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USA 1984
Directed by
David Lynch
131 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

Dune

Synopsis: In the far distant future (8,000 years give or take), Duke Leto (Jürgen Prochnow) and his family are sent by the Atreides Emperor (José Ferrer) to a sand-covered planet called Dune from which comes a spice that is essential for interstellar travel. The move is intended to destroy the duke and his family, but his son (Kyle MacLachlan) escapes and seeks revenge.

Based on Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel and at a cost estimated at $US40 million (huge money fpr yjr day even though the film was shot in Mexico to keep costs down), this Dino De Laurentiis/David Lynch extravaganza finally made it to the big screen.after several aborted attempts, where it, understandably, died a rapid death.

De Laurentiis brought a Latin taste for opulence to the project whilst Lynch who had had great commercial success with The Elephant Man (1980) and before that had released his extraordinary Eraserhead (1978) was an odd choice to direct this futuristic epic. Evidently however he was considered a potential sci-fi director as he had turned down Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983) to direct this (other contenders had been Alexander Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott). Evidentally he saw somethi8ng in himself although he went on to disown the released film. Fans of the novel were disappointed by the Lynch's departure from Herbert's saga and everybody else was numbed by the Byzantine narrative.

Time has if anything only deepened this response and the film's shortcomings are the only thing that endear it to an audience who no doubt devour episodes of Star Trek on a nightly basis. Despite its many extraordinary sets (Tony Masters the production designer had performed the same role on Kubrick's sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968) and impressive Baroque style, technically the pre-CGI film has dated badly. This and the gimcrack representation of a future time, not to mention the score by '80s chart-toppers Toto, and the presence of less-than-stellar actors such as Kyle MacLachlan, Brad Dourif.and Sting, the latter demonstrating his complete lack of acting skills (Lynch appears in a cameo as a spice miner) push the film toward the laughable, bordering on the camp but always firmly planted in the awful.

Aside from MacLachlan, who became a Lynch regular, Jack Nance and Dean Stockwell are notable Lynch stalwarts, whilst veteran British cinematographer Freddie Francis who had lensed The Elephant Man and would also do Lynch's The Straight Story (1999) handles well what would have been a challenging shoot..

Lynch's film is never likely to be rehabilitated as an overlooked masterpiece but it does have the credentials to be included in that select category of monumental misfires.

FYI:  Interested parties should check out the 2014 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune.

 

 

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