Equipped with a too sooty black-and-white image and a sadistically overamplified soundtrack, David Lynch's nightmare visions belong somewhere in the area of "fantastic art," but have found a somewhat uncomfortable home on the midnight-cult circuit. The main narrative thread, if one can be extracted from the jungly snarl, centers around a slimy, encephalitic birdlike creature (a fine example of "monster" special effects, and one that the makers of Star Wars and Close Encounters might well look at with envy), which has somehow been sired by the movie's sadsack hero, and which now lies on a table in his apartment, mewling, spitting up, contracting chicken pox, and being generally disgusting; and this thread possesses something of the quality of Gogol's and Kafka's satirical horror stories, although not as firmly embedded in a believable background and a lucid, factual tone. The shock value of the movie's various images of excrescences, eruptions, diseases, decapitations, and so forth, is largely numbed by its thorough submersion in a delirious, deliquescent world where anything goes but nothing ever comes of it. Still, this pestiferous little movie, produced in co-operation with the American Film Institute, leaves you with the feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are apt to have after stepping accidentally on a snail. (1977) — Duncan Shepherd
This movie is not currently in theaters.