The Amputee (1974) Poster


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An experiment, rather than an experimental film
Michael_Cronin19 October 2003
While at the American Film Institute, David Lynch tested two different types of videotape stock by shooting this strange little piece, featuring Catherine Coulson as an amputee writing a letter, & Lynch as a nurse attending her. Coulson's voiceover details various domestic issues, & she remains oblivious to the fact that she might be bleeding to death while the nurse rushes around frantically, eventually, it seems, abandoning her.

It has been suggested that Lynch deliberately shot both versions badly, so that the Institute wouldn't start replacing film with videotape.

Regardless of whether or not this is true, The Amputee is better viewed as an example of Lynch's warped sense of humour than his skill as a filmmaker, & of what sort of ideas he might come up with for something as simple as a stock test.
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An intrigue...
mastyrmynd3 September 2004
While it is not as deep or impressive as some of Lynch's other works, I believe that this film breaks new ground in terms of camera work and how a scene is put together. I think it is important that this film is shot twice, once to capture the story, the other to capture what is happening. If you view simply the woman, you will grasp what her letter is all about, however, if you view the nurse, you will take in only what the nurse is doing. Viewing it once just staring at the woman, and then again viewing only the nurse gives quite a contrasting look at the same exact picture. It may very well be an experiment only, but the fact that it has this effect is intriguing on its own. Try it yourself!
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A little throwaway short from David Lynch
Red-Barracuda16 December 2011
David Lynch made this short during a troubled time when filming of Eraserhead had come to a stand-still due to lack of funds. He volunteered to make a short film twice as a test for a couple of stocks of black and white videotape that the American Film Institute wished to compare. As a result he made a film called The Amputee twice. Both versions are more or less the same and consist of a woman who is a double-amputee reading aloud to herself the contents of a letter that she has written while a doctor tends one of the stumps on her legs. It ends with the stump gushing blood, the doctor fleeing and the woman completely oblivious.

In truth it isn't very interesting. It's shot in one take with ugly composition. The quality of the videotape is poor in both versions; while the content is a combination of the repulsive with the mundane. It was written and filmed over the course of one day, and it is throwaway stuff that is of limited interest. It's more an example of the director's bizarre humour than anything else. It stars Catherine Coulson who would go on to play the part of The Log Lady in Twin Peaks.
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s_aucejo30 April 2005
David Lynch wrote this short film to test two different types of videotape stock for the American Film Institute.

You can check this out in "The Short films of David Lynch". I found this short extremely intelligent. In "The Short films of David Lynch" it is shown twice, but is not the same action, only the text is the same.

For me, in the first time I just couldn't stop staring at the nurse, who is in the only place on screen where action is happening.

The second time, what she is is "thinking" gets more relevant to the audience, but we find out that it has no connection at all to her legs and to the nurse.

In the end I figured out that I had just watched two different short movies! It's a great feeling for those who like the art of making movies!
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This I didn't care for so much
jbels28 January 2003
While David Lynch's films tend to gross you out through their art, this seemed to be made just to gross out. If the woman was saying something in her letter, it gets lost in the first viewing and this is not something I'd like to see a second time. Albeit, there are two versions of this on the DVD. The second, shorter version looks like it has more goop shooting out, though the quality makes it hard to tell.
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2 versions
Michael_Elliott26 February 2008
Amputee, The (1974) Version 1

