33-Year-Old David Lynch Tackles Eraserhead Questions In One Of His First Videotaped Interviews

If you look down here, you can see what remains of a cat we had down here. […] That cat’s not in the film. In a sense, it’s right below in the shot.
—David Lynch

David Lynch hasn’t changed.

This nearly 40-year-old interview, conducted by Tom Christie for a TV production class at UCLA two years after the 1977 Eraserhead premiere, shows that right off the bat of his film career, David Lynch has been dodging questions about the meaning of his work. “It’s an honest film,” the then 33-year old director assures with his instantly recognizable voice that doesn’t seem to have aged ever since, “but it’s very abstract, so it’s not fair for me to say there’s a definite way it has to be interpreted.”

Commenting on several published reviews of the movie he himself once summarized as “a dream of dark and troubling things,” he somewhat agrees (“That’s a good one!”) with The San Francisco Examiner calling it a “grotesque comic melange of the vile and the uncanny.”

Especially the first half of the film is a black comedy, a strange comedy. Like I’ve said before, it’s got to be a certain kind of comedy in order to make the switch into a sort of fear.

Five minutes into the video are some hot takes from audience members who just watched a midnight screening of Eraserhead at West L.A.’s Nuart Theatre. You’ll be able to identify yourself with at least one of their responses, which range from “I thought it was the ultimate suspense thriller. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did,” over “Uhhh…,” to “I’ve seen it 8 times, and that’s about enough. This time, I interpreted it as a nightmare.”

Also appearing briefly in this interview is legendary cinematographer Frederick Elmes, who is quick to give the director all the credit. And apparently, David Lynch had invited John Waters, whose Pink Flamingos was screening as a midnight movie at the Nuart as well, down to the oil fields to join them for the interview, but it didn’t happen.

Thanks to Tom for sharing this incredible archival footage of possibly the first interview with David Lynch on video, which was recently included as a bonus feature on Criterion’s Eraserhead release.

I wanted people that were obscure, because if you’re going into the netherworld, you don’t wanna go in with Chuck Heston.
—David Lynch on casting Eraserhead

Bonus: David Lynch thanks the Nuart Theatre for its support

Written by Pieter Dom

Founder and curator of Welcome to Twin Peaks since 2011. Bobsessed since March 1991.


Share your thoughts
  1. Hmmmm, so if “you go outside of the limitations of the world you have created things start to fall apart?”

    Do you think he either forgot he said that or he actually thinks Season 3 doesn’t go to far outside of Twin Peaks limitations?

    Interesting to hear that interview from his first film after dealing with “Inland Empire” and Twin Peaks, the Return…

    • Sure is interesting. He surprisingly revealed more about Eraserhead than in all later interviews combined.

      “Henry and Mary got caught in the past. They live in their own time.”

      THAT line instantly reminded me of Coop and Carrie.

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