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Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Jeanne Bates, Allen Joseph, Judith Anna Roberts ... see more see more... , Laurel Near , V. Phipps-Wilson , Jack Fisk , Darwin Joston , Hal Landon Jr. , Gill Dennis , Jennifer Chambers Lynch

Filmed intermittently over the course of a five-year period, David Lynch's radical feature debut stars Jack Nance as Henry Spencer, a man living in an unnamed industrial wasteland. Upon learning that ... read more read more...a past romance has resulted in an impending pregnancy, Henry agrees to wed mother-to-be Mary (Charlotte Stewart) and moves her into his tiny, squalid flat. Their baby is born hideously mutated, a strange, reptilian creature whose piercing cries never cease. Mary soon flees in horror and disgust, leaving Henry to fall prey to the seduction of the girl across the hall (Judith Anna Roberts). An intensely visceral nightmare, Eraserhead marches to the beat of its own slow, surreal rhythm: Henry's world is a cancerous dreamscape, a place where sins manifest themselves as bizarre creatures and worlds exist within worlds. Interpreting the film along the lines of Lynch's claims that it's the product of his own fears of fatherhood may make Eraserhead easier to digest on a narrative level, if need be. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

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83% liked it

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91% liked it

44 critics

R, 1 hr. 40 min.

Directed by: David Lynch

Release Date: January 1, 1977

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DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005

Stats: 5,230 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (5,230)


  • June 18, 2013
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
  • June 12, 2013
    In "Eraserhead", everything is fine.

    Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/18

    THIS WILL BE MY 500TH MOVIE REVIEW
  • February 9, 2013
    Full marks for originality - it's a truly new way of telling a pretty basic and "been done" story (surprise pregnancy that leads to family fallout and immense stress) - and for spectacular sound editing to complement the surrealist visuals, but my problems with Eraserhead are tha... read moret it's too hard to get into - wow, no one's ever said that about David Lynch before, right...? - and that what looked like it was going to be a family story pretty much comes off the rails by the end. Something from my university years is coming back into my mind after seeing this, though, something about Freud's theory of the uncanny... thought-provoking film and important to see, but do it for the work and not the entertainment value - otherwise, you'll be disappointed.
  • May 19, 2012
    Really not my type of film. I just found it annoying and boring. I'm sure a lot of stuff happens in the subtext and stuff but I just wasn't interested. I didn't want to find out what was going to happen. There were many moments where I really felt 'what on earth is going on?'. I ... read morejust grew tired of it and I was glad when it was over. All the metaphors and other hidden messages just didn't influence me in the slightest.
  • fb1664868775
    March 4, 2012
    fb1664868775
    Horror in white noise. The "In Heaven" scene is great.
  • November 6, 2011
    A bizarre surrealist film by one of my favorite directors, David Lynch, is what Eraserhead is. My take on this film the first time I saw it was that it was strange and cool. My second take said the same thing, just with the scary factor removed... but on my third take, I decided ... read moreto make a change. I imagined my self in Henry's confused shoes, and a huge difference I saw. So, in the end, I say, "Congratulations, David Lynch; you made a cult classic we'll never forget... no matter how hard we try!".
  • October 25, 2011
    Its not scary but different. I didn't love it or hate it, I just thought it was something that separates itself from the crowd. In the end, I have no idea what its about but I want to see more Lynch!
  • October 2, 2011
    Eraserhead presents a terrific plot, just like the direction of Lynch, our screenplay and the strange and unforgettable actings of the cast. A surrealist and shocking portrait of parenthood, an schizophrenic view of another side of the cinema. Bizarre, scary and until funny, Davi... read mored Lynch's Eraserhead is a film that never is going out of my mind. Fresh.
  • July 20, 2011
    Just it's hard to imagine cinema without Steven Spielberg or Stanley Kubrick, so a world without David Lynch seems as absurd and as nightmarish as one of his films. The man who is arguably America's greatest living filmmaker has so completely re-written the rulebook for surrealis... read moret filmmaking, that even non-fans like Roger Ebert would admit that the world would be a duller place without him.