*** (out of 4)

Amputee, The (1974) Version 2

** 1/2 (out of 4)

David Lynch's fourth film has a woman (Catherine E. Coulson) with no legs writing a letter to a lover while a nurse (Lynch) does weird things to her stumps. It should come as no shock but here's another very strange film from the director. It's weird because while your ears are listening to what the woman has to say, your eyes never leave her stumps where all sorts of weird things are going on. I'm sure this short will offend many people and it's this offensiveness that makes the film so effective. The goo coming from her stump has to be seen. The second version runs a minute shorter and doesn't appear to have as much being done to her stumps.
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Simply gruesome
enmussak23 December 2002
If you enjoy being disgusted (as I do), then you will love this. It is challenging to really make your audience want to gag (as I heard John Waters say once), and Lynch does it very well here. The 5 minutes consists of an amputee getting her wounds cleaned and it is not pleasant. Enjoy! 8/10
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meh, but it goes without saying...
MisterWhiplash4 June 2006
Maybe the lesser of the bunch of David Lynch shorts I've seen, the only real interest are in some seconds here and there within the four minute un-broken shot of some nasty, black-death humor that's ingrained into the material. Unfortunately, it's almost a waste to watch the film as it is by admission of Lynch himself a technical 'throaway', something to just get onto film to bite back at the AFI for possibly switching to video. Therefore we get what could be comparable to what Godard did around the same time- tool around with the possibilities of video by just going for something off-putting within the frame. It could've worked maybe as something worth watching more, but it's really a bit too un-pleasant even in its own biting sense-of-what-the-hell way. It's just an amputee who writes a confessional letter (heard in voice-over) as a wacko doctor plugs away at one of her stumps. He also, at the end, just runs away in a hurry, perhaps as to just add that last bit of "whoa" for Lynch to work with. That part is actually a nice bit of surreal whimsy, but the work is just too simplistic and deranged to really give any sense of visual amazement like in the other shot works of Lynch, or to build on the outrageousness like in Eraserhead. Worth a watch, once, then never again unless you have a thing for, well, stumps, and confessional letters written during their upheaval.
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David Lynch cleans an double amputee's stumps
a_chinn26 November 2017
Hmm. Another weirdo early David Lynch short film has a woman with a double leg amputation writing a letter (which she narrate in voice over) as a hospital attendant, played by Lynch, attends to her stumps. Weird and not all that interesting or insightful. Lynch was asked to make a film by the American Film Institute to test two new black and white video tape stocks and this was the result. Fredrick Elms photographed the short. One and a half stars for sheet stomach turning weirdness.
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Simple, Comic and Ironic
shellykachua4 October 2014
For the non-intuitive, the film is just a grotesque, confusing image but think of it again. A woman in an absolutely pitiful state (blood and puss spewing out of her stump) is lost in her thoughts and memories of Love and Romance! It's just a simple ironic image with no plot, back story or message. How one can entirely neglect the present no matter how rotten it is and choose to dwell in the past. So lost! So Engrossed!

The film was made for the sole purpose of helping the American Film Institute decide between two stocks of black and white film. David Lynch, soon to emerge as one of the greatest directors ever proposed to shoot a short film twice. One can imagine David Lynch getting excited on the thought of the imagery he was to put to film "An amputated woman in an extremely deteriorated state lost in the days of her romantic endeavors!"

I understand that only a handful of people would appreciate the concept, leaving the majority confused and disgusted but The Amputee is a simple masterpiece open to interpretation
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Humorously Oozy
MatthewTHuff24 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I for one thought both the first version and second version to be hysterically funny! David Lynch changed a small bit of this short film to test two different types of film, but in the end the second film looked like it had a better touch up quality. David's cameo fit the perfect role as the nurse and in the second film ended up to be a laugh when he ran out of the room because of her oozing bloody foot wound. The story didn't make much sense to me, only that i knew she had some disputes with some initial friends or acquaintances, but i for sure thought it was a dark comedy in a way.

