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DVD Review: Dune – Extended Edition

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Fans have clamored for the DVD release of Dune since the format’s inception. Before, it could only have been seen via television or bootleg copies. Universal has released the “television version” of David Lynch’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune.

David Lynch’s original edit was almost three hours long, but he was ordered to cut its theatrical version of 137 minutes. It was later re-edited for television, which Lynch objected to. The 177-minute extended cut is now referred to as the “Alan Smithee version” – Alan Smithee refers to the pseudonym given by directors to films that the directors no longer want to associate themselves with.

Set thousands of years in the future, the universe is controlled by a galactic empire headed by Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (José Ferrer) of the Imperial House Corrino. Among the other Great Houses are the House Atreides and House Harkonnen, who are mortal enemies. The House Atriedes is led by Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow), his wife Lady Jessica (Francesca Annis) and their son Paul (Kyle MacLachlan). The Atreides supplant the Harkonnens, led by the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan), as stewards of the desert planet Arrakis (also known as Dune) – the only source of the precious spice melange that is essential to everything in the universe. The spice is crucial to the two remaining thought schools: the Spacing Guild and the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.

Without getting too deep into plot and summary, controlling Arrakis means controlling the spice and the universe. Everyone has a vested interest in maintaining the spice production. As Paul grows, he learns that he must make crucial decisions regarding the spice and, in turn, fulfill the greatest prophecy in order to bring peace to the universe.

Kyle MacLachlan is amazing as Paul, the young son who must rise above huge odds to protect his namesake and fight his mortal enemies. Paul grows from a sensitive and eager boy to a bold and confident man. Paul can be seen as a Christ-like messiah figure, leading the Fremen – native inhabitants of Arrakis – to retake their planet from the empire’s control.

Loyalty is a central theme to the film. Seeing the service that Dr. Wellington Yueh (Dean Stockwell), Thurif Hawat (Freddie Jones) and Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart) provide for Paul, as well as the House Atreides, is heartfelt.

There is a scene where Gurney and Paul see each on Arrakis after two years of separation. The look on their faces when they realize that the other is alive is indescribable.

Dune’s major flaw is the film’s overuse of its voice-over narration. The film’s prologue uses voice-over narration to give historical background to the film, for those that didn’t read the novel prior to watching it. This, to an extent, is fine. But throughout the film, not including the narration that described the characters’ thoughts, the film uses voice-overs to ease and push the story along, feeding the audience plot points that wouldn’t be explored. There are some things that shouldn’t be included in a film adaptation of a book. If important, they would be in the film. Anything else is unnecessary and insulting to the novel. Small details and subplots play better in novels because more can be written than can reasonably be shown on film. One of Lynch’s objections was the revealing of too many details that he felt took away from the central themes of the film.

Bonus Material:

“Designing Dune” is a nine-minute featurette that offers interviews with many of the set designers and art directors. All praise Lynch and his influence on the look – setting, props, sketches – of the film. One of the most important aspects of the film was the unique look for the very distinct worlds/cultures of the Dune universe. If you couldn’t notice a difference, then they redesigned it.

“Special Effects” is a six-minute look of the film’s many effects. The most interesting effect is the smoke during the desert battles. Lynch wanted very black smoke, but the only way to get the shade of black was to burn tires. The special effects team had to defy environmental laws to get the color that Lynch wanted. There was also a lot of wire work done, mostly involving the Baron and the hunter seeker.

“Models & Miniatures” is a seven-minute featurette describing the detail that went into designing the many models of the film. The hardest model was for the worms, especially in trying to keep them from looking like turd or phalluses.

“Wardrobe Design” is a short five minute look at the enormous task of designing and creating the 8000 costumes needed for Dune. Most were done at the very last minute. The funniest fact is that the Spacing Guild’s costumes were made from used Fire Department body bags.

“Deleted Scenes” runs 17 minutes with an introduction by producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, who debunks the theory of a lost four-hour version. Most of the scenes are short and unnecessary, but there are two very significant omitted scenes, both during the film’s conclusion: one explaining Gurney’s disappearance from the final scene and another explaining the future of Paul and Chani (Sean Young). Also included are a photograph gallery and production notes. The DVD also comes in a very sturdy metallic case.

For those wanting the David Lynch approved version of Dune, this DVD is for you. For those wanting the mythical three hour “Alan Smithee” version of Dune, this DVD is for you. Universal has done the right thing by providing both versions in one complete DVD package.

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About Tan The Man

Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music. He has previously covered events like Noise Pop, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest, TBD Festival, Wizard World Comic Con and WonderCon.
  • Catana

    Dune is such a bad movie that I’m not sure why an extended version would be an improvement. “Fat” actors, horrible special effects (remember those floating blue eyes?), and a total bastardization of the plot. Kyle McLachlan was not only completely unsuited to the role of Paul, his acting chops are middling at best. Pace David Lynch, but this was pure Hollywood, not Frank Herbert.

    Oh yes! Sets and costumes were great.

  • For all of his idiosyncratic eccentricities, I have been a fan of David Lynch since his first short film The Alphabet, which I saw many years after its creation, followed by a viewing of Eraserhead that cemented my disturbed fascination with Lynch. I have Dune on VHS and DVD, but will definitely have to own this new extended collection.

  • Horrible special effects… you must remember that this movie was made in 1984 and I think given the technology available, the effects team did a pretty good job.

  • Baronius

    Extra Dune? I want the 137 minutes back, not to add to them. I remember the visuals as impressive, but the movie was outrageously bad. The cartoonishly good people versus the cartoonishly bad people (with the cartoonishly corrupt people on the sidelines).

  • The miniseries is actually terrific. This version is a mess. Go to Amazon and pick up the 5 hour series plus the sequel, Children of Dune, if you want a fun sci-fi adventure. It is quite true to the book and the acting is pretty good. Chani is not great, but passable, the Baron is fabulously nasty and gross. It is basically good fun, unlike the movie here.

  • Rhandy

    You all are so wrong, the movie is in everyway better than the mini-series. I can not comprehend your lack of taste, the movie’s set,costumes,props.. everything was simply amazing. You are all hypocrits if you bash on the movies special effects when the mini series had the worst cgi ever in a series. Regardless of the other problems with the film, i do not believe there will ever be another movie to match it artisticly.