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Eraserhead (1977)

Not Rated | | Horror | 3 February 1978 (USA)
Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.

Director:

David Lynch

Writer:

David Lynch
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Popularity
1,208 ( 744)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nance ... Henry Spencer (as John Nance)
Charlotte Stewart ... Mary X
Allen Joseph ... Mr. X
Jeanne Bates ... Mrs. X
Judith Roberts ... Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (as Judith Anna Roberts)
Laurel Near ... Lady in the Radiator
V. Phipps-Wilson V. Phipps-Wilson ... Landlady (long version)
Jack Fisk ... Man in the Planet
Jean Lange Jean Lange ... Grandmother
Thomas Coulson Thomas Coulson ... The Boy
John Monez John Monez ... Bum
Darwin Joston ... Paul
T. Max Graham T. Max Graham ... The Boss (as Neil Moran)
Hal Landon Jr. ... Pencil Machine Operator
Jennifer Lynch ... Little Girl
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Storyline

A film that defies conventional logic and storytelling, fueled by its dark nightmarish atmosphere and compellingly disturbing visuals. Henry Spencer is a hapless factory worker on his vacation when he finds out he's the father of a hideously deformed baby. Now living with his unhappy, malcontent girlfriend, the child cries day and night, driving Henry and his girlfriend to near insanity. Written by Jacob Samuelson

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Where your nightmares end... See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 February 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Gardenback See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$22,179
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby (re-release)| Mono (original release)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Catherine E. Coulson did then-husband Jack Nance's hair throughout the five year production of this film. The process involved lots of pulling and picking at Nance's hair, which the actor hated. Coulson later joked that her duties as hairdresser ruined her marriage to Nance, and resulted in a subsequent divorce. The two, however, did remain friends for the rest of their lives. See more »

Goofs

Camera shadow visible, tracking into the light towards the end of the film. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Beautiful Girl Across the Hall: Are you Henry?
Henry Spencer: Yes?
Beautiful Girl Across the Hall: A girl named "Mary" called on the payphone in the hallway about an hour ago. She said that she's at her parents and that you're invited to dinner.
Henry Spencer: Oh, yeah?
[after a long pause]
Henry Spencer: Well... thank you very much.
[Henry enters his apartment, while the girl slowly closes the door to hers]
See more »

Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits, just a long, tilted close-up of the face of Jack Nance. See more »

Alternate Versions

The original print of the film ran 20m longer and featured a number of characters who are referenced in the credits but do not appear: The people digging in the alley show up in the second half of the movie. Henry comes across two kids excavating rows of dimes from the asphalt in the street. The landlady shows up in the second half, in a scene where Henry goes into the lobby of the apartment building and takes out his anger on a bench. "You stop kicking my bench!" the landlady shouts at him. "That's good wood!" See more »


Soundtracks

In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song)
Mixed By Alan Splet , David Lynch
Written By David Lynch, Peter Ivers
© Copyright 1976. David Lynch.
© 1976 O.K. Paul Music.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Analysis fails here
23 July 2003 | by bunditaSee all my reviews

Unlike some of Lynch's more recent works ("Mullholland Drive" and "Lost Highway" for example) Eraserhead is a film that doesn't benefit from being "figured out".

The film left me with several strong emotional impressions, mainly having to do with the hell of a forced marriage and the burden of caring for an unwanted child. In spite of truly bizarre occurances (Roast chickens start kicking and oozing blood at the dinner table while Mom has a seziure apparently unnoticed by everybody else; grandma seems catatonic, but mom still gets her to toss the salad, etc., etc., etc...), Mary comes from a rigidly "traditional" family, completely crass in it's need to know if Henry had sex with Mary, what Henry does for a living, and it's assumption that he will marry Mary after presenting him with flimsy evidence that they've had a child together. The values that force Henry and Mary to marry are shown to be as much a part of the machine that has created the industrial hell in which they live as any other force.

Their universe seems post-appocalyptic in its desolation; not a wisp of vegetation anywhere, and almost no clues about time of day. I suspect a rational explanation for the setting of Eraserhead might include some alien takeover; Henry and Mary's "premature baby" doesn't really look human, and it's introduction to their lives is more than a little suspect. Not to mention the "worms" that keep appearing everywhere,looking like dissected human central nerve chords.

While I firmly believe there is no one way to interpret Eraserhead, it

does touch on a number themes that fall into the "social commentary" bin. Isolation deepening simultaneously with physical connection (pipes)as a metaphor for sex that alienates, marriage forced by circumstance, etc. It manages to get the viewer (at least this one) thinking about these issues in an abstract way. I don't know that I really enjoyed the film (although Harry's dream where his brian gets turned into eraserheads was humorous) but I didn't find it worthless. As an image and soundscape, it was truly brilliant.

The intentional mix of plot and diversion succeeds in tempting and then thwarting analysis, like a painting or a sculpture. As such, this film is guaranteed to alienate a large audience. Some of Lynch's more recent films ("Mulholland Drive", for example) are puzzleboxes that start the viewer out in this state of confusion, but actually make a lot more sense once the puzzle is figured out. "Eraserhead" deliberately induces confusion, and intentionally maintains confusion throughout, with no resolution intended. As such, it is typical "student work", untainted by the need to be palatable to large numbers of people, unencumbered by the idea that many will lose interest because they do not see value in maintaining states of confusion (it's called developing an attention span). As with all things, it's a matter of taste.


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