Here are some of my notes concerning the influence on season 3 of the films released in 1956. The Return of Twin Peaks: Squaring the Circle will also analyse books and music from that same year and include detailled analysis of the major films that influenced the season: The Ten Commandments, The Searchers, Gunslinger, Meet Me In Las Vegas, Moby Dick, and several others. The following text will not appear in the book itself.
Several Westerns are echoed in The Return. For instance, Frank Truman’s light-coloured cowboy hat and attitude resembles Randolf Scott’s character, a righteous sheriff in Seven Men From Now (Bud Boetticher).
The 1956 film Dakota Incident (Lewis R. Foster), like The Return is partially set in South Dakota. Containing scenes of a bank robber who is shot and left for dead in the desert, he appears in town shortly afterward, obviously mirrored by Mr. C’s arrival at the farm guarded by Hutch and Chantal, after having been “killed” by Ray in a desolate place.
Other examples include parallels to the following films: Tribute to a Bad Man (Robert Wise) or The Beast of Hollow Mountain (Edward Nassour).
Frontier Gambler (Sam Newfield) is an ingenious transposition of Otto Preminger’s Laura to the Wild West, the story of an orphan girl who is turned by a Pygmalion of sorts into his image of the perfect woman until she starts rebelling, is left for dead, and reappears midway through the narrative very much alive. These Freudian questions of paternity, identity and memory are reminiscent of the plot of The Return and of Laura’s disappearance in part 17 and reappearance in part 18 as Carrie Page. Laura’s equivalent in the film is nicknamed “The Princess”, which also echoes her iconic homecoming queen picture in the series. In Frontier Gambler, the father figure asks: “Do you think it’s possible to go back in time, forget all the intervening years, start over again fresh, and pretend that I’d found you here again today?”. The female protagonist answers, “That’s impossible, Roger. We’re what we are now because of those years. All the things that have happened to us, we can’t ignore them”. In other words, according to Twin Peaks: the past dictates the future. “I wonder what I’ll be without him?”, finally asks The Princess to the man who’s saved her from her murderous father figure. He answers:, “You’ll probably be yourself”, something Laura Palmer was never truly allowed to be.
A comedy from the same year, Crashing Las Vegas (Jean Yarbrough), also outlines similarities to The Return. A character earns the ability to successfully predict numbers thanks to a freak accident with electricity. Thanks to this newfound good fortune, the heroes of the film earn a trip to one of Las Vegas’ snazziest casino hotels where they able to win big. Supernatural luck, electricity and gambling in Las Vegas are prominent features of 1956 films set in the same city where Dougie encounters similar luck.
Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) is another strong example. Abbey Lincoln’s performance, lit in red in front of blue drapes, bears a striking resemblance to the aesthetics of Twin Peaks. The film also includes a song by The Platters, so prominent in The Return.
The poster for Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob the Gambler (1956) on which the eponymous character holds an ace of spades, may also be linked to Mr. C (BOB) showing the card of what he wants to Darya in part 2.
Although it’s not exactly a film noir, but rather a suspense thriller, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) includes a famous scene in which a dying man whispers something mysterious into another man’s ear, a moment much like the one when Laura whispers into Cooper’s ear. The film also centres around the search for the hero’s missing son, who has been abducted.
Although not technically from 1956 with its original airdate of December 1955, the episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents entitled The Case of Mr. Pelham mirrors the story of The Return. It concerns the case of a man convinced that he has a double who is slowly taking over his life. Mr. C ends up taking Pelham’s place while the latter has a breakdown and is interned in the hospital.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (Ishiro Honda & Terry Morse), the 1956 American adaptation of the 1954 Japanese film, presents a giant reptilian monster directly linked to the pain and sorrow generated by the Hiroshima bombing. This holocaust could well be the result of a teenage girl’s nightmare in cyclic time, as the Frogmoth incident in New Mexico takes place exactly 11 years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The original Trinity Test explosion sequence is set by Lynch to the music of the Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki. The traditional dance sequence in the Godzilla film, which features long nosed masks as part of the costuming, is also highly reminiscent of Twin Peaks’ Jumping Man.
Mervyn LeRoy’s film The Bad Seed (1956) displays a similar obsession with motherhood and evil genetics, as seen in The Return. A woman is convinced that her murderous mother may have transmitted her psychopathic impulses to her own daughter. She blames “that awful place and that evil woman”, a thought that Laura Palmer might experience with regards to her own home and background. At one point in the film, the building’s handyman says, in reference to the young girl, “Swallow me a frog, but she’s smart, huh?” – an expression literally observed in part 8, when the teenager swallows the Frogmoth creature.
The theme of the power of the mind to create monsters in the film Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox), with its subterranean civilization and nightmarish return of the repressed, is notable. The planet’s landscape, with its peaks and torn mountains, also resonates with the Fireman’s abode in part 8.
Run for the Sun (Roy Boulting), a loose remake of The Most Dangerous Game, includes a plane very much like the one by which Lil stands in FWWM, as well as a church with architecture that bears many similarities to the Fireman’s Palace.
The Werewolf (Fred F. Sears) takes place in a little town with a diner called “Chad’s Place”, reminiscent of the name of one of the sheriff’s deputies in The Return. The film also includes a scene where the monster, who spends most of his time roaming in the forest, gets his foot caught in a bear trap set by the authorities. This scene resembles Jerry Horne’s fate in season 3, including his foot problem.
A few other films from 1956 are noteworthy, including an animated British short (screened in the US) entitled A Short Vision (Joan and Peter Foldes), which depicts a nuclear explosion over a city and the destruction it generates. The black dot in the sky, meant to represent the plane dropping the bomb, echoes the black figure on Mr. C’s ace of spades card and is also present on the map drawn by Hawk, where it is pictured in the sky above the mountains of Twin Peaks. The explosion itself ends in a whirlpool of particles similar to the one depicted in part 8, when the camera penetrates the mushroom cloud.
As for the various circus influences found in Twin Peaks, they may originate in Trapeze, a 1956 film set in Paris and directed by Carol Reed. The film echoes the circus motifs discussed in the context of Lynch’s oeuvre earlier in this chapter.
The character played by James Mason in Bigger Than Life (1956) is subject to mood swings and psychotic episodes reminiscent of Leland Palmer in their unpredictability and violence. The depiction of a family unit under such threat is evocative of TP:FWWM. In contrast, his foolishness, witnessed by his wife and son, can also be connected to what happens under the Jones’ roof with Sonny Jim and Janey-E. When Mason’s character finally recovers from his drug induced sickness, he describes a dream in which he was walking with Lincoln, the latter a recurring figure in The Return: on the penny found by Sarah in part 8, in the Mount Rushmore image, and in the form of Robert Broski, an actor who has portrayed both Lincoln in films and who plays the chief “Gotta light?” Woodsman in part 8.
The opening credits of the film Storm Center (Daniel Taradash, 1956), include the image of a whirlpool reminiscent of the vortex in the Buckhorn sky. On the film’s poster a pair of eyes are superimposed on the image of book pages, evocative of the sequence in part 17 when Cooper’s face is superimposed over what is taking place at the Twin Peaks’ sheriff’s office. When the librarian at the heart of Storm Center picks lint off a man’s suit, it may be mirrored in Dougie obsessing over the dandruff on Anthony’s collar.
Finally, Jean Delannoy’s 1956 adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, however surprising a choice, is also noteworthy. The bells of Notre Dame, activated by a half blind Quasimodo, are similar to the bell manipulated by Naido in part 3, and the Fireman’s Palace is something of a cathedral itself.