues. Of course this was just the nature of the beast. I mean, what could CBS DVD do that would ever meet the high exceptions of these bruised and battered Twin Peaks Fans?
Like a heroic knight riding in on a white stallion, to save the day, arrives Ken Ross, head of CBS Home Entertainment and the driving force behind the Twin Peaks Gold Box DVD set which will go down in Twin Peaks history as the DVD that brought justice to Twin Peaks on Home Video. Ken was instrumental in doing what it took to bring to the fans a DVD set that would exceed fan expectations. His first great move was to hire DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika one of the finest DVD producers in the business. Together, the team worked closely with not only David Lynch, but the actual fans of the TV Series to come up with a plethora of rare never before seen extras that have been on Twin Peaks Fans wish lists for years. Let’s talk extras.
A Slice of Lynch Documentary
This film is presented as a roundtable discussion featuring David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, Madchen Amick and Jonathan Wentworth. It’s a very warm piece that brings four longtime friends together to share their thoughts on Twin Peaks. This is the only segment that Lynch is featured in terms of interviews but it feels more like a short film rather than an interview segment. You can really tell that Twin Peaks was something special to Lynch and how saddened he was to be forced to reveal the identity of the killer in the Second Season.
Secrets from Another Place
Finally, a proper documentary done on Twin Peaks. This documentary is split into four parts. The first covering the Pilot, the second covering Season One, the third covering the Music, and the fourth exploring Season Two. The segment on the Pilot entitled “Northwest Passage: Creating the Pilot” gives a real good look at how Twin Peaks came to be. Mark Frost provides an almost narrative for the entire documentary giving details of the genesis of Twin Peaks. The best part of “Northwest Passage” is the use of some rare archive footage that was taken on the set. You actually get to see Lynch behind the camera and filming some of the scenes. Woven into the documentary are some great never before seen photos and magazine clips. The Season One segment, “‘Freshly Squeezed: Creating Season One” follows the phenomenon that was Twin Peaks and all that came with being in the spotlight worldwide. The Music segment “Where We’re From: Creating the Music” is a great segment on creating the music of Twin Peaks. Julee Cruise gives some interesting stories. Unfortunately, Angelo is caught telling that same stories he has told a dozen times before regarding the creation of the Twin Peaks Love Theme. I was hoping that he would talk about some of the other themes from the Series, but hey, that’s just me. Julee Cruise and her candid comments are what really seals this segment for me. The Season Two segment “Into the Night: Creating Season Two” hits you over the head hard. It doesn’t hold back on the cast and crew opinions regarding mistakes made on Season Two. Best of all, I applaud Charles de Lauzirika for having the balls to ask one of the questions that hardcore fans have wanted to know for years as to why on earth did they drop the whole Cooper/Audrey romance plotline in the Second Season? The responses are quite interesting. The one thing that is missing from this segment is coverage of the Season Two hiatus and the efforts by Lynch and Frost to Save Twin Peaks from being cancelled. I remember seeing Lynch, at the time, on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno pleading with fans to write letters to ABC in support of “Giving Peaks a Chance”. Viewed as a full feature, “Secrets from Another Place” is a great documentary that really gives a great look into the history of Twin Peaks.
Return to Twin Peaks
Having been to a few Twin Peaks Festivals myself, it was really nice to see the way this was presented. I was scared at first when I heard about the segment as these things can sometimes make hardcore fans look pretty bad. Luckily, this segment was done with the utmost respect and comes off as a really warm, heartfelt piece. I haven’t been to a Festival in a few years but after seeing this it reminded me why Twin Peaks fans are the best.
