I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

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I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Sam » 09 Nov 2014 09:05

In my run-up to the Year of Dune — as I'm calling it, a yearlong celebration of all things Dune for the fiftieth anniversary, —I decided to give David Lynch's Dune another watch. I wasn't expecting much, and I feel it's safe to say I wasn't surprised, pleasantly or otherwise.

I saw the movie in 1984 knowing nothing about the books except that my aunt, an avid SF reader, had various Dune books and that those books looked (from the outside) very cool. I came away from the film confused, angry and disappointed. I'm no longer confused, thanks to 30 years of regular exposure to the source material, and my anger at being served up such a steaming pile has been abated, but I'm still disappointed.

The movie looks fantastic. It did then and does now. From costumes to set design, Dune is second to none. I'll admit that when I read the original book now, my mind goes directly to Lynch's images. This is a credit to him and his immense production team and I don't want to take that away from them. But the sheer amount of deviation from the book — done pointlessly and, it seems, totally at random — make the movie difficult to watch because of what might have been. And the mangling the movie got at the hands of the producers to make it fit a two hour, fifteen minute window... dreadful. Not that the extended cuts floating around are much of an improvement. This may very well be the best version of the movie we could have gotten, given the circumstances of its creation.

I'm sure I'm not saying anything new here. I just thought I'd share my thoughts on the occasion of a re-watch. I keep coming back to Lynch's Dune even though I know it'll be a thoroughgoing disappointment every time. I'm not sure exactly why. It probably has to do with the fact that, good or bad, it was my first step into Herbert's universe, and as such it will be forever special.

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 09 Nov 2014 11:14

I agree. I saw it in the theater right after my first reading and took a friend who was into fantasy. I was embarrassed. "What's with the giant tadpoles vomiting planets?" I could only shake my head. I do still enjoy it now and then because of the positive points you mentioned.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 09 Nov 2014 18:31

I will admit I love that movie. I think everything about it is great - except for the screenplay. That may sound like a funny sort of compliment, since a film's screenplay is the foundation of everything the audience sees, but in the totality of a film's creation it's a relatively small part of the process even though its weakness damns a film.

I try to remember that Lynch asked FH to write the screenplay himself, and that I suppose since he couldn't they also couldn't find anyone else capable of doing it justice. Lynch has really weird ideas, so I can't fault him entirely for mangling certain things; with the project so far under way I could see it being unacceptable to them to scrap the whole thing due to not having a functional screenplay of a work they knew they wanted to make. It's sort of sad. The blame should go to the producers, I think, and not to Lynch, who I think did a stellar job working with the actors and on the design side of it.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Sam » 09 Nov 2014 20:00

As I said, I have a kind of weird relationship with the movie. I actually do honestly love certain aspects of the film. Considering that its effects weren't great at the time and haven't gotten any better, I can't compliment it on those grounds — though the sandworms are awesome, I must admit — but in virtually ever other area visually the movie is a feast. I can even handle the bald Bene Gesserit sisters, since Jessica demonstrates that not all the Bene Gesserit women follow that same style.

I think what gets me every time is the sensation that it almost got there, but doesn't make it all the way. I actually like it more now than I did 30 years ago, and I've seen it probably a dozen times in the intervening period, but I'm still always struck with that feeling of letdown. It's like, "Come on, movie, win me over! You've got the goods, so sweep me off my feet!" And then it doesn't, and I'm left sifting through the wreckage of what might have been.

Today I was turned on to a fanedit of the film that's supposed to be fantastic, so I guess I'll be watching Dune again sooner rather than later. Maybe the changes discussed in the fanedit's notes will take me the last mile and I can finally say, "Now that's a good movie. It's not the book, but it's good enough."

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Naïve mind » 10 Nov 2014 00:56

Sam wrote:And the mangling the movie got at the hands of the producers to make it fit a two hour, fifteen minute window... dreadful. Not that the extended cuts floating around are much of an improvement. This may very well be the best version of the movie we could have gotten, given the circumstances of its creation.


Yup; Lynch has never done a "Director's Cut"; Studios would probably throw a chunk of cash his way if he did it. Many of the crummy special effects shots would be easy to fix today. But he hasn't done it, probably because he thinks it's not salvageable either.

