Oh do yourself a favor and go watch it. I haven't see it for a while now (about 10 years ago was the last time i think) but it just blows me away when I watch it. To think it was made around the same time as Star Wars is just crazy.
Yeah it gets on odd rep alright and I'm not sure why either. It was absolutely visionary at the time. There was nothing like for decades afterwards. I read a peice by Lynch on the making of the movie in Mexico and it was a total s*** show by all accounts. They had to bribe local government types, the police and even some gangs and it drove the budget of the movie well over what they wanted to spend. They also couldn't film consecutive days in a row for all sorts of other reasons which appartently had a huge impact.