To celebrate the recent release of our 33 1/3 on Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from Twin Peaks, we’re pleased to bring you the 5th and final installment of Soundtrack from Twin Peaks Week by author Clare Nina Norelli!
David Lynch’s 1991 nightmarish commercial for New York City addressing the city’s rat problem is one of the most disturbing public service videos I’ve ever encountered. There’s no color in his and cinematographer Frederick Elmes’ depiction of New York City; its urbanscape is bleak, soulless. The humans that inhabit it move mindlessly in slow motion dropping their trash on the city streets, indifferent to their surrounds and consumed only with themselves. And in response to these selfish folks’ careless actions, close-up shots of rats are presented to the viewer, their teeth, claws, and tails disconnected from their bodies and rendered monstrous and alien. It’s a very direct message: dispose of your litter responsibly, show you care, or these terrifying creatures will take over.
Much of the commercial’s power comes from its soundtrack. It injects the onscreen images with a palpable feeling of imminent doom, growling menacingly underneath as the oblivious people go about their day, much like the rats themselves who lurk in the dark corners and sewers of the city. For Twin Peaks fans, a familiar piece of music can be detected in the mix. Angelo Badalamenti’s cue “Half Speed Orchestra 1 (Stair Music/Danger Theme), ” first used in the show’s pilot episode and available on the Twin Peaks Archive album, emerges gradually from the commercial’s opening synth-string/rail-squeal drone. It’s double the speed of its use in Twin Peaks, heightening the sense of urgency, and like its use in the show the creepy cue has the power to unnerve. It climaxes with a discordant howl as a pile of writhing rat bodies is superimposed over a shot of the city skyline accompanied with a simple caption: “Clean up. We care about New York.”