David Lynch proved himself with The Elephant Man (1980), gaining status as the hottest new director in Hollywood. His rising star even caught the attention of George Lucas, who released a little independent film of his own that year: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). But the young artist's mainstream popularity would be threatened as he confronted the Hollywood system during the production of his science fiction epic: Dune (1984). Dune would be the first and last big-budget film of David Lynch's career, but is the most awesome attempt at a transcendent blockbuster ever committed to celluloid.
|Four Filmmakers Have Come to Our Attention Regarding the Making of Dune:|
Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Ridley Scott, and George Lucas
David Lynch's third feature film would prove to be his most controversial in terms of artistic merit. Critics savaged it as a confusing. The movie-watching public avoided it at the box office, causing the picture to lose anywhere between $10-$20 million depending on your source. Although this is still serious money in today's terms, in mid 1980's dollars without the anticipated DVD, Blu-Ray, and Video on Demand sales to later compensate, this constituted a gargantuan financial loss.
Many unfairly dismissed the film at first glance, but over the years Dune (1984) has steadily developed a cult following and is one of David Lynch's most watched and discussed films. For whatever faults you can find in the theatrical cut and extended TV cut, Dune deserves reconsideration as the most lush and impressive science fiction film ever made. In this article we will make a case for the release of a new Definitive Cut so the film can find a stronger place with mainstream audiences.
|Patrick Stewart in an Early Supporting Role as the Atreides Poet/Musician/Warrior Gurney Halleck|
|In the Extended TV Cut, Gurney Winks at Paul After Quoting Some Bible Passages with a Humorous Twist|
|The Heir to the Atreides Dukedom Cannot Contain his Laughter|
|Paul's Father, Duke Leto Atreides, Restrains His Laughter but Nonetheless Smiles at Gurney's Antics|
The Making of David Lynch's Dune
David Lynch's experience making Dune (1984) is reminiscent of another filmmaker's experience with his first big-budget feature film. Stanley Kubrick's first swing in the big leagues was the Kirk Douglas vehicle Spartacus (1960). Douglas enjoyed his experience working with Kubrick on Paths of Glory (1957) and as the producer he brought in Kubrick to replace the original director with whom he had artistic differences. Spartacus and Dune would be mammoth productions compared to Kubrick's and Lynch's preceding low-budget black and white efforts. And although both directors possess unparalleled cinematic vision, they would be forced to compromise their styles.
|Stanley Kubrick's Big Break: Spartacus (1960)|
Stanley Kubrick would go on record that Spartacus (1960) did not fully represent his vision of what the film should be, but he did not complain since it was a stepping stone in his career that opened many doors. These sentiments are similar to what David Lynch expressed about Dune (1984). But fortunately for Kubrick, Spartacus caught on with contemporary audiences and became a box office success. Unfortunately for Lynch, Dune did not fare so well at the box office, closing some of the doors he had hoped to open. Both filmmakers demanded total control of their next projects and coincidentally both filmmakers' next films would match closely in subject and tone: Kubrick's Lolita (1962) and Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986).
|2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Dune (1984) Would Share Similar Dream-Like Qualities|
Drawing a fair comparison between Spartacus (1960) and Dune (1984), you will notice several similarities. Both films not only feature a protagonist who leads an uprising against an evil empire but also shockingly showcases the evils and excesses of those empires. But Dune had the added pressure of being a 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in addition to being a Spartacus. And David Lynch had to accomplish this with a significantly shorter running time.
|Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the True Story of a Englishman Who Became the Military Leader of a Foreign Desert People|
Renaissance man Frank Herbert explained that in writing the novel Dune (1965), he was strongly influenced by the true story of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), directed by David Lean. And if you combine together the plot lines from Spartacus, 2001, and Lawrence, then you begin to approach the complexity of Dune's story. And since the adaptation of Dune (1984) was forced into the shortest running time of the four films, then the true scope of David Lynch's achievement begins to come into focus.
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ran between 216 and 228 minutes, depending on the print.
- Spartacus (1960) ran between 184 and 198 minutes, depending on the print.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) ran between 141 and 160 minutes, depending on the print.
- Dune (1984) ran at 137 minutes.
