1977 Movie Review: ERASERHEAD, 1977

Movie Reviews

Director: David Lynch

Stars: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart and Judith Anna Roberts

Review by Russell Hill


A deranged man is forced to look after his strange-looking baby and struggles to cope with his own demons.


David Lynch has always been an odd director. Turning narratives on their head, Lynch makes regular storylines seem unreal and not like anything which is based on reality. Take Blue Velvet for example – it’s a love story at first but weird and fantastical individuals appear throughout. Eraserhead is no different, especially as its imagery and storyline is more akin to Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou.

Harry Spencer (Nance) lives in squalor. With an untidy apartment, Spencer leads a twisted existence. His strange girlfriend Mary (Stewart) informs him that she has given birth to a grotesque-looking child. Spencer and Mary struggle to cope looking after a deformed child and she leaves them both. Spencer tries to juggle his romantic feelings for the girl who lives opposite him with caring for his child. Will Spencer give into his rage and kill his child?

Eraserhead is certainly not for family viewing. Its use of strange imagery is similar to what might be in the psyche of a demented maniac. However, for adult viewers, it’s a fascinating film. As any new father learns, their baby can be terrifying. Although Eraserhead takes the metaphor to a completely different level, especially as the child doesn’t look human, one can sympathise with Spencer.

Lynch’s direction is sublime. Eraserhead was his first feature-length film and shows a truly great director in his infancy. The film touches on a subject which was very important to Lynch, especially as his own child had recently been born with clubbed feet. Although basing a character on his own personal life and turning it into an alien-like creature might be a step too far, the similarities are certainly evident.

Although it is an odd movie, Eraserhead is one of the best surreal films to have been made in the past fifty years. It isn’t surprising that it has been likened to the work of Luis Bunuel and Last Year at Marienbad because it takes several viewings to fully appreciate.