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Catalyst Logic presents
Twin Peaks—The Original Pilot (1990)

"She's dead. Wrapped in plastic."
- Pete Martell (Jack Nance)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 17, 2001

Stars: Kyle Maclachlan, Michael Ontkean, Ray Wise, Piper Laurie
Other Stars: Joan Chen, Madchen Amick, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilynn Fenn, Warren Frost, Peggy Lipton, James Marshall, Everett McGill, Jack Nance, Ray Wise, Russ Tamblyn, Eric Da Re, Mary Jo Deschanel, Harry Goaz, Michael Horse, Grace Zabriskie, Kimmy Robertson, Don Davis, Catherine Coulson, Sheryl Lee
Director: David Lynch

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, disturbing imagery)
Run Time: 01h:30m:01s
Release Date:
UPC: 766483142964
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ AC-D+ D+

DVD Review

Okay, Twin Peaks, David Lynch's bizarre murder mystery series, is television's finest moment (at least when it comes to drama). Of that I am firmly convinced. When I started taping the program with the pilot on Easter 1990, I knew instantly that this was truly something very special. Now I can start discarding those tapes, though, because the series is finally making its debut on DVD.

Unfortunately, David Lynch needed to raise money for production, and sold the home video rights for the pilot to Warner. That company has proceeded to sit on the rights (as it has done with 99.9% of its massive catalog) and refused to release it onto home video. Luckily, the overseas rights are not held by Warner, and a disc of the pilot episode was released by Catalyst Logic in Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong is notorious as a home of bootlegging operations, this disc is believed to be an authentic, licensed release. It can be acquired from a number of online importers, and is regularly offered for sale on eBay, though often at exorbitant prices. But the Twin Peaks experience isn't complete without the first episode, which sets up the situation and the complex character relationships. Indeed, the Artisan season one boxset is hardly comprehensible to newbies without the pilot, so we're reviewing it here as well. Just another day in the trenches at dOc.

One of the running gags in the program is Agent Dale Cooper's fondness for the pie, donuts and coffee in Twin Peaks. Thus, starting at 12 noon, armed with a package of donuts, two pies and my trusty coffee maker, I will fearlessly plunge into the mysterious and often bizarre world of the program, nonstop, from pilot to the end of season one, with its excruciating fourfold cliffhanger. So fasten your seatbelts, because Sparky's taking you on a bumpy ride through the back woods of the Pacific Northwest, where the owls are not what they seem.

Pilot Episode
Original Airdate: April 8, 1990
Time frame: February 24th

"Diane, 11:30 AM, February 24th, entering Twin Peaks. Five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. I've never seen so many trees in my life." - Special Agent Dale Cooper

The body of beautiful homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is found washed up on the shore of a lake near the Washington town of Twin Peaks, pop. 51,201. Since Palmer was beloved by everyone, her murder shatters the entire town. When another young girl is found wandering back across the state line, local sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) gets the assistance of FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). A disturbing discovery on Laura's body causes Cooper to realize that he's again dealing with a serial killer who he has been pursuing for some time. The discovery of Laura's diary, indicating she was meeting someone referred to as "J," and a mysterious videotape lead Cooper to start digging into the town and the sordid secrets that it holds. Suspects are plenty, however, since a multitude of characters have a "J" initial.

As is to be expected, the pilot episode is setting up the situations and introducing us to many of the characters in the large ensemble cast. David Lynch's style is evident here, with long, static shots and often excruciatingly slow pacing. When vital information is being imparted, lights begin flashing with static energy, as if some outside force is controlling events and their disclosure. The characters are quirky, and their interplay is beautifully set up. Part of what makes the program still work so well is not that it is a murder mystery, but that it is a world of well-realized characters, who have layer upon layer upon layer of meaning and secrets. The pie, cherry, is offscreen, but is emphasized heavily. Acres of donuts do make it onscreen however. The running time stated on the case is 15 minutes longer than the actual time.

Stylish, humorous, surreal and chilling, this gets a solid five cups of java out of five.

We're off to a great start, so let's continue with Season One. That cherry pie sure goes down good with a cuppa joe or five.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The color palette here is intentionally warm, pushed toward gold, red and orange. However, the transfer here overdoes it, without any visible blues. Skin tones have an unnatural, yellowish cast. The picture is slightly soft and has plenty of artifacts and aliasing. Shadow detail is poor, and blacks are rather brownish. There is also some dirt and minor speckling, but the picture is still much better than my VHS copy taped off the air, so I'm certainly happy to have it.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is hissy and rather poor. Worst of all is the fact this disc, although NTSC, is converted from a PAL master. This results in a speedup and rise in pitch that is clearly noticeable to anyone familiar with the series. Bass is heavy and boomy to the point of unpleasantness at time, such as a shot of a fireplace and the jukebox at the local diner. Overly juiced, this is pretty nasty although the basshounds will like it.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Chinese, Simplified Chinese with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring One Against the Wind, Class Cruise, Live Nude Girls and Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: In addition to trailers for four completely unrelated movies, brief bios and filmographies for Joan Chen and Kyle MacLachlan are provided. Menus are provided in both English and Chinese, for those wanting to practice their oriental languages.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A great start to a classic series, though a marginal transfer suffering from PAL speedup. Still, essential for anyone wanting to dive into Season One.


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