    If you want proof of this sea-change which Lynch has caused in cinema, you need look no further than his debut feature Eraserhead, a dark and fascinating fable about marriage, heaven and industry which set the midnight movie circuit alight in the late-1970s. Marrying Alan Splet's masterful sound design to a series of horrifically beautiful and strange images, Lynch creates a viewing experience which is nothing short of mesmerising.

    Part of the mystique of Eraserhead lies in the fact that relatively little is known about it even after 34 years. Lynch is famous for refusing to reveal what his films mean, but the production history is as mysterious as the finished product. There are no making-of documentaries, and even Lynch's own interviews focus on the pre-production rather than the actual filming.

    Eraserhead was filmed intermittently over six years beginning in 1970, when Lynch received a grant from the American Film Institute to film a 21-page script about adultery. What began as a long short morphed over these six years into a four-hour rough cut which Lynch subsequently pared down to 90 minutes. During this time Lynch experienced a spiritual epiphany, beginning his involvement in transcendental meditation which he continues to this day.

    Lynch's photography, both past and present, has often revolved around disused factories or industrial landscapes which have fallen into disrepair. Eraserhead mirrors this fascination, depicting a vision of post-industrial society which makes the workers' city in Metropolis look like the Costa del Sol. Every building seems to be either a relic of a bygone age or coming apart at the seams; where there are plants or trees, they are black and completely bare. Alan Splet's amazing soundtrack howls and wails, as if the Earth itself were groaning under the weight of Man's work, from all His once-great achievements now rendered obsolete by age and progress.

    By creating such a dark and desolate landscape, Lynch makes us feel isolated and alien to our surroundings: we are the living and the breathing in a world comprised entirely of death and decay. This feeling of alienation and malaise spills over into the characters, with Henry's father-in-law remarking that the whole world has become a "hell-hole". Their conversations are filled with the awkward silences that would become characteristic of Lynch's work, while the black-and-white visuals give the impression that this world is slipping into the next, like the characters in Samuel Beckett's Endgame who are patiently waiting for death.

    Like Alien two year later, Eraserhead's central story revolves around the male fear of pregnancy and the Freudian connotations of offspring. Some commentators have speculated that the entire film is an allegory for Lynch's anxiety about the birth of his daughter Jennifer - none moreso, incidentally, than Jennifer Lynch herself. Regardless of whether that is true or to what extent, this theme is writ large throughout Eraserhead, and manifests itself in a number of sinister ways.

    When Henry first discovers that he is a father, he reacts not with delight but with fear - fear not of the parents' reaction, or for his girlfriend, but of what monster he may have created. The film begins with the spectral apparition of a child emanating from Jack Nance's mouth, as if this creature was spawned from the darkest depths of his unconscious. The baby is the id to Henry's ego, its bizarre and impossible constructions being at odds with his straightforward demeanour and limited range of expression. Along these lines, Henry's attack on the child is the ego (or super-ego) defeating the animalistic id, albeit with serious and unforeseen consequences.

    Over the course of the film both Henry and his girlfriend are tormented by their child. It lies screaming incessantly at night, to the point where the girlfriend packs her things and goes home, leaving the baby entirely in his care. From then on the baby becomes more menacing and vindictive towards Henry: first it screams to prevent him leaving the flat, and then it laughs at him when it seems the girl who lives across the hall no longer cares for him.

    With this development Eraserhead becomes a film not just about fear but about responsibility, in which the child is the physicalisation of Henry's conscience. Although Henry is hardly the philandering type, he does entertain fantasies of other women, where the brunette across the hall or the strange blonde who lives in the radiator. There are almost hints of Pinocchio in the father-son relationship, with the almost unreal baby keeping the real-life father on the straight and narrow. But unlike Pinocchio, there is no friendship between them, and ultimately the puppet permanently rebels against his conscience.

