Dune (Arrow Recommends)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: After a dire betrayal, Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) oils up his psychic powers and wrangles up a horde of desert warriors & giant worms. All in the name of getting his revenge, taking down the powers that be and fulfilling his destiny. Dang. Am just trying to wing paying off my VISA bill…

“I'm dead to everyone unless I become what I may be. " – Paul

LOWDOWN: My Sunday nights got pretty f*cking boring since DAVID LYNCH’s TWIN PEAKS THE RETURN and GAME OF THRONES ended their respective seasons.  So in the name of filling the void I wound up re-visiting LYNCH’s much reviled 1984 Sci-Fi opus DUNE (GET IT ON DISK HERE). Ironically enough the film sported shades of TWIN PEAKS (its oddness, dream sequences and out there prod designs) and it also reminded me of THRONES plot wise with all of its rival “houses”, secrets, treachery and themes of uprising (word has it that Frank Herbert's 1965 Dune novel inspired George R.R Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books).

Now, I had only seen DUNE, once when I was a kid and I remember being bored out of my f-ing mind with it. On that, I figured I was long overdue in seeing it as a “grown up.” Being that I am recommending a watch, this second tap obviously went down much better. Knowing the behind the scenes woes behind DUNE's production beforehand made the watch even more interesting for me that's for sure. Ya see, in 1973 Alejandro Jodorowsky was going to make the movie (there’s a solid documentary about his wild journey – see it HERE) but that tanked. Then Ridley Scott was hired in 1979 but dropped out when his older brother died of cancer. So he wound up doing BLADE RUNNER instead. I won’t even get into how Dan O Bannon and HR Giger went from working DUNE to then finish up on ALIEN. Really fascinating stuff if like me you’re into sordid behind the scene tales of rock and roll film productions. Which leads us to what was meant to be; David Lynch.

Hot off the success of THE ELEPHANT MAN, Lynch passed on directing RETURN OF THE JEDI to take DUNE head on and the end result was one that had most scratching their crotches in bewilderment. Although DUNE author Herbet was kind at the time saying “What reached the screen is a visual feast that begins as Dune begins, and you hear my dialogue all through it." – the flick was MURDERED by critics. Even Lynch himself was down on it and I quote: "I started selling out on Dune. Looking back, it's no one's fault but my own. I probably shouldn't have done that picture " Now there is an extended version of DUNE out there (in fact I think there is more than one) and Lynch disowns it hardcore (The cut is credited to Judas Booth. Named after Judas Iscariot the treacherous apostle and John Wilkes Booth aka Lincoln's killer) Over the years, Lynch has refused over and over again to helm a definitive D.Cut, hence, as per his own words, the theatrical cut is the closest we’ll ever get to it.

As-is, DUNE was a beautiful mess! A cold and confusing as f*ck effort if you will (it pimped out its own language – that didn’t help). At the same time, it was often visually stunning, sported an off-kilter vibe that kept me watching in fascination, the visual effects were stellar half the time (until they ran out of money and started half -assing it) and the Grade A cast just kept on giving. Hard to miss the mark with talent like Brad Dourif, Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Everett McGill, Jack Nance, Jürgen Prochnow, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, Max von Sydow or Sting in front of your lens.   

Now don’t get me wrong I got the broad strokes of what the story was about here (basically the Moses tale but set in space with giant worms), but at times, I did think to myself “I have no idea what’s going on, but that’s okay, cause I’m enjoying the ride”. All that to stab, if you’re craving something 1-2-3 story wise – look elsewhere. This one’s all over the coked up place and yes that was part of its charm!  NOTE: During the film's theatrical release, cinemas actually gave filmgoers a sheet of paper that explained the ins and outs of the DUNE world so they could enjoy the experience more. LOL! Never heard that one before!  

Moreover, the costume/set and production designs had Lynch’s novel style stamped all over them hence giving the whole an added coating of weirdness. And speaking of weird, where else are you going to see a flying fat-man with gross boils all over his face, Sting in a metal G-String, Brad Dourif pimping the craziest highbrows this side of the galaxy, an oddball creature floating about in a fish-tank, folks killing others with psychic charges unleashed by words, everybody and their uncle having inner monologues spat out loud and two dudes riding a giant worm as if they were pushing a shopping cart? Hmmm? Exactly!  Finally, the dated feel of the flick actually worked in its favor! Wait till you see the “body armor” they had going here (the first use of CGI ever BTW). It felt like ATARI shat that special effect onto the celluloid and called it genius. LOVED IT!

Alas, I did find DUNE's overall look way too dark in places. The color palette was pretty much the same the whole way through: drab and that got played out pretty fast. And with me not fully grasping the plot (What’s with them spices again and their connection to the worms?) or giving much of a sprinkle of a shit about the “monotone heavy” characters, I must admit that I clocked this one in a semi-detached manner. I was more floored by what I was seeing/hearing and how it made it on the screen than hooked in by its narrative. Not sure if that makes any sense, but there you have it, do with it what you will.

Since Lynch’s go at it, Herbert’s dense Sci-Fi oeuvre was adapated again as a TV SERIES in 2000. And word on the street right now is that Sci-Fi wunderkid DENIS VILLENEUVE also wants a crack at it. No matter what happens – Lynch’s movie will always be the first one to have come out of the gate and I got money down (all 25 cents of it) that it will always be the most distinctive take on the material. It’s not every day that you get to digest a big budget film adaptation, streamlined by a quirky/experimental auteur director, based on a weird-ass & heavy spices/giant worms book. Take that to the bank and cash it! 

BONUS:  Sean Young brought her Super-8 camera while on set in 1983. Wanna see her BTS footage? ENJOY!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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