David Lynch is, by far, an amazing writer towards shorts;Even know he uses the most complex and confusing ways to make his shorts and films so original that it almost can't be interpreted. Without one doubt i'm a firm believer that this short was better then both "The Alphabet" and " Absurd Encounter with Fear", combined. The question is what was the girl talking about? and how did she get like this? There will be no prequel, but it is a question that only your mind could answer, once again the imagination of David Lynch.
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A short, avant-garde film in the same vein as "The Alphabet"
danlee2717 September 2001
If you like early Lynch, you may like this. A commentary, I think, on amputation not only of the physical variety, but of the emotional as well. At five minutes long, sitting through the film is not exactly the test of patience a film like "Lost Highway" or "Eraserhead" may be... but in terms of its content, it is decidedly just as experimental as either of those.
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Not That Great
Scars_Remain12 September 2008
I understand that this was shot by David Lynch to test two different kinds of film. However, there's really nothing to it other than that. It's just an amputated woman writing a letter to someone, and later getting operated on. It's one continuous shot and nothing else happens at all. There is a cool effect with blood at one point that I did enjoy, but I think that's all that I really liked about it. It's just boring I guess you could say, and as a David lynch junkie, I was certainly let down. But it's all relative I suppose, I a lot of people have enjoyed it so you may also. After all, anything from the best living director is worth seeing!
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Repetitive and boring
Warning: Spoilers
This is a black-and-white short film by director David Lynch from the 1970s. He was still in his 20s when he shot this one. Basically for the entire 9 minutes, we watch a woman sitting on an armchair. The camera is static and the woman has stumps instead of legs, must have been in a terrible accident. The woman (played by Catherine E. Coulson, long-time collaborator with Lynch) keeps telling random stories about people we do not know, while a nurse (played by Lynch himself) is busy with taking care of the lady's stumps. I am fairly certain that this film would not be famous if it wasn't for its director. It's really very uninteresting and I cannot come up with a similar reason why you would want to watch this. Maybe the static camera is supposed to let us feel the woman's situation as she cannot move either. I have no idea. But I certainly do not recommend this one. Entirely forgettable.
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Why Waste an Opportunity to Say Something?
eddiez618 May 2010
It's obviously meant to look kinda shabby, and there's no evidence of any rehearsal. So with those parameters in mind, it's really great. I kept thinking how ridiculous, how juvenile, but I couldn't look away. I somehow knew it wasn't going anywhere, and I also felt it didn't have to; it's horrible stupidity is so fun. Nonsense is so underrated, so easily dismissed, but this simple, freaky clip haunts me. It harasses the psyche, the way early Monty Python or The Aqua Teen Hunger Force infects my consciousness.

Even though it's just meant to stretch a few creative tendons, it still pulses with the same absurd wide eyed wondrous horror of his more ambitious stuff. The sentimentally mundane and tedious narration that's totally at odds with the ridiculously disturbing visual creates exactly that type of extreme discomfort that has been the defining quality of all his best work. He produces this same detached, dizzying horror with Nikki's death scene in "INLAND EMPIRE" where two street dwellers are calmly discussing a possible bus route to Pamona, unconcerned as Laura Dern's Nikki lays bleeding between them right on Hollywood Boulevard. Nothing is ever just what it seems in a Lynch moment.
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Spout it out twice.
Polaris_DiB10 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Since this was more of an experiment without direction of form, only an experiment of video stock, I'd have to say that it's unsuccessful: the video quality is poor and doesn't add anything to the overall action of the scene being presented.

That said, the scene being presented is kind of interesting. A double-amputee writes a letter to someone else, talking about recent drama and a love-triangle while some random doctor character screws up and sends her leg bleeding all over the place. The end.

It's shot twice (two different video stocks), and while the first is better paced, the second has more action (read: blood). The first feels more intricately designed, what with the voice-over narration, the woman writing, and the doctor operating and all of it concluding at the same time. The second one isn't quite so well-tuned, even in keeping everything together (some blood spills over the page the woman is writing on, which cuts away the sense of odd surreality and just makes it kind of ridiculous), but there's a lot more stuff going on and it's slightly more impactive... too bad it's ended awkwardly.

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djryback11 January 2006
I mean, who am I to comment on Lynch? The all I can say is that's original, it's an art. It's Lynch!!! This movie is short, but it explains a lot. It says everything about human nature. I mean, most of the Lynch's movies are based on a human weakness, and that is what makes us all the same. Although that's the truth, Lynch alwayz makes space for different people, people who don't belong to the most of the crowd. U can see it in many examples, (Lost highway) Anywayz, that's all I have to say on this at the moment. Two thumbs way up. As a advice, i can say that you should see the elephant man, if you didn't by now. I can say that movie changed my life.
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