    In his 2006 book Catching the Big Fish, Lynch called Eraserhead his "most spiritual movie", and claimed that the whole project came together after he read a certain (unnamed) part of The Bible. There are huge Biblical overtones in Eraserhead, and most of them are from the more unpleasant parts of the Old Testament. Not only does the baby represent the sins of the father being visited on the sons (Exodus 34:7), but the man in the moon moving all the levers could be God setting all of this in motion.

    Alternatively, the man in the moon and the woman in the radiator may have nothing to do with God at all. They might be projections of Henry's subconscious, being respectively a scapegoat and a possible source of redemption. The man resembles the baby in all his rashes and peculiar spots, hinting at the concept of Man creating a jealous, negative God as a projection of his own cold heart.

    When the lady is dancing, she tramples on copies of the apparitions from the beginning, suggesting to Henry that he must overcome this evil to gain both her love and his salvation. The final scene, where she embraces Henry and the screen fades to white, could indicate that he has gone to heaven - where, as the song says, everything is fine. There are clear through-lines to Mulholland Drive in her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe (whom Betty/ Diane also resembles) and in the use of a theatrical performance within the world of a film.

    All of these interpretations are valid, and there is nothing in the content of Eraserhead which can be explained for certain. What is for certain is the terrifying nature of the special effects used to bring this baby to life. Various rumours surround this unique special effect, the most common being that it is a pickled calf foetus, animated from within. Whatever it is, its twisted shape and harrowing cries burn deep into our subconscious and genuinely freak us out. We jump when we see it break out in spots, and its death throes are nothing short of nerve-shredding.

    Eraserhead is a dark and twisted masterpiece which remains one of the most extraordinary debut features in all of cinema. Lynch's direction is immaculate, creating a unique cinematic vision which is not only frightening but deeply visceral and dripping with substances. It is a high point of surrealist cinema that would have made Salvador Dali proud, and may even be the best such work since Un Chien Andalou. In any case, it is essential viewing for everyone with even an iota of interest in film.
  • July 13, 2011
    I sometimes dream of waking to a completely dark world, a world with no sunlight and minimal artificial light. My vision is blurred, but there is nothing to see. The streets are virtually empty, and my friends and family are lifeless; sitting, standing or even walking, but with n... read moreothing to do or say, and nowhere to go. No questions are asked because there is nothing to learn, nothing is discussed because nothing is interesting. And it is this dismal reality I am faced with, only partially aware that there is anything better.

    The existence I dream of is somewhat reminiscent of the world of Henry Spencer, the main character in Eraserhead, who becomes father to a hideously deformed baby. That's what the film is about at face value, but the very style in which it is portrayed is the real beauty of it. The setting and scenery makes the film one of the most desperately depressing I have ever seen. And although Henry seems to be devoid of any spark of personality, we can't help but sympathise with him throughout the film.

    Similar to my dream, the only form of light is artificial, the streets are virtually empty, and the only person in the entire film who has any personality is the father-in-law, and the only thing he has to talk about is his poor health. He also seems to be the only one with any link to better times. ("I've watched this city turn from pastures to the hell-hole it is now.") The city they live in is completely industrialized, and the only plant life seen is dead, and in a pile of soil on Henry's bedside table.

    Some have suggested it is based after a nuclear holocaust, but nothing is explained to any conclusion. One of the beauties of this film is that it practically begs the viewer to decide for themselves what any of it means, and there are many theories. I warn you not to read the message board of Eraserhead before you see the film, as it is so much more powerful and chilling to experience it first-hand.

    The first time I saw Eraserhead, I was completely confused. It is possible that David Lynch just put a load of random imagery together and called it a film. Maybe he wanted the viewers to put it all together and make their own sense of it (or not). On the other hand, there might actually be a set formula behind it and only the very open-minded and discerning audience can properly decipher it.