Paul Atreides Takes on a Simlar Role to T.E. Lawrence from Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becoming the Military Leader of a Foreign Desert People in the Novel Dune (1965)
Arthur C. Clarke, the author of the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, described the novel Dune in the following terms: "I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings." Frank Herbert builds a rich, densely layered universe in Dune, making it one of the most complex and rewarding works of fiction. For this reason, it is widely considered one of the most difficult novels to adapt for the big screen.
ARRAKIS, DUNE, DESERT PLANET
|Freddie Francis Returns to Photograph Dune with the Most Beautiful Desert Images Captured on Film|
Dune (1984) contains many metaphors about the world's dependency on oil and drugs, both pharmaceuticals and narcotics. The spice melange and its different variants are essential to space travel, greater longevity, increased lifespans, and enhanced brain function. Since humanity was once enslaved by thinking machines thousands of years ago, advanced computer technology has been banned. Humans developed their minds to perform the complex tasks once assigned to computers. Since the spice exists on only one planet in the universe, the desert planet Arrakis, the right to mine the spice is of extreme importance.
|Humans Began Specializing their Evolution Along Separate Paths. The Guild Developed the Ability to Fold Space, a Technique Used to Transport People and Things Across the Universe Instantaneously|
|The Bene Gesserit Developed Telepathy, the Ability to Read the Minds of Others|
|Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, Ruler of the Known Universe|
|The Popular, Just, and Benevolent Duke Leto Atreides|
|Baron Vladmir Harkonnen Works with the Emperor to Destroy the House Atreides|
|The Baron Has Plans for His Cruel Nephew, Feyd Rautha, to Become Emperor Someday|
|Feyd Rautha is Performed with Relish by Popular Singer/Songwriter/Musician Sting|
|The House Atreides First Arrive to Take Command of Spice Mining Operations|
|With their Army's Honor Guard Waiting to Receive Them|
|The Brightness and Heat of Arrakis Contrast Sharply with the Dark Traveling Conditions in Space|
|Heat Waves Obscure the Atreides as They Walk on Dune's Surface for the First Time. Their Virtuous Lifestyles and Benevolent Rule Eventually Endear Them with the Fremen|
REVENGE OF THE FREMENStar Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, George Lucas shaped into existence a new style of film-making by blending old-world mythologies with new-world special effects. Lucas hearkened back to old-school film traditions and yet revolutionized them by blending together elements of science fiction with fantasy, adventure with drama, and action with philosophy. George Lucas fashioned together one of the most successful blockbusters of all time and helped reinvigorate an ailing film industry in the late 70's.
|Unsure of How to Sell Star Wars to the Public,|
Sexy Luke and Leia were Placed on the Poster
|Pictured: George Lucas's Feet During the Filming of Episode IV|
|George Lucas Explains C-3PO's Motivation for this Scene Again...|
|George Lucas Composing a Shot for American Graffiti (1973)|
|George Lucas Directing Robert Duvall on the Set of THX-1138 (1971)|
|Irvin Kershner Taught George Lucas at Film School and Would Direct The Empire Strikes Back|
"Alas, Poor Yoda. I Knew Him Well, Han Solo... A Muppet of Infinite Jest."
The Empire Strikes Back Climax
|David Lynch Directing The Elephant Man|
|George Lucas Plays it Safe and Plays His Old "Death Star" Card Again|
He Either Ran Out of New Ideas or Just Stopped Taking Risks
|The Most Hotly Anticipated Sequel Ever|
|Pictured: The Little Death that Brings Total Oblivion...|
|Pictured: Some of the Most Disappointed Actors in History|
|How Can We Stay Mad at the Creator of Han Solo Forever?|
A TALE OF TWO FLOPS
|Blade Runner (1982) and Dune (1984) Would Share Similar Fates|
|Ridley Scott Directing Sigourney Weaver on the Set of Alien (1979)|
Ridley Scott Directing Dune
Unfortunately, Ridley Scott suffered a personal tragedy that pulled him away from early preproduction on Dune before getting it off the ground. Many people privately muse what Scott and his art design team from Alien (1979) would have done with the Dune universe, but those answers will have to remain hypothetical. Eventually, Scott's attention would be drawn to the dark science fiction project Blade Runner (1982) and Dino De Laurentis would look for another director to develop Dune.
