Even more than most of David Lynch’s deliberately bizarre and idiosyncratic movies, Dune is a “love-it-or-hate-it” affair. An ambitious, epic, utterly mind-boggling—and, let’s admit it, all-out weird—adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel, Dune remains one of the most controversial films in the director’s exceedingly provocative career. The story (if Dune can be said to have just one story) is complex and convoluted in the epic tradition; it has something to do with political intrigue and a planet that is home to a…
Even more than most of David Lynch’s deliberately bizarre and idiosyncratic movies, Dune is a “love-it-or-hate-it” affair. An ambitious, epic, utterly mind-boggling—and, let’s admit it, all-out weird—adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel, Dune remains one of the most controversial films in the director’s exceedingly provocative career. The story (if Dune can be said to have just one story) is complex and convoluted in the epic tradition; it has something to do with political intrigue and a planet that is home to a precious spice and gigantic sand worms. Think Shakespeare’s Henry IV with a dash of Tremors, and set in another galaxy. But despite plenty of strangely whispered voice-overs that explain the characters’ thoughts (and endlessly detailed exposition), storytelling is not really among the film’s strong points. There are, however, a lot of memorably fantastic/grotesque images, an extraordinary cast, and a soundtrack featuring Toto. I told you it was weird. Among the stars are Kyle MacLachlan, José Ferrer, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, Sting, Kenneth McMillan, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, and Linda Hunt. —Jim Emerson
Melange fans have a lot to be excited about with this impressive edition of Dune, though the “Extended Edition” label is a bit misleading. If you are expecting the mythic 4 hour “David Lynch preferred” version that is rumored to be sitting in a vault, don’t get your hopes up. This isn’t it. In an attempt to quickly sober spice-fueled giddy fans, producer Raffaella De Laurentiis (daughter of Dino De Laurentiis) immediately reveals in the ‘Deleted Scenes’ introduction that the rumored 4 hour version is just that; a rumor. What this DVD set does contain is the 2 Hour 17 Minute original theatrical release digitally remastered, available for the first time in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 surround sound. The presentation on this edition is a drastic improvement from the original letterboxed release. On the flipside of the DVD is the alternate 2 hour 57 minute version cut for television. As many fans know, this ‘extended’ version was disowned by Lynch, who insisted his name be replaced by that famous Hollywood pseudonym “Alan Smithee;” the name used by directors whose film was taken away and recut against their wishes. There is some new material in the 14 minutes of deleted scenes offering a bit more background into the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, the Kwisatz Haderach prophecy and the Fremen culture and their struggle. All other extras focus on the international production crew of Dune including the design team, special effects, and short documentaries on the miniature models and wardrobe designs. Disappointingly, there are no appearances in the bonus features by any of the original cast or Lynch himself. However, many of the production crew members talk openly about working with David Lynch and his artistic involvement in the visual process. To cap it off, this edition comes in a very stylish and sturdy DVD tin that opens like a keep case. —Rob Bracco
Barnes and Noble
Surrealist auteur David Lynch turned down the intergalactic chance to direct Return of the Jedi in order to work on this screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic novel, and a fine decision it was, as Dune certainly creates a better playground for Lynch’s infamous imagery. In the year 10,191, the most sought-after substance in the feudal universe is the powerful spice known as Melange. However, the sole source of the spice is the desert wasteland of Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune. Emperor Shaddam (Jose Ferrer) sets up Duke Leto Atreides (Jurgen Prochnow) with the spice trade on Dune, only to attempt to steal it back from him, all in a backwards effort to eliminate competition. Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan puts in a fine performance as Paul, Leto’s son, who is hinted at as a messiah and reminiscent of Luke Skywalker. Lynch had to cut a lot from Herbert’s original vision, which sometimes causes for a confusing plot, but oddities such as grotesquely large sand worms and notoriously disturbing villains make up for any convolutions. Kenneth McMillan is beautifully over-the-top as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, a balloon-like pustule of pure evil and bad skin, and Sting is delightfully cold as the Baron’s equally evil but much more attractive nephew, Feyd. Bordering on camp with dozens of classic lines like, “Uzul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen,” Dune is a unique necessity for any sci-fi fan’s collection. Simon Goetz
“Unique…I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings.” —Arthur C. Clarke
Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction. Frank Herbert’s death in 1986 was a tragic loss, yet the astounding legacy of his visionary fiction will live forever.
It’s a mixed blessing, but Frank Herbert’s Dune goes a long way toward satisfying science fiction purists who scoffed at David Lynch’s previous attempt to adapt Herbert’s epic narrative. Ironically, director John Harrison’s 288-minute TV miniseries (broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in December 2000) offers its own share of strengths and weaknesses, which, in retrospect, emphasize the quality of Lynch’s film while treating Herbert’s novel with more comprehensive authority. Debate will continue as to which film is better; Lynch’s extensive use of internal…