Dune: Theatrical Version (1984)

14 Aug


Firstly, I must confess to being a fan of both David Lynch films and Frank Herbert’s sci-fi series of novels, so the recent re-release of Lynch’s Dune was something of a pleasant surprise. the movies plot follows the prophecy-laden journey of a young Paul Atreides on the titular planet, the only source in the renown universe of the spice melange. Spice is vital to interstellar travel as it enable heavily mutated Guild navigators to fold space. Whoever controls the spice production weilds enormous power and influence. The planet’s local inhabitants, the Fremen, however have other plans. With political intrigue, Messiah prophecies and its own holy war you could be forgiven for thinking Dune sounds a lot like the Middle East. Substitute spice for oil and the parallels become pretty obvious. 

The star-studded cast does an admirable job of breathing life into Herbert’s prose but it is the always excellent Sian Phillips’ Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam and Kenneth MacMillan’s sadistic, boil-ridden Baron Harkonnen who steal the show. From a visual stand point all of the familiar Lynch trademarks are present. Bizarre characters, quirky costumes and symbolism fill every frame. On its initial release Dune was largely panned by the critics and audiences. Those unfamiliar with Herbert’s work were left bewildered by the story’s multiple threads. To be fair to Lynch, condensing an epic novel into a two hour film was always going to be fraught with danger. Interestingly, Rafaella De Laurentus sheds light on the ‘almost mythical’ four hour version in the bonus features.

Given that the film is now thirty years old, I was expecting it to have dated somewhat, but despite a couple of special effects and Toto’s soundtrack not withstanding, Dune still feels fresh and relevant. Well worth watching.


By Roger Beatson


Dune (Theatrical Release) is now available on DVD from retailers.


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