    One viewing of Eraserhead is enough to raise about a dozen questions, and to leave you gasping for answers. Two viewings are probably enough to give you theories about some of the cryptic depictions hauntingly portrayed. Three viewings might be enough to give you a completely different set of theories, battling persistently against your previous conceptions, but still leaving just a few details that don't quite seem to fit in. The truth is that there may be parts that don't make sense in one interpretation, but fit in perfectly to another. You could probably watch Eraserhead several times, and each time see a slightly different story. Or if you were to ask six different people exactly what Eraserhead is about, you would get six different answers, each equally correct in their own right, and each equally confused.

    That being said, this definitely isn't a film for everyone. This is the first Lynch film I have seen, and it certainly won't be the last. But there will no doubt be many who see this purely as a lot of clever mind tricks and special effects (for its time, anyway.) There will be those who don't like much to think about, and want it all explained bit by bit in perfect detail. Well, Eraserhead is an epitome of everything such moviegoers will hate. I will say this for certain: If your favourite films are 'Love Actually' or 'Dude, Where's My Car?', you probably won't get much out of Eraserhead. But for those who like their concepts challenged once in a while, this film will probably be one to watch again and again until you understand. This is also not a film to be forgotten easily. Love it or hate it, Eraserhead will stay with you for a very long time.

Critic Reviews


Variety Staff
September 25, 2007
Variety Staff, Variety

The mind boggles to learn that Lynch labored on this pic for five years. Full Review

Dave Kehr
September 25, 2007
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Some of it is disturbing, some of it is embarrassingly flat, but all of it shows a degree of technical accomplishment far beyond anything else on the midnight-show circuit. Full Review

V.A. Musetto
January 17, 2007
V.A. Musetto, New York Post

Lynch, as he does with all his films, refuses to explain anything, although he does say that he has yet to read an interpretation that matches his. Full Review

Nathan Lee
January 17, 2007
Nathan Lee, Village Voice

What a masterpiece of texture, a feat of artisanal attention, an ingenious assemblage of damp, dust, rock, wood, hair, flesh, metal, ooze. Full Review

Tom Huddleston
January 26, 2006
Tom Huddleston, Time Out

Lynch's remarkable first feature is a true original. Full Review

Douglas Pratt
June 14, 2003
Douglas Pratt, Hollywood Reporter

It represented a monumental shift in how movies are seen and digested -- one that raised the level of aptitude and film literacy throughout the world.

Christopher Runyon
February 21, 2014
Christopher Runyon, Movie Mezzanine

The most terrifying film ever made. Full Review

Ben Kenigsberg
October 8, 2012
Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out Chicago

By now, the most interesting thing about Lynch's cult-classic debut may be the evidence it offers of how fully his sensibility was formed. Full Review

Rob Gonsalves
July 14, 2011
Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic.com

As pure cinema, Eraserhead is in a universe all its own, writing and obeying its own oblique rules. Full Review

Cole Smithey
April 12, 2009
Cole Smithey, ColeSmithey.com

Time drips like old paint in Lynch's surreal experiment, that revels in all things upsetting, disorienting, dark, and mysterious. Full Review

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Facts


    • Lady In Radiator: In Heaven, everthing is fine. In Heaven, everything is fine. You've got your good things. And I've got mine.
    • Lady In Radiator: In Heaven, everything is fine. In Heaven, everything is fine. You've got your good things. And I've got mine.
    • Mrs. X: So Henry, what do you do?
    • Henry Spencer: Oh, I'm on vacation.
    • Mary X: You wouldn't mind marrying me, would you Henry?
    • Henry Spencer: Well... No.
    • Lady In Radiator: n Heaven, everything is fine. In Heaven, everything is fine. You've got your good things. And I've got mine.

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Eraserhead Trivia


  • After seeing the movie Eraserhead, George Lucas asked this director to direct Return of the Jedi, but was turned down.  Answer »
  • Name the director of these films; "Wild at Heart", "Blue Velvet", "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive".  Answer »
  • A movie critic once stated that the movie Begotten "[Made] Eraserhead look like Ernest Saves Christmas."  Answer »
  • What film belongs to this tagline: "In Heaven Everything Is Fine."  Answer »

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