In a rather blatant example of synchronicity, Ridley Scott's selection of male and female leads would crossover with George Lucas's Star Wars and David Lynch's Dune. Harrison Ford would play the part of the blade runner, Rick Deckard. Ford gained his star power by playing the rogue Han Solo in the Star Wars films. Deckard's love interest, Rachael, would be played by Sean Young, who would also star as the main love interest in David Lynch's production of Dune.
Several other elements of synchronocity would connect the two productions, as Blade Runner (1982) and Dune (1984) would go on to share similar fates. Both films would attract attention from studio executives who arbitrarily truncated the alloted running times and wrested much creative control of the pictures away from their young auteur directors. Both films would share similar production budgets, would be essentially destroyed in editing, would be panned by the critics, and would flop at the box office.
|Sean Young as the Replicant Love Interest in Blade Runner (1982)|
|Sean Young as the Fremen Love Interest in Dune (1984)|
|An Iconic Moment from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982)|
|An Iconic Moment from David Lynch's Dune (1984)|
|Paul Trains the Fremen to Destroy their Enemies by Harnessing Certain Words|
Paul Harnesses the Power of Words
|Harrison Ford is a Retired Tracker and Eliminator of Replicants, Just Looking for Some Peace and Quiet|
|Princess Irulan's Narration Would Be Replaced in the TV Cut with the Gruff Voice of an Old Man|
|The Baron Harkonnen's Assault and Murder of a Slaveboy is Missing from the TV Cut|
|A Hack Editing Job, But Nonetheless it Contains About 30 Minutes Extra|
Footage of Incredible Deleted Scenes and Character Moments
|An Extended Cut Done Right. Ridley Scott Recently Oversaw a Definitive Cut of Blade Runner (1982), He Also Includes the Other Cuts of His Film: Work Print, Theatrical, Director's Cut (90's), and Final Cut (00's).|
THE VOICE FROM THE OUTER WORLD
|David Lynch Getting His Hands Dirty on the Set of Dune|
|One of the Most Ambitious and Difficult Projects in Film History|
Making of Dune Retrospective
But even with David Lynch doing his best to manage this mammoth production, he would be undermined in his preferred creative process. And ultimately, the 2 hour 15 minute limit on Dune's running time would prove to be an obstacle too difficult to overcome. Lynch made this point clear as he made his rounds across the talk show circuit before the release of his next film, Blue Velvet (1986). Here is an excerpt where he explains. (Editor's Note: Brian Linehan's "City Lights" interview with David Lynch is no longer available on youtube, so until we can find a new video of the interview please accept this alternative Lynch contemporary interview on Dune.)
1985 David Lynch Dune Interview
Throughout the years, many critics and film viewers doubted whether a film considered boring in its theatrical cut could suddenly become exciting in a longer cut. This is a legitimate question, and an answer can be found in film history where we learn the importance of context. Although Peter Jackson's theatrical cuts for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy might have been visually beautiful on the big screen, they were also monumentally inferior narratively to the extended editions later released later on home video.
|Some Dislike the Theatrical Cuts, But Love the Extended Editions|
Eventually an audience grows numb of watching the protagonists simply move from one action set piece to another. The combat of humans, wizards, orcs, elves, dwarves, ents, and ghosts might be spectacular visually, but it is also grows monumentally dull to watch without the full context provided in the extended story. The scenes of character development and world-building might seem unnecessary for the finished film, but in truth, they are completely necessary to capture the audience's attention and interest. Otherwise, the audience has no reason to care about anything on screen.
|If You Rush the Pace and Flow of the Characters' Journeys, You Disconnect the Audience from the Action|
Likewise, Zack Snyder's brilliant adaptation of Watchmen (2009) felt a little too disconnected, uneven, and drags on in too many places in its theatrical cut. But in Snyder's director's cut, the film flows correctly from scene to scene. The core emotional journey for each character seamlessly blend into each other until the film's powerful conclusion. The character journeys make the movie interesting. The Lord of the Rings, Watchmen, and Dune all need enough room to breathe in their pace. Rushing through the theatrical cuts only weakened these otherwise powerful films, lessening the impact of their stories. So for the right movie, extending it can make the story come to life and make the film much more exciting to watch.
To emphasize this point, we present a scene deleted from the theatrical cut of Dune (1984), which was subsequently restored to the extended TV cut. This brief scene between the House Atreides and Dr. Kynes might seem unnecessary to the film, but without it many dramatic developments throughout the picture ring hollow.
