The Mysterious Robin from Blue Velvet

I never saw Blue Velvet in a movie theater — I was just old enough to get into an R-rated screening, but it didn't play theatrically in the city where I grew up — but I remember well the experience of seeing it for the first time on a VHS rental tape. I surely didn't get the full impact of the film's ominous sound design, or the widescreen shot compositions (rudely panned and scanned to fit my TV), but there was ample weirdness left to ponder. An earnest teen romance was woven through David Lynch's subversive take on small-town living, which also included a scenery-gnashing performance by Dennis Hopper and harrowing scenes of menace and the aftermath of violence. Capping it all, there was that odd scene at the end of the film featuring a robin (in the world of Blue Velvet, it represents love) chewing on a bug among perfectly arranged flowers and fence pickets. Wish fulfillment or cynical joke?

Well, it was obvious, even on that fuzzy old VHS tape, that there was something wrong with that bird. I've always read critics refer to it as a mechanical puppet, but that idea just didn't seem to do justice to the matter-of-fact creepiness of the thing. Now, in one of the features on the new Blu-ray edition of the movie — its high-def debut, if you're not counting occasional screenings on the MGM HD cable channel — cinematographer Frederick Elmes reveals the appropriately off-kilter story of where David Lynch's robin of love really came from.

Watch the clip above to hear the story, along with some more footage from the extras on the new MGM Blu-ray Disc, which is released tomorrow.