- It is hard to separate the 1984 film Dune from the story of its failed adaptation (even the most adamant defenders often admit it does not do Frank Herbert’s novel justice) and the story around its troubled production. David Lynch himself, one of the great auteurs of all-time, has added to this calling this film a failure (he talks about it being the only film he did not have control of the final cut). However, there are still some commendable sequences in the film that still make it worthy of study.
- This is his third film after Eraserhead in 1977 and The Elephant Man in 1980 so this is a long gestation period- a very ambitious project.
- With Dino De Laurentiis producing, the loud costume and production design work (the production designer Anthony Masters also worked on Kubrick’s 2001), and rock and roll band soundtrack (here it is Toto instead of Queen)- it is hard not to compare this film to 1980’s Flash Gordon as well (the great Max von Sydow is in both as well). Flash Gordon is in on some of the laughs and camp—Dune is not.
- It is strange how some of the actors (Lynch assembled an admirable cast) look so disjoined here- yet fine in Blue Velvet (Lynch’s great rebound of a film- a revenge film- just a few later in 1986). Kyle MacLachlan (not a talented actor overall) struggles here- and he is very good in Blue Velvet– ditto for Dean Stockwell. Good for them for bouncing back so strong from this.
- Very dissolve heavy in the editing approach from Lynch and Antony Gibbs- making for some gorgeous sequences over the golden desert (shot in Mexico).
- Despite the numerous flaws and flubs (it is a narrative mess- just thrusting exposition upon the viewer), the sequence at the 101-102 minute mark is utterly gobsmacking (above). In this scene, MacLachlan (playing Paul Atreides of course) is in the foreground and a string of men in his army are behind him in the background as Lynch uses the dunes themselves for the natural elevation.
- The flurry of inner monologues from various characters does not translate to good cinema—and again- there is just a thicket of plot. However, Dune is never routine, never boring, and every time you want to throw it away for its flaws (years after Star Wars the space miniature work here feels like a failure) a sequence of fabulous dissolves will surface or a great long shot showing off the massive scale of the extras in the desert (over 1500 people worked on the film apparently and they built a vast number of sets) to help buoy the film a little.
- It is a recommend- and in the archives- even if it is a safe distance from the top 10 of 1984 and certainly not a film that is worthy of Lynch—or the source material.
How many watches did it take for you to get it in the archives? I myself have only watched once years ago and wouldn’t have it in there from that.
@Joel- haha great question- this was my third watch over 15-20 years.
Page for Villeneuve’s Dune coming soon?
@RK- it is- on its way tomorrow
Dean Stockwell just died 10 days ago actually. He’ll always live on in dreams.