Deleted Scene: Gurney Plays the Baliset
|Paul's Swordmaster Duncan Relays a Message for Paul to Meet with His Father...|
|... But Before Duncan Departs to Arrakis Ahead of the Household, Duncan Says Goodbye in a Unique Way,|
"May the Hand of God Be with You."
|Paul Joins His Father on the Castle Balcony|
|Paul's Attention is Drawn to a Atreides Banner|
|The Same Banner Paul Will See Again in Vision at the Moment of his Father's Death|
|Duke Leto to His Son Paul, "Without change something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. A sleeper must awaken."|
Dune (1984) Gom Jabbar Scene
Fight Club (1999) Chemical Burn Scene
|A Fremen Reverend Mother Prophesies of the Voice From the Outer World|
Arriving Soon to Bring the Fremen Out of Darkness
|The Reverend Mother Ramallo Will Eventually Give Up Her Position to the Lady Jessica|
|A Ritual Where 15 of the Best Fremen Warriors Devote Themselves to Guarding Paul's Life|
|Paul Attains Transcendence by Taking the Water of Life, Connecting to His Father's Counsel, "A Sleeper Must Awaken."|
|Paul Gathers the Fremen Together to Plan the Final Battle Against the Harkonnen and the Emperor...|
|Paul's Purpose is Clear Once He Attains Enlightenment|
|The Giving of One's Water is a Symbol of Respect on Arrakis|
|The Images of Paul and Chani Refracted Through the Symbolic Waters of Their Lives|
|Paul Receives Extra Preparation for the Hostile Desert in the Extended Version as Dr. Yueh|
Explains Why Body Shields Cannot Work in the Open Desert and the Risk of Sandstorms
The Bene Gesserit Have Planned the Breeding of a Superhuman for 90 Generations
But Jessica's Love for Duke Leto Leads Her to Break Away from the Plan
|The Extended Cut of Dune is More Romantic and the Characters are Better Developed|
|The Shadout Mapes is Sent to Verify Whether or Not Jessica is the One Written of in Fremen Prophecy|
|Mapes Carries a Crysknife to Test Jessica. If She Passes, It Will Be Given as a Gift.|
If She Fails, It Will Be the Means of Jessica's Death.
|The Leader of this Fremen Tribe Gives Paul a Secret Fremen Name Usul, which Means "Strength at the Base of the Pillar."|
|Jamis's Corpse is Wrapped in a Moisture-Preserving Bag...|
|... Then Transported to the Fremen Water Still ...|
|... Here a Fremen Water Master Prepares the Still...|
|... and the Fremen Lay Down Jamis's Body in the Machine...|
|... Where His Family is First Allowed to Say their Final Farewells...|
|... and Lay His Crysknife on his Body...|
|...Before His Body is Broken Down into its Component Water Molecules...|
|... and Ciphoned into a Container...|
|... for Measuring and Transport.|
|Tokens for the Water's Ownership Rights are then Offered to Paul...|
|... and Jamis's Water is then Brought to the Community Reservoir...|
|... and Ritualistically Poured in Where it will Join the Remainder of the Waters of the Fremen.|
|Here Paul Discovers a Fulfillment to His Visions...|
|... Connecting Back to Leto's Alliance with Dr. Kynes, the Leader of the Fremen.|
|A Baby Sandworm Being Drowned...|
|... to Create a Byproduct...|
|... Called the Water of Life...|
|... that the Protagonists Take to Unlock Their Full Potential.|
|In Another Deleted Scene, Duncan Idaho Carries a Warning from the Fremen to the House Atreides, Invoking Biblical Language: "Column of Smoke by Day, Pillar of Fire by Night."|
|Paul Defeats His Enemies and Reigns as the New Emperor of the Known Universe|
Dune Sandworm Riding Scene
Dune's Original Theatrical Trailer
Dune Fan Edit Trailer
Destination Dune Featurette
Home Movies on Dune's Set
David Lynch Cameo
Frank Herbert Interview
Herbert and Lynch Interview (Pt. 1)
Herbert and Lynch Interview (Pt. 2)
Herbert and Lynch Interview (Pt. 3)
Making of Dune Retrospective (Pt. 3)
Rude Blue Velvet Promotional Interview
Blue Velvet (1986) Theatrical Trailer
THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)
BLUE VELVET (1986)
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