Dune, the original David Lynch version.

Movie Raiders Background

Dune was based on the best selling novel of the same name by Frank Herbert. The Dune series was published in 1965, and to this day is one of the best selling science fiction series ever published. The movie project was greeted with great enthusiasm because of the success of the novels and because the project was directed by a young up and comer named David Lynch. Lynch had made a name for himself with “The Elephant Man (1980)” and “Eraserhead (1977).”

The movie was not a success critically or commercially. It remains a movie that holds a certain “cult status” because of the fans of the books and because of David Lynch’s fans.

Why should you add this to your queue?

Despite the obvious flaws with this script and the plot of the movie adaptation, Dune has a number of redeeming qualities that make it entertaining to watch.

  • Performances – Patrick Stewart as Gurney Haleck, Richard Jordan as Duncan Idaho were outstanding. Kyle MacLachlan, was admirable as the story’s hero Paul Atriedes – this was his first major film role. But there is an all-star cast in this movie: Freddie Jones (Krull), Max Von Sydow (everything), Jose Ferrer (Lawrence of Arabia), Jurgen Prochow (Das Bo0t). And the acting in the movie was really great despite the weaknesses of the script.
  • Effects – this movie was made in 1984, almost 30 years ago and the effects that were used really don’t look that dated even when you watch the movie today. Barry Nolan, who worked on “Flash Gordon” really came up with some innovative effects such as the Body Shields and Wierding Modules. This movie was made in the era before Computer Generated (CG) effects. So they did everything practical, with camera work and design. It’s cool to see it in action in this movie.
  • Action -the books are really about politics, ecology and at their core the interplay between people. The movie didn’t do any of this justice, but the action scenes in Dune were pretty exciting. I particularly like the battle scene at the end of the movie – during the final 30 minutes of the movie there is a large battle scene and there are about 10 or 11 different sequences that are woven together and it all worked well.
  • Dune took 3.5 years to make – which probably puts it in rare company for production length.

What the Movie Raiders noticed on the re-watch?

  • Patrick Stewart is amazing, there is a scene when he is teaching Kyle MacLachlan’s character how to fight – he has a great line, “Mood is a thing for cattle and love play.” I can’t confirm this, but I bet he improvised that – and his delivery was amazing, Kyle MacLachlan looks genuinely afraid of what Stewart will do next.
  • Green Screens – there is a scene about mid-way through the movie where Paul takes the water of life. He is in the middle of the desert and when he successfully transmutes the poisonous “water” he is surrounded by the sand worms of Dune. This movie’s effects were good, but this scene was not seamless it is very obviously shot on a soundstage with green screen (or a blue screen given when it was made). This is one area where movie making has taken a giant step forward with CG.
  • Sting – he has been in a few movies such as “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrells,” but this was probably his most prominent role. You can see why – he was not great in this role. I think David Lynch wanted to add some star power? This was forced. Great singer though! And I read somewhere that he is the master of “Tantric Sex.” So I don’t think it really matters that he wasn’t good as Feyd Rautha.
  • What do you get when you put a German (Prochow) a swede (Van Sydow), a brit (Jones / Stewart), and a bunch of Americans? Dune. The accents in this movie are hard to place.

What you should look for?

  • If you need to go do something else, there are 3 parts of the movie that you don’t want to miss: (1) First battle when Harkonnen’s re-take Arakeen (approx 45 minutes in). (2) Montage scenes where Paul is raising hell on Arakis (an hour and 15 minutes in). (3) Ending Battle (final 30 minutes).
  • Patrick Stewart – when he is in the movie, its just better. Movie Raiders owes this guy his own post.
  • Directing of David Lynch (click the link to the left for a great interview about the movie). Lynch is known for creating unique world’s for his characters. He is an original thinker – and what I enjoy about Dune is it isn’t like any other movie I have seen (even from him). The way he shot the desert scenes, the battles and even some of the dialog was unique.
  • Effects – said it up front, but watch the scenes where they are fighting with shields- really innovative use of camera, sound and design.
  • If you are looking for a seamless storyline that is easy to follow you aren’t going to enjoy this movie – it just doesn’t have that. The Dune story is way too in depth to fit into a single 2+ hour feature film – WAY too in depth.

Connections

  • Ridley Scott was originally hired to direct Dune, but due to a death in the family he backed out of the project and so David Lynch was brought on board.
  • David Lynch had a bit of an acting troupe, he liked to use some of the same actors. Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, Kyle MacLachlan, Everett McGill and Freddie Jones have all worked on multiple projects with Lynch.
  • Lynch got the band back together (several of the guys I mentioned above) for a show called “Twin Peaks.” I was addicted to this show, highly recommend it. I wish Lynch made more TV programs, that medium suits him better – he needs a longer format to tell stories the way he wants to. “Who killed Laura Palmer?”
  • Dino De Laurentiis produced Dune, he had 165 production credits before he passed away last last year. He dedicated the movie to his son, Frederico. And he found a part in the movie for his wife Sylviana Mangano (Reverend Mother Romalla). His daughter Rafaella also produced on Dune. He is known as a “B” movie maker, but he did make “Army of Darkness” which was awesome. He also made “Hannibal” and “Red Dragon” – he managed to get his daughter a small role in “Red Dragon.” Not afraid of a little nepotism was Dino.
  • There is a Directors Cut of Dune, but I can’t say it helps with the story / plot gaps. There is also an “Alan Smithee” version (uncut) – I have watched it too, doesn’t help strengthen the story. If they wanted to do this right, they would make this the same way that “Game of Thrones” is being made. These books were very deep and time is needed to develop all the characters Herbert created.
  • Dune was remade by Sci-Fi channel in 2000 – these versions were stronger from a story perspective because they had more time to work with as a mini-series, but I still feel this is a project that hasn’t been done “right.”

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