Dune

1984, Dino De Laurentiis Corporation

Frank Herbert's sprawling science fiction novel was long thought to be unfilmable; while that never prevented anyone from trying, the saga of the efforts to bring it to the screen is as epic as the novel itself. In 1971, producer Arthur P. Jacobs optioned the film rights, but died before embarking on the project. Two years later, Alejandro Jodorowsky was deep in pre-production before the project died for lack of funding (based on the documentary about his efforts, it might have worked better than what ultimately reached the screen). Dino De Laurentiis tried twice; in 1976 he commissioned Frank Herbert to write the screenplay and Ridley Scott to direct. But the project stalled when Scott had to drop out when his brother died suddenly. Finally, in 1981 De Laurentiis hired David Lynch to write and direct.

After three years in production, the result was an enormous mixed bag: sprawling, lavish sets and groundbreaking special effects adorn a story that feels as though the remote's fast-forward button is stuck. Yet this should not be surprising, given the girth of the source material; indeed, the first cut of the film ran over four hours. De Laurentiis himself hacked it down to 136 minutes, at which point Lynch disassociated himself from the project and removed his name from the credits (substituting Alan Smithee or Judas Booth). I for one would like very much to see the original cut, and in fact the studio approached Lynch about it; sadly, he refused.

 

     

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