The really sad thing is that a Dune movie, if it were today, would not be allowed to be as gentle-paced, as textured or as weird as Lynch's movie was.

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Naib » 10 Nov 2014 09:48

Ahhh Lynch's Dune. I enjoy it more for nostalgic reasons than the quality of the film itself. I was reading the book for the second time when the film came out and listening to Iron Maiden's To Tame a Land a lot. Even as a young teen I came out of that film thinking WTF?

For all it's flaws I think Lynch at least managed to capture the aesthetics of Dune. At least it sort of matched what I had in my head at the time. One of my biggest disappointments, from a technical standpoint, were the 'thopters. Where were the wings? Maybe that was too much for the effects of the time.

I still watch this film now and again, and I still manage to enjoy it for what it is, but Dune it ain't.

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby D Pope » 10 Nov 2014 11:06

Sam wrote:... I'm left sifting through the wreckage of what might have been.

Pretty good comment on all post Frank Dune.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby lotek » 10 Nov 2014 12:03

Sam wrote:The movie looks fantastic. It did then and does now. From costumes to set design, Dune is second to none.


I think that's what I do mentally when I watch it, I just let my mind superimpose the book on the images, a bit like when you read the book your mind superimposes what it wants to fill in the gaps (leftbyFrankonpurposeyoudumbasstalentlesshack)


I usually blank out the pug dog.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Sardaukar Capt » 11 Nov 2014 18:08

I remember seeing the movie on VHS and not being all that impressed but then a few years later say the TV cut that Lynch took his name off of. It had an all new intro and a new narrator and some added footage also. And I actually liked the TV cut so much it inspired me to give the Dune novel a try in 1989 I believe.

When I look back, I'm thankful for Lynch's Dune in two ways. First, obviously it inspired me to read the book as I already mentioned. Secondly, it gave my mind visual references when I read the books, so in that way I'm glad I saw the movie first. And seeing the movie first, it didn't ruin the plot of the book at all for me because there was so many subplots and subtext running through the book that Lynch's movie never touched upon.

All that said, its not a very good movie. It had a little too much of Lynch's weirdness for me and the ending was shit. I still wish Ridley Scott would have done the Dune movie like he planned until the death of older brother made him turn away from such an ambitious project and onto something smaller (Blade Runner). I can only imagine what Ridley Scott could have done with Dune during that time.
The name Atreides was also consciously chosen. It is the family name of Agamemnon. Says Herbert, "I wanted a sense of monumental aristocracy, but with tragedy hanging over them--and in our culture, Agamemnon personifies that."
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Ghanima said. "We Atreides go back to Agamemnon..."
Distracted, Irulan asked: "Who's Agamemnon?"

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 12 Nov 2014 08:09

RS was going to have Paul and Jessica in an incestuous relationship, IIRC. That would have been up there on the abomination scale with Jodorowsky.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 12 Nov 2014 09:48

I've liked some of what RS has made, he's excellent with tone and setting, and with creating an atmosphere. I never got the sense that he had any clue about abstract concepts or cared about things like theme and meaning. This made him perfect for Alien and Blade Runner, which were devoid of meaning par excellence, but would have made his Dune (even if the script were perfect) gritty and hollow.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Naib » 12 Nov 2014 16:37


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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 12 Nov 2014 17:07

Top reply after the photos, with which I agree fully:

So many talented people worked on this film: David Lynch, John Dykstra, Carlo Rambaldi, Bob Ringwood. Unfortunately — so did Dino De Laurentiis. DUNE is an abject lesson in how a great project can be destroyed by a shitty producer.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Naïve mind » 13 Nov 2014 03:22

georgiedenbro wrote:Top reply after the photos, with which I agree fully:

So many talented people worked on this film: David Lynch, John Dykstra, Carlo Rambaldi, Bob Ringwood. Unfortunately — so did Dino De Laurentiis. DUNE is an abject lesson in how a great project can be destroyed by a shitty producer.


It's a really weird comment, as De Laurentiis was the one who got these people together, and, more importantly, supplied them with the money to work on the project. Frank was really happy about him too.

Without some behind-the-scenes info naming him or Rafaella as the culprits, I'd be loath to place the blame on his shoulders. Sometimes handsome people have an ugly baby.

