One of the many modern masters of filmmaking, responsible for some of cinema’s finest feats, David Lynch is a peculiar, idiosyncratic director known for the unusual murder mystery series Twin Peaks and his many dreamlike dramas from 1986s Blue Velvet to 2001s Mulholland Drive. Dedicated to surrealism and unconventional storytelling techniques, Lynch would often turn to music and art for inspiration, taking his filmmaking to new heights following his revolutionary debut film Eraserhead in 1977.
Including an iconically terrifying sequence involving a mutant newborn child, the film itself is a loose dreamlike sequence following Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), a man trying to navigate modern life, tussling with his angry girlfriend and difficult family. With the jury out as to what the film truly means, theories suggest fears of urban isolation, fatherhood, and sexual repression, though don’t hold out for Lynch’s explanation as he’s stated many times that he’ll never reveal the meaning.
With a bevvy of on-set peculiarities, including Lynch’s insistence on blindfolding the film’s projectionist in order to conceal the secret as to how the film’s strange baby was made, Eraserhead has gone down in history has some of his most outstanding work. Nicknamed ‘Spike’, Lynch made each crew member sign release forms saying that they could never discuss the making of the creature, leaving fans in the dark for decades. However, one potential answer for the baby’s origins could be the bizarre story about a dead cat that the director acquired from a veterinarian on the set of the film.
Though David Lynch’s revolutionary debut film was almost never made at all, as his family encouraging him to ditch the project during the 1970s. “You’ve been on this Eraserhead film for many years, you have a wife and a daughter and we think it’s time for you to get a job, take on this responsibility and it was devastating to me,” Lynch recalled in an interview with Mario Orsatti in 2020.
With financial issues constantly plaguing the production of the film, Eraserhead took five years to complete, with David Lynch taking on the part-time career of a paperboy for the Wall Street Journal in order to pay for rent. Eventually, however, the final film came into existence, making a considerable impact on the world of independent cinema, with Lynch recalling that Stanley Kubrick even called it “his favourite film”. In fact, to get his actors and film crew of The Shining in the proper mood on set, Stanley Kubrick had them all watch Eraserhead beforehand in order to capture the same dread and horror as David Lynch’s classic. One of the most obvious ways Stanley Kubrick did this was to emulate Lynch’s use of sound design, replicating the same ominous hum and noise that underlined Eraserhead throughout its runtime.
Take a look at a classic clip of Lynch’s film below, featuring the aforementioned mysterious creature.