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Booth

Frank Booth listening to Ben sing "In Dreams".

Frank Booth is a fictional character and the antagonist of David Lynch's 1986 psychological thriller Blue Velvet, portrayed by Dennis Hopper.

Booth has become one of the most well-known villains in cinema history. He ranks #36 on American Film Institute's list of the top 50 film villains of all time.[1] The role revitalised Hopper's then-fading career.

Depiction in Blue VelvetEdit

In the 1986 film Blue Velvet, Booth, the central figure in Lumberton, North Carolina's underworld of drugs and prostitution, is depicted as a violent psychopath with a taste for torture and rape. At the start of the film, he has been steadily taking over Lumberton's drug trade by having all of his rivals murdered. One of his henchmen, a corrupt homicide detective called "The Yellow Man," then steals the dealer's drugs from the crime scenes and clandestinely transfers them to Booth, who then sells them off.

It is shown that his most prized asset is Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosselini), a beautiful torch singer who brings huge crowds into the local nightclub, and over whom he takes complete control when he kidnaps her son and husband. He extorts sadomasochistic sexual favors from her by mutilating her husband and threatening to kill the child if she doesn't give in. He insidiously makes her his slave, to the point that, after pretending to enjoy his abuse for so long, she begins to derive masochistic pleasure from it.

During the course of the film Booth can be heard constantly using profanity in virtually every situation he encounters. During a typical night with Dorothy, he repeatedly switches back and forth between two personas: "daddy" and "baby", the former of which violently beats Dorothy and verbally degrades her, and the latter of which simulates raping her while sobbing like a child. At two other points in the film, he is depicted as crying uncontrollably; once, while listening to Dorothy sing "Blue Velvet" (during which he only weeps but makes no sounds) and a second time while watching one of his henchmen lip-synch to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams".

Booth's criminal empire is threatened by college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), who finds a severed ear, which Booth accidentally dropped after having cut it off Dorothy's husband with a pair of scissors. Beaumont quickly becomes obsessed with the case, going so far as to break into Dorothy's apartment, where, he witnesses Booth raping her. At first, Booth writes Beaumont off as a mere nuisance, so he and his cronies simply rough him up to send a message. Beaumont tells his girlfriend's father, the local police detective, what has been going on. The police detective instructs Beaumont not to involve himself any further, but he later defies that order and sets out to rescue Vallens' son after Booth beats her nearly to death, strips her naked, and leaves her in front of Beaumont's house.

Beaumont rushes to Vallens' apartment in hope of rescuing her son, and finds Dorothy's husband, bound to a chair and shot in the head, and the Yellow Man, whom Booth has crudely lobotomized. Booth flees to the apartment after the police raid his own home, and overhears Beaumont calling for help on the police radio. Realizing that Booth is coming for him, Beaumont intentionally gives the police false information as to his whereabouts, so as to throw Booth off his trail. Booth enters the apartment, kills the Yellow Man, and then seeks out Beaumont, who has enough time to steal the Yellow Man's gun and shoot Booth in the head, killing him.

Cultural impact and legacyEdit

Hopper's performance revived his career, and has become one of his signature roles. In particular, a scene in which he brutalizes Vallens while huffing gas and screaming "Don't you fucking look at me!" and "Mommy, mommy, baby wants to fuck!" has become iconic. And, furthermore, perhaps most memorable of all, is when Jeffrey Beaumont requests Heineken Beer and Frank Booth replies, "Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!". Out of all of Booth's dialogue in the film, he says the word "fuck" in almost every sentence, often multiple times. With the exception of "Suave" Ben (who only uses it at Frank's request), Booth is the only character in the film to say the word.

Booth's famous lines and excessive use of the word "fuck" have frequently been referenced in pop culture; thus the line, "Don't you fucking look at me!" was voted by Premiere Magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Quotes in Cinema". Industrial group Pigface sampled one of Booth's lines for use in the remix song "Sick Asp Fuck."

When hosting Saturday Night Live, Dennis Hopper appeared in a skit as Frank Booth, hosting a game show entitled "What's That Smell?", which he opened with Booth's line "Hello, neighbor."

RankingsEdit

  • The character ranks #36 on AFI's list of the top 50 film villains of all time.[1]
  • Premiere magazine listed Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper, as #54 on its list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, calling him "the most monstrously funny creations in cinema history".[2]
  • "Don't you fucking look at me!" was voted by Premiere Magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Quotes in Cinema".

CastingEdit

The part of Frank Booth was originally offered to Robert Loggia, Willem Dafoe, and Richard Bright, all of whom turned it down. When Hopper read the script, he called Lynch and said, "You have to let me play Frank! Because I am Frank!"

Unexplained drugEdit

Throughout the film, Frank Booth uses a medical mask and tube to inhale some kind of stimulant from an aerosol canister. The identity of this gas is a subject of controversy. Lynch's script specified helium, to raise Booth's voice and have it resemble that of an infant. However, during filming, Hopper, an experienced drug user, claimed to have insight into Booth's choice of drug, and said that helium was inappropriate. Lynch later explained the change:

I'm thankful to Dennis, because up until the last minute it was gonna be helium — to make the difference between 'Daddy' and the baby that much more. But I didn't want it to be funny. So helium went out the window and became just a gas. Then, in the first rehearsal, Dennis said, 'David, I know what's in these different canisters.' And I said, 'Thank God, Dennis, that you know that!' And he named all the gases.

In a documentary on the 2002 Special edition DVD version of the film, Hopper claims that the drug was amyl nitrite, an angina medication that was used recreationally as an inhalant in the disco club scene.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "AFI's 100 Heroes & Villains". American Film Institute. June 2003. http://www.filmsite.org/afi100heroesvilla.html. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  2. "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". Premiere. http://www.premiere.com/features/1539/the-100-greatest-movie-characters-of-all-time-page2.html. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 

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