CLOSE
Original image
YouTube

12 Hair-Raising Facts About Eraserhead

Original image
YouTube

Back in 1977, no one had ever heard the term “Lynchian.” In fact, no one had ever heard of David Lynch. The director of The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive had never made a full-length movie when Eraserhead arrived on the scene. But the cult horror film quickly seared a number of black-and-white images onto fans’ brains—chiefly, Jack Nance’s wild hair and that grotesque “baby” at the center of the story. In honor of its 40th anniversary, here are 12 gross, trippy, and terrifying facts about the midnight movie classic.

1. DAVID LYNCH ACTUALLY WANTED TO MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT INSECTS AND ADULTERY.

Eraserhead is technically a student film, since Lynch started making it while he was studying at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies. But if things had gone a little bit differently, his first feature would’ve been Gardenback, not Eraserhead. Gardenback was a 45-page script that came from one of Lynch’s paintings of a “stooped figure with green things growing out of its back.” The screenplay concerned a couple named Henry and Mary. When Henry looks at another girl, “something crosses from her to him.” It’s a bug, which proceeds to grow into a monster in Henry and Mary’s attic.

Lynch’s professors at AFI urged the young director to lengthen Gardenback into a feature-length film, which apparently didn’t go well. Lynch ended up hating the retooled screenplay and that, combined with some other school frustrations, nearly made him quit the program. But then his teacher and mentor Frank Daniel asked him what he’d like to do instead. Lynch said, “I want to do Eraserhead.” Daniel simply replied, “Okay, do Eraserhead then.”

2. ONE LINE IN THE BIBLE INSPIRED ERASERHEAD.

In his book Catching the Big Fish, Lynch called Eraserhead his “most spiritual movie,” and even cited the Bible as an influence. Well, just one tiny part of the Bible. “Eraserhead was growing in a certain way, and I didn’t know what it meant,” Lynch wrote. “I was looking for a key to unlock what these sequences were saying. Of course, I understood some of it; but I didn’t know the thing that just pulled it all together. And it was a struggle. 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 the vision for me, 100 percent.”

3. NO, LYNCH WASN’T WORKING OUT HIS ANXIETIES AS A NEW DAD.

Eraserhead concerns a man who unexpectedly becomes a father to a very unusual baby. In 1968, Lynch had also become a father to an unplanned baby (Jennifer) with his first wife, Peggy Lentz. That baby was not that unusual, but she did have club feet. Critics were quick to draw conclusions that Lynch was working out his own anxieties as a new father with Eraserhead. Jennifer, however, has always downplayed this link. “I was born with club feet and people have made insinuations about it because the baby in Eraserhead was deformed,” Jennifer said in an interview. “But I don’t think David credits that directly as where Eraserhead comes from.”

David offered similar thoughts in an interview from Lynch on Lynch. “Obviously, since a person is alive and they’re noticing things around them, ideas are going to come,” he said. “But that would mean there’d be a hundred million Eraserhead stories out there. Everybody has a kid and they make Eraserhead? It’s ridiculous! It’s not just that. It’s a million other things.”

4. HE DISSECTED A CAT FOR RESEARCH.

To prepare for the shoot, Lynch decided he needed to look at a dead cat’s membranes, hair, and skin. It was apparently a texture thing.

5. PHILADELPHIA INFORMED THE MOVIE’S IMAGERY AND SOUND.

Lynch moved from his hometown of Missoula, Missouri to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1965. The city had a profound effect on him—though not necessarily a positive one.

“The biggest influence on my life was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Lynch later told Philadelphia Weekly. “I loved the fact that Philadelphia had a mood, and that mood was dark and foreboding. I felt industry. I felt smoke and fire and fear. I felt insanity. These things that I felt influenced me." Lynch has said that “industrial world” directly shaped the Eraserhead’s feel and sound.

6. IT TOOK FIVE YEARS TO FINISH THE FILM.

Eraserhead was in production for five years, largely because Lynch kept running out of money. He relied on AFI, his parents, and several friends for financial support, and picked up one other unusual source of funding …

7. LYNCH PAID FOR IT WITH HIS NEWSPAPER ROUTE.

To make ends meet, Lynch took a paper route; he delivered The Wall Street Journal during production, which earned him an extra $48 per week. This wasn’t actually a “day job,” as his route was scheduled during the night. Lynch also insisted on shooting Eraserhead at night, so at some point each evening, he’d have to suspend shooting to go complete his paper route.

8. SISSY SPACEK HELPED OUT ON SET.

Jack Fisk played the so-called “Man in the Planet,” and sometimes invited his girlfriend to the set. That girlfriend (and later wife) just happened to be Sissy Spacek. She would hold the slate while Fisk was on camera, which is why she received a “thanks” in the credits.

9. A TORTURE SCENE WAS CUT.

Lynch claims he cut three or four scenes from the final print, and one was a strange sequence where the main character Henry looks into a room with two women tied to a bed. They were not alone. There was also a man holding an electrical box with large cables and sparks leaping off it. He moves toward the women before the scene cuts, leaving his intentions to the imagination.

10. LYNCH WILL NEVER TELL HOW THE “BABY” WAS MADE.

Fans have speculated about how Lynch made the deformed baby prop (nicknamed “Spike”) for decades. Some say it’s a lamb fetus, others think it’s a skinned rabbit. But they might as well keep guessing, because Lynch has repeatedly refused to reveal its origins. Same goes for Jennifer, who won’t even tell her own daughter.

11. THE INITIAL REVIEWS WERE NOT KIND.

Eraserhead was not an immediate critical darling. In 1976, Variety called it “a sickening bad-taste exercise.” And that was a relatively early review. Eraserhead screened almost exclusively as a midnight movie for a couple years, but when it went wider in 1980, Tom Buckley at The New York Times was no fan, either. He dubbed it a “murkily pretentious shocker” with an “excruciatingly slow pace.” Ouch.

12. BUT MEL BROOKS LOVED IT.

Critics may have been initially cool on Lynch’s first feature film, but it garnered some famous fans. Stanley Kubrick called it his “favorite film” and Mel Brooks liked it so much, he gave Lynch a job. The story goes that when Lynch’s name was floated as a director for The Elephant Man, Brooks—the film's producer—had never heard of him. So Brooks went to see Eraserhead. After he got out of the theater, he went right up to Lynch and said, “You’re a madman, I love you, you’re in.”

Original image
Netflix
arrow
entertainment
5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
Original image
Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

Original image
NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
arrow
entertainment
Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
Original image
NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios