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Eraserhead (1977)

7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 53,156 users  
Reviews: 512 user | 130 critic

Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.

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Title: Eraserhead (1977)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Henry Spencer (as John Nance)
...
Allen Joseph ...
Jeanne Bates ...
...
Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (as Judith Anna Roberts)
Laurel Near ...
V. Phipps-Wilson ...
Landlady (long version)
...
Jean Lange ...
Thomas Coulson ...
John Monez ...
Bum
...
T. Max Graham ...
The Boss (as Neil Moran)
...
...
Little Girl (as Jennifer Lynch)
Edit

Storyline

Is it a nightmare or an actual view of a post-apocalyptic world? Set in an industrial town in which giant machines are constantly working, spewing smoke, and making noise that is inescapable, Henry Spencer lives in a building that, like all the others, appears to be abandoned. The lights flicker on and off, he has bowls of water in his dresser drawers, and for his only diversion he watches and listens to the Lady in the Radiator sing about finding happiness in heaven. Henry has a girlfriend, Mary X, who has frequent spastic fits. Mary gives birth to Henry's child, a frightening looking mutant, which leads to the injection of all sorts of sexual imagery into the depressive and chaotic mix. Written by Rick Gregory <rag.apa@email.apa.org>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Warning: the nightmare has not gone away See more »

Genres:

Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

31 December 1978 (Poland)  »

Also Known As:

Eraserhead 2000  »

Box Office

Budget:

$20,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(re-release)| (original release)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's star, Jack Nance never knew, nor cared, exactly what Eraserhead meant. In an interview with the Twin Peaks (1990) fanzine Wrapped in Plastic, Nance said: "You guys get way too deep over this business. I don't take it all that seriously. It's only a movie." See more »

Goofs

When Henry enters Mary's house, there is a large, distinctive "dent" on the top of his hair that disappears when he gets into the house. 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 »

Connections

Referenced in Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

In Heaven
(uncredited)
Music by Peter Ivers
Lyrics by David Lynch
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Cinematic genius, but definitely NOT a date movie.
30 January 2000 | by (England) – See all my reviews

I can think of very few films that have sound as their most commendable feature. The Exorcist is one, a film that, aside from infrequent strains of `Tubular Bells', adopts minimal incidental music. This is laudable in a horror genre where shocks are clearly signposted – and predicted – by overgenerous musical stings. The Exorcist may be flawed, but its avoidance of this field cliché is worthy of praise.

Eraserhead is the other film that excels in sound. A frankly disturbing concoction of industrial score and white noise with undercurrents of musical hall and sonorous church organ, it is almost an extra character in the film, and easily it's most prominent factor.

Yet Eraserhead is to be recommended for more than its incidentals. An impenetrable and gloomy work, what is it actually about? Who is the credited `man in the planet' who pulls levers that control giant spermatozoa? Many questions like this permeate a film which perhaps has to be seen several times to get over the initial shock of it's avant gardism. Lynch extracts the everyday and supplants it with the exceptionally bizarre. The experience of meeting a girlfriend's parents for the first time is never worse than here, where the parents in question gyrate spasmodically to the animated legs of a blood-spitting chicken. It's these scenes – along with the deformed mutant baby – that could lend the film the air of an abortion debate. Birth and repressed sexuality thrive throughout the film, from suckling puppies to the seductive appeal of the `beautiful girl across the hall' and a mother-in-law that gets too close for comfort. I guess the entire film could be a man's mental breakdown when faced with the premature responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood. Though to be honest I couldn't even begin to imagine what it's really all about.

Encroaching blackness fills every scene, where lights are intermittent at best, and at worse fail completely. Often sets – particularly the bedroom when `Mary X' is feeding the child – are like prison cells. Two of the most eerie segments involve a title-explaining dream (?) where Henry's (Nance's) head is carved into pencil rubbers and an unsettling musical number from the `lady in the radiator'. This is the same lady with two candyfloss-like lumps on her cheeks that alternates her stage appearances between stamping on giant sperm to singing with religious convictions.

Direction and cinematography are brilliant throughout, though the climax is the ultimate extension of a film that borders on darker, extremely unpleasant aspects of reality. I took a girl to see this film once, where the conclusion formed the final straw in what could be seen as a cycle of repellent imagery. I wonder why I never saw her again?


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