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The curious link between Twin Peaks, Marlon Brando and Stanley Kubrick

Since its inception in 1989, Twin Peaks has amassed a cult following and is widely considered one of the greatest television shows of all time. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, the surreal mystery drama would spawn a prequel film entitled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, alongside a third series taking place 25 years later. The series is known for its iconic characters, such as the oddball FBI Agent Dale Cooper played by Kyle MacLachlan, who arrives in the small-town world of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of popular teenager Laura Palmer.

With a stunning score by frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, striking set design, and the perfect mixture of surrealism, humour, mystery, and drama, Twin Peaks is a masterwork of television. It’s unsurprising that Twin Peaks is one of the most influential shows ever made, with showrunners from countless TV series citing it as a major inspiration – from Mad Men to Hannibal to The Sopranos.

However, Twin Peaks wouldn’t be Twin Peaks without the milieu of films and television shows that came before it. Allusions to Alfred Hitchcock movies such as Vertigo and Spellbound can be seen throughout the show – with the theme of doubles and dream worlds permeating through all. Furthermore, the dream world of Twin Peaks, where Laura and Agent Cooper meet, and words are spoken backwards, is heavily informed by the experimental short film Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren, which features similar symbols such as doorways.

The name of the deceased high-school girl Laura Palmer is taken directly from the Otto Preminger film Laura, which follows a detective who falls in love with the murdered woman he is investigating. Both Twin Peaks and Laura use the motif of a painted portrait of its deceased character, suggesting that the pair are intrinsically linked. Yet this isn’t the only name borrowed from film history within the Twin Peaks universe. The name of the brothel/casino originally owned by Benjamin Horne is ‘One-Eyed Jacks’, which is named after the 1961 film of the same name, directed by Marlon Brando.

In Twin Peaks, Horne assigns the store manager of Horne’s Department Store to recruit young girls from the perfume counter to work at One-Eyed Jacks. The notorious location becomes a central part of the show, becoming the site of major events, such as Audrey being held at ransom and the rescue mission carried out by Cooper and Co. Lynch and Frost pay homage to the Brando-directed Western that was originally going to be directed by one of Lynch’s biggest inspirations, Stanley Kubrick. Despite Kubrick’s initial agreement to direct One-Eyed Jacks, months of disagreements led to his departure from the project. Instead, Kubrick turned his focus to his adaptation of Lolita, which would be released in 1962, and Marlon Brando took over in what would become his only directorial credit.

In Lynch’s world, One-Eyed Jacks is frequently referenced – not only is Hank Worden, who plays an elderly waiter in Twin Peaks, a minor character in One-Eyed Jacks, in series one, when asked by Audrey if she knows what One-Eyed Jacks is, Donna replies: “Isn’t that that Western with Marlon Brando?” Furthermore, in Wild at Heart, Lynch’s 1990 film starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, the term “one-eyed jack” can be heard as a sexual reference.

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