I Don't Know Jack, Rare Jack Nance/ David Lynch Documentary

We've got a lot of exciting new releases to cover this Fall, as you've seen with the Vestron titles and all.  But this site just wouldn't be DVD Exotica if I didn't find time to include the offbeat, rare and out of print DVDs, too.  So today we have a cool David Lynch documentary that isn't actually by or about David Lynch.  It's called I Don't Know Jack, from 2002.  And if you don't know who Jack Nance is, he's the titular star of Eraserhead and Pete on Twin Peaks; and this film tells his whole life story, interviewing all his relatives and co-stars, including his troubled relationships, theatrical & film career and his tragic death in 1996.
The film does get a little stuck in his early career in the theater, which is hard to stay involved in when you've never seen any of the shows they're talking about.  His personal life is fascinating - he shot someone for starters - and things pick again when they get to his films, which we can recognize and get involved in.  And you'll be gripped when they get to the circumstances of his death... Pretty much everybody talking about him has a very personal connection to him and get emotional, which definitely gives the film so heft, but I also think a consequence of that is it gets a little indulgently inclusive, too.  But there is a lull there you should be forewarned about.  Don't turn it off, though; it absolutely picks up.
It's mostly talking heads, with so many of his friends and family sharing personal memories.  Lynch, director Bob Logan, Dennis Hopper (who acted with Nance in Blue Velvet), and Twin Peaks costars Charlotte Stewart (Betty, Bobby's mom) & Catherine Coulson (the log lady, not to mention Nance's second wife) all appear to offer their stories as well, even his old casting director.  There's great, poignant clips taken not just from his famous roles with Lynch, but his lesser known films like Motorama and Meatballs 4.  They have photos from every stage of his life and some archival footage of him.  Every Lynch fan should check this out, even if the name Jack Nance doesn't a lot of bells for you.  Once you've seen this, you'll have a fresh appreciation for him and be sad he's gone.
The picture ain't pretty, and I don't imagine there's any point in waiting for a blu-ray edition.  This is a fuzzy, pixelated fullscreen DVD that looks like it was shot with early standard def digital cameras.  This was the age of Inland Empire and Rabbits, after all.  Even the film clips are soft and cropped, TV-standard fullscreen images.  And the overall film isn't interlaced, but some of the film clips are.  This is no technological showcase.  Audio is a basic but respectable stereo track and there are no subtitle options or anything.
And you don't want to just download or stream this film online; you'll definitely want to get your hands on the DVD for the extra feature on here: Unsolved Homicide, where they interview Twin Peaks actress Kimmy Robertson (Lucy), who says she has information about Nance's unsolved murder.  They interview the original homicide detective who handled Nance's case.  Then Robertson goes to a medium to channel Nance(!), to get to the bottom of his death.  It's a whole crazy other thing.

Apart from that, there aren't too many other extras.  There's an animated photo gallery, the trailer, plus some production notes and bonus trailers.  The DVD also includes a secret bonus code supposedly for a "DVD members area" of their website with exclusive footage of Jack Nance, but that section never seems to have been created on their site.
This was initially released by an indie outfit named Next Stop Studios as an exclusive on davidlynch.com, which you could order separately or in a set with Eraserhead and Lynch's short films.  But it, along with the other davidlynch.com DVDs, wound up getting a wider release a little later on.  It's since gone out of print and tends to get a little pricey among collectors online.  In theory, it still seems to be available directly from the film's official site, jacknance.com.  But I tried clicking their Paypal button and couldn't get it to work; so go ahead and futz with it, but if you want this one, you may have to jump into the EBay fray.

Now, you may've also spotted a 2-disc edition online and wandered what the difference is.  Well, the main DVD is the same, with the same version of the film and all the same extras.  The second disc is just a CD of the soundtrack with the folksy blues songs from the doc.  It's called the Movie-Music Edition.  So, you might be interested in tracking down that version, but if you're just interested in the best version of the film and all the special features, the single disc'll do ya.  And you should get at least one version, because it's a fascinating and even moving look at a great actor the industry mostly ignored.

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