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 13 Nov 2014 07:54

Naïve mind wrote:Sometimes handsome people have an ugly baby.


I think Giada is hot. :drool:

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Sam » 13 Nov 2014 09:40

My only complaint against Giada is that she is a very skinny person with a slightly larger-than-average head, so there's a kind of bobblehead effect sometimes when looking at her. But she does cook up some mighty tasty-looking dishes.

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Nov 2014 10:58

Naïve mind wrote:
georgiedenbro wrote:Top reply after the photos, with which I agree fully:

So many talented people worked on this film: David Lynch, John Dykstra, Carlo Rambaldi, Bob Ringwood. Unfortunately — so did Dino De Laurentiis. DUNE is an abject lesson in how a great project can be destroyed by a shitty producer.


It's a really weird comment, as De Laurentiis was the one who got these people together, and, more importantly, supplied them with the money to work on the project. Frank was really happy about him too.

Without some behind-the-scenes info naming him or Rafaella as the culprits, I'd be loath to place the blame on his shoulders. Sometimes handsome people have an ugly baby.


In my experience it's the producer's job to keep the artistic team in line. Sometimes the director is very powerful (like Stephen Spielberg) and no one tells him what to do. I guess Lynch was well-known too but generally when dealing with very 'artistic' directors one of the producer's most important tasks during production in both theatre and film is to keep tight reigns on the director and give him creative room while also making sure what's being made is marketable. A silent backer wouldn't be on set, but there should be a producer of some sort around always to see what's happening, to vet the script (even just for such things as what will affect the MPAA rating), and so forth.

I don't know how Dune was organized on set, but letting a director write in weird things to a script and add armadillos randomly is the sort of thing a careful producer should catch and stop. "You want...what? Armadillos? Are you high? Fuck no. You'll use a pug dog instead." Since it's customary to give the director his script and to allow some alterations as needed, it's a bit different when the director is also the screenwriter. Unless he's self-producing his writing and directing need to be overseen! If a weird artsy director goes off and does his own thing and isn't stopped it's not really his fault; he's just doing his thing. The producer needs to keep it all in line.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 13 Nov 2014 11:00

Aardvarks* :wink:
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Nov 2014 11:11

Haha, yeah, whoops :lol:

I'd like to mention one other thing that just came to mind. Jodorovsky, in his documentary about Dune, mentioned his reaction to seeing Lynch's Dune in the cinema. He said that Lynch was a great genius and should have been perfect for Dune, and that it must have been the producer responsible for the problems. While I'm sure even a great director can make a dud, at the same time great geniuses can be out to lunch sometimes and need someone to keep them focused, especially when the ideas being presented aren't their own.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Naïve mind » 13 Nov 2014 13:35

georgiedenbro wrote:In my experience it's the producer's job to keep the artistic team in line.


So basically the producer is like a soccer team's manager; a convenient scapegoat who is responsible for everything by default.

georgiedenbro wrote:I don't know how Dune was organized on set, but letting a director write in weird things to a script and add armadillos randomly is the sort of thing a careful producer should catch and stop. "You want...what? Armadillos? Are you high? Fuck no. You'll use a pug dog instead."


Dune wouldn't have been a better or worse movie without the pug dog, or if Sting would've had an aardvark peeping in his pants, for that matter.

It's just my subjective feeling, but most criticism levelled at Lynch's Dune seems to focus on little things rather than what is for me, the heart of the matter; that you don't feel much sympathy for Paul, either due to the script of Maclachlan's acting chops, and there's not much excitement to be had; after Jessica and Paul escape the mouth of the sandworm, it's a single long victory march.

Not sure if a better producer could've magically fixed that.

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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 13 Nov 2014 14:04

I think it would have been better had Patrick Stewart charged into battle carrying an aardvark.

Let's see, how did lynch make it worse (besides pug dogs)?

1. Weirding Modules
2. Bug Juice Boxes
3. Heart Plugs
4. Oil Showers
5. Diseased Baron
6. Bald RMs
7. Cat Milking
8. Rain

There are many more, those are just of the top of my head things that were needlessly added.

Things that were cut that made it worse.

