DumbLand(Subversive Cinema, 3.28.2006)
When David Lynch's website premiered a few years back, a lot of fans were initially disappointed with the overall lack of substantial material. Granted, there was plenty of original, bizarre art floating around, but nothing too impressive for the hefty cost of admission. Not long after, a bunch of shorts like the enigmatic Darkened Room and a pair of series (Rabbits and DumbLand) began appearing. Fortunately for us, DumbLand is quite arguably the pick of the litter and I can't help but feel that show translates marvelously onto the bigger screen.
You really need to have a certain "exclusive" sense of humour to appreciate even a fragment of this irreverent, ultra-crass suburban escapade starring a dad who drinks, fights, curses, and farts out squiggly lines (more-often-than-not simultaneously), a wife who shivers and shrieks incoherently, and a son who just looks like the furthest thing from a human.
At lot of weird stuff happens throughout DumbLand's eight episode, 35-minute running time. See son (Sparky) entice dad (Randy) to pull a stick out of some guy's mouth, consequently breaking his neck and puncturing both of his eye-sockets. Oh, and then the guy gets run over by a truck. Also, see dad fight a treadmill, insects, a salesman, and stab a doctor in the head. All this disturbing lunacy and mayhem can be yours in just one tidy collection.
You also might want to know that this show consists of black, crudely drawn images on a white background. Think Windows Paint in stop-motion. What's most interesting is that Lynch writes, draws, and does all the voices for every episode. Seriously, I gotta give the guy props for being the best worst artist of all time. You have to know how to draw to draw that poorly. Everything looks perfectly dreadful.
The show comes in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and it looks very good...for what it is. The white backdrop is perfectly clean and the images look flawlessly atrocious. It's as if I'm watching the show on Lynch's PC as he creates it. Anyone who knows DL knows that he's not one to skimp on the aural aspects of his art. DumbLand is full of genius, wacky sound editing throughout the series. Also, the opening and closing nu-metal score is awesomely jarring.
A major disappointment here is the complete lack of special features. A hidden short, a written message, or even a 2-minute introduction would've really made this release a lot more worthwhile. If you buy it directly from Lynch's site, it does come in a bizarre, cheap, heavy, useless, square package (like the site's exclusive web DVD release of Eraserhead and Lynch's Shorts). While this packaging is unique -- and we all know DL loves to be unique -- and can hold a more book-like booklet inside (which it never does), it's also the worst way to avoid disc scratching that's ever been conceived. For this reason, the safer bet is Subversive Cinema's more conventionally-packaged release of the same disc.
This series certainly has its highs and lows but, if you're a die-hard DL fan, you'll definitely want to check this DVD out. Less obsessive viewers might want to take a slightly more affordable glimpse at Lynch's site. In any case, view at your own risk. -- Neil Karassik