- Frank Booth
name= Frank Booth
age= Unknown, possibly late 40s, early 50s
first = "Blue Velvet"
Lumberton, United States
In the film
A violent sadist with a taste for
tortureand rape, Booth is the central figure in Lumberton, North Carolina's (fictional) underworld of drugs and prostitution. 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.
His empire's most prized asset is Dorothy Vallens (
Isabella Rosselini), a beautiful torch singer who brings huge crowds into the local nightclub, and whom he takes complete control over 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 abusefor so long, she begins to derive masochistic pleasure from it.
Frank is depicted as having scores of mental problems. 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 brutally rapes her while sobbing and crying like a child. At two other points in the film, Frank 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-synchto Roy Orbison's "In Dreams". During this sequence, Frank at first merely weeps, then begins to sob uncontrolably and bawl, until he abruptly flies into a fit of rage and demands the song be shut off. The reasons for Frank's "personalities" and uncharacteristic displays of emotion are never explained, although a theory is offered as to his obsession with Dorothy.Frank's criminal empire is threatened by college student Jeffrey Beaumont ( Kyle MacLachlan), who, one day while walking, finds a severed ear, which Frank accidentally dropped after having cut it off Dorothy's husband with a pair of scissors. Jeffrey 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 just to send a message. Beaumont tells his girlfriend's father, the local police detective, what has been going on. The police detective instructs Jeffrey not to involve himself any further, but he later defies that order and sets out rescue Dorothy's son after Booth beats Vallens nearly to death, strips her naked, and leaves her in front of Beaumont's house. Jeffrey rushes to Vallens' apartment in hope of rescuing her son, and is met with the horrific scene of Dorothy's husband, bound to a chair and shot in the head, and the Yellow Man, whom Frank has crudely lobotomized. Booth flees to the apartment after the police raid his own home, and overhears Jeffrey calling for help on the police radio. Realizing that Frank is coming for him, Jeffrey intentionally gives the police false information as to his whereabouts, so as to throw Frank off his trail. Frank enters the apartment, kills the Yellow Man, and then seeks out Jeffrey, who has enough time to steal the Yellow Man's gun; when Frank eventually finds Jeffrey, Jeffrey fatally shoots him in the head.
As a cultural figure
Booth ranks #36 on AFI's list of the top 50 film villains of all time. 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. 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".
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."
The part of Frank Booth was originally offered to
Robert Loggia, Willem Dafoe, and Richard Bright, all of whom turned it down. On the other hand, when Hopper read the script, he called Lynch up and said, "You have to let me play Frank! Because I am Frank!"
Throughout the film, Frank Booth uses a mask to inhale some kind of stimulant from an
oxygen tank. 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:
:"...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," Lynch said later. "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 DVD version of the film, Hopper claims that the drug was
amyl nitrite, an anginamedication that was first used recreationally as an inhalantin the discoclub scene.
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