1. Banquet Scene
2. Drunk Duncan
3. Jessica confronts Hawat
4. Paul's fight with Jamis
5. Jamis' Funeral

I'm sure I could think of several more of those, too. It's not so much that he added little things, it's that he left out good scenes and wasted a lot of time on stupid crap.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Nov 2014 14:46

You'll get no argument from me about those scenes. The only one of those scenes that may not have worked for a feature film is the banquet scene, as the important moments would be rather subtle on a visual level and a lot of the detail of that scene ends up as a red herring due to how quickly after it the Atreides are attacked. The only critical parts to the basic plot are Kynes perking his ears up at Jessica's comment, and us seeing the connection between Tuek and Kynes.

All of the things you listed, though, are script issues, which I think should have been discussed closely among the director, producer, and FH. It's not Lynch's book, after all, and although FH had some input I doubt he had any kind of veto power over things like heart plugs. Again, left to his own devices with the script, it was inevitable Lynch would do weird and probably grotesque things. That's not a fault, it's just his style and he needed to be managed. Any producer should have known this of Lynch. Even had those things actually been in the book a responsible producer might have tried to veto them for a feature film, and since they're not in the book an investigation of anything 'really weird' in the movie should have been done. If the whole movie looked weird to a producer then I feel more attention would be needed to the details. After the debacle with Flash Gordon you'd think major producers would be very careful about the detailing that goes into sci-fi or fantasy films meant for major release.

As an aside, in FH's place I might have signed off on the weirding modules too for technical and simplicity reasons.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 13 Nov 2014 15:49

georgiedenbro wrote:As an aside, in FH's place I might have signed off on the weirding modules too for technical and simplicity reasons.


Because it's simpler than hand-to-hand combat?
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Nov 2014 16:57

Freakzilla wrote:
georgiedenbro wrote:As an aside, in FH's place I might have signed off on the weirding modules too for technical and simplicity reasons.


Because it's simpler than hand-to-hand combat?


It avoids the 'martial arts movie' thing, which Lynch said he didn't want. It also avoids having to strictly designate 'levels' of combat skill, which are important to the book but impossible to show without making the whole movie about that. If the Harkonnen troops are 'competent', and by comparison the Sardaukar are 'much better' and the Fremen are 'even better' than them, and Paul/Gurney/Duncan are 'even better than them' how are you supposed to show these differences using hand to hand combat? I think it's easier to just give the superior army a cool sci-fi weapon and not have to explain how the Duke figured out how to train his troops better. In fact, we don't even know the answer to this for sure! It also makes the battles more visually dynamic to have a combination of shield combat, unshielded combat, and projectile use in the form both of ballistics/missiles and the sound devices.

Another point is that the main reason the Fedaykin and Paul were nigh-invincible in combat was the BG combat training, which would have been a whole other can of worms to get into. There isn't time in a film to mention that the BG have Voice, and also special combat, and also prana-bindu, and also OM. Voice and OM are enough, I think, for a 2-3 hour movie. Since the BG are already established to use Voice in the film it sort of works to make the secret weapon voice-related, which then subtly implies that the weapon may have been developed from BG techniques. After all, Jessica, a BG, was with the Atreides. One might be led to wonder whether she showed them how to weaponize Voice, which is a nifty nuance to add. It's great sci-fi, even though it's not from the book.

So yeah, I'd have let this one go. It's heresy, but I do enjoy the weirding modules, the sound effects that go with them, and I especially smile every time I hear "My name is a killing word."

But holy hell I'd have held the film hostage to get rid of the heart plugs, the Baron's ridiculous diseases and the waste of a scene involving them (but which has kick-ass music to end it, "The Duke will die before these eyes and he'll know - HE'LL KNOW"), and the cat milking. I kinda like the visual distinction between Jessica and the other BG with her having beautiful hair and them being bald, though, to show that she is in the "love" camp and they are in the "austerity" camp. It's wrong, but it works for me cinematically.
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Re: I watched 1984's DUNE last night. It's still terrible.

Postby Freakzilla » 13 Nov 2014 17:12

Yeah, I understand how it's easier to use weirding modules but the hand to hand combat was one of the things I liked about it.

How do you show differing skill levels? Easy, the way it was described in the books. The more skilled combatant wins.
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