This area was a touchy area for some. Having been screwed over by New Line on the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Deleted Scenes debacle of 2001, Deleted Scenes in general have been a sore spot for Twin Peaks Fans. I mean, who doesn’t want to see more vintage Twin Peaks material? Early rumors on the Gold Box Set went around the internet and many sites including my own were told that Deleted Scenes were just not going to happen. This perpetuated some negative press for the DVD set early on which was unfortunate. I have come to find out that Deleted footage to the Twin Peaks TV Series has been either lost, destroyed, or scattered to the wind. To make up for this CBS DVD with the help of Charles de Lauzirika found the only known source of Twin Peaks Deleted Scenes which come to us from an old VHS dailies DVD bootleg that has been making its rounds on the net. Lynch picked the best of what was on that DVD and allowed it to be released on this DVD set. The scene featuring Audrey, Johnny, Silvia, and Dr. Jacoby is absolutely priceless and gives you a rare glimpse of an alternate storyline that might have been.
The set also features Richard Beymer’s Twin Peaks photos including some rare never before released color photos from his collection, mostly centered on Episode 29. There are the Lucy Bumpers, a grip of commercials, production documents and stills, and even the 1-900 recordings.
The set also includes the SNL sketches featuring Kyle MacLachlan, the Falling Music Video, and the Japanese Georgia Coffee Commercials featuring the last time the Lynch, MacLachlan, and the rest of the crew were together to film anything related to Twin Peaks back in 1993.
Now if the above wasn’t reason alone to buy this new set, then you must be smoking something. But there’s more… much more…
This DVD set did something that being a hardcore fan, I have to say I really, truly appreciate. While the new audio mixes are great, there are subtle changes in the mixes when it gets translated to 5.1. The purist in me will always want to at least have the option of listening to the original sound mix in Dolby 2.0 Audio. Thankfully, it has been included. Just one more reason why this set outshines the all of the previous releases of Twin Peaks on DVD.
The DVD set also features all of the Log Lady intros including the Log Lady Intro for the Pilot which wasn’t even released with the overseas Season One DVD sets. In addition, for you hardcore fanboys that were upset that Artisan altered Episode 7 to add the Twin Peaks sign after Cooper gets shot, well, rest assured, that sign has been removed. Although I was surprised that the “To be continued” title shot was not added back in, but maybe it wasn’t part of the original negative.
Still want to hear more…
Well, this set comes with the Pilot which has never been officially released in the US on DVD or with the original TV ending. It also features the International version via seamless branching which is great to watch. For first time Twin Peaks Fans, I would recommend not watching the International version for your first time around. Wait until after you’ve finished the Series. The only time I have ever seen the Pilot look this good was at the 2002 Twin Peaks Festival when it screened at the Seattle Art Museum.
So do I have any gripes with the DVD? My only complaints are that it would have been nice to feature the “Previously on Twin Peaks” and “Next on Twin Peaks” segments. Granted, most of those segments weren’t that great, but do help if you are watching the set over a period of several weeks. It would have been great if they would have found the Deleted Scenes to the TV Series. It’s heartbreaking to think that they may have been destroyed but CBS DVD did do the best they could have with what they had. So am I happy with this release? Absolutely. Not a single Lynch DVD comes close to the outstanding quality exhibited in this set. This is the best Lynch DVD release ever. New fans to Twin Peaks, you really don’t know how good you have it. I think that the single most important thing about this new release is the fact that Twin Peaks the ENTIRE SERIES is now beautifully remastered and made available to a brand new generation of fans to enjoy and explore.
CBS DVD and Charles de Lauzirika have done something that I didn’t think could be done. They have healed the wounds of past Twin Peaks Home Video debacles. I only hope that Charles de Lauzirika gets a crack at doing a proper Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me DVD and even better would be if CBS DVD were the studio to make it happen. After all, they do own the distribution rights to the film in Germany as well as other parts of Europe. Maybe a couple years down the line they can do an all encompassing Platnium DVD Box Set including Fire Walk With Me, the Deleted Scenes to Fire Walk With Me, and the Entire Twin Peaks TV Series all in glorious HD! One can dream…
After reading all of this, how can you not go out and buy this DVD set? Compared to what you would get in the early 90’s versus what you can get today for a fraction of the price, the Twin Peaks Gold Box Edition IS worth its weight in gold.