Dune - The Film

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In 1965, Frank Herbert published "Dune", a book which quickly became a hugely popular cult novel, a classic in the field of science-fiction. It told the story of how Paul Atreides of the House Atreides left his home world of Caladan with his House to take charge of mining the all-important spice Melange on the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, only to find that House Atreides' rivals
the House Harkonnen with the help of the Emperor have prepared a trap. The plot is vastly more complex than that, and is almost impossible to summarise adequately in a few words. All that need be said about it is that it is an extremely enjoyable and worthwhile read.

Sequels to Dune were written - Dune Messiah, Children Of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune and Chapter House Dune, before Frank Herbert sadly died in 1986. Since 1999, Frank Herbert's son Brian Herbert, with Kevin Anderson,
have been writing a trilogy of prequals for the Dune universe - "House Atreides", "House Harkonnen" and "House Corrino". Considering the popularity of the series, and the greatness of the story, it was inevitable that a film would be made.

The Making of the Film

Making a film version of Dune had been considered before, but it was not until the early 1980s, after the success of science fiction films such as "Star Wars" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial", and the popularity of "Battlestar Galactica" on television that work on filming Dune was begun. The director chosen to make Dune was David Lynch, who had already directed "Eraserhead" and "The Elephant Man". David Lynch was so keen to film Dune that he turned down the opportunity to direct "The Return Of The Jedi".

Filming began in 1983, and it was first shown in cinemas in December 1984. Although David Lynch had intended a four-hour epic, the released version was only 2 hours, 17 minutes long. This was because Universal, the studio behind the $50,000,000 epic, wanted the film released with a shorter, and what they considered was a more audience-friendly, running time. David Lynch was forced
to edit his film and shorten it to satisfy the studio, and as a result of which Dune lost some of it's comprehensibility, and you are never left with a satisfying answer to why the Harkonnens are acting as they are, which is much better explained in the novel. Much of the film's complexity is left out.

David Lynch himself considered working on a director's cut in 1984, yet he abandoned the project in order to create "Blue Velvet", one of the most original and distinctive films of the mid-80s.

Despite being shorter than intended, the film Dune is still a must-see film. It is dark, haunting, and the score by Toto is very distinctive, overall making it as classic a science-fiction film as the book is. Although to follow it in greater depth, and to appreciate the complexity of the story, reading the book is a must.

Who was in Dune?

Several actors starred in Dune, of particular note are Patrick Stewart, who went on to star as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sting, the famous rock star, Jürgen Prochnow, who starred in Das Boot and Max Von Sydow.

Here is a full list of the actors in Dune:

Francesca AnnisLady Jessica
Leonardo CiminoThe Baron's Doctor
Brad DourifPiter De Vries
José FerrerPadishah Emperor Shaddam IV
Linda HuntShadout Mapes
Freddie JonesThufir Hawat
Richard JordanDuncan Idaho
Kyle MacLachlanPaul Atreides
Virginia MadsenPrincess Irulan
Silvana ManganoReverend Mother Ramallo
Everett McGillStilgar
Kenneth McMillanBaron Vladimir Harkonnen
Jack NanceNefud
Siân PhillipsReverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jürgen ProchnowDuke Leto Atreides
Paul SmithThe Beast Rabban
Patrick StewartGurney Halleck
Dean StockwellDoctor Wellington Yueh
Max von SydowDoctor Kynes
Alicia WittAlia
Sean YoungChani

Although it is not just the actors that made Dune the masterpiece it is. Dune also had stunning special effects = many of the creatures and animals involvedm such as the Guild Navigator and the all-important Worms, were made by Carlo Rambaldi 1.

Differences Between The Book And Film

There are several differences between Frank Herbert's book and the David Lynch film. This is not surprising considering the complexity of the novel - if every scene had been filmed, the film would go on for several hours at least. So unsurprisingly a lot of detail has been left out, as well as the novels complexity.

Among the differences between the novel and the film are firstly, in the film the Atreides have an obsession with sound-weapons called "Weirding Modules", which aren't in the book. Paul Atreides is much younger at the start of the novel, which takes place over a number of years. In the book, Paul adopts Harah, Jamis' wife, into his household and marries Princess Irulan, despite having a relationship with Chani. Chani and Paul's first son, Leto, who is killed in the novel, doesn't appear in the film at all. Also, Count Fenring, a fairly major character in the novel, is not mentioned.

Another major difference is that the film ends with it raining - something that not only does not happen, but Liet Kynes and the Fremen definately do not want to happen in the novel. Although they are in favour of climate change, they wish it to take place in a controlled way over the length of several centuries, so as to not destroy the eco-system of Arrakis.

A lot of minor details are left out of the film, such as explanations of the Landsraad, CHOAM, the Orange Bible, the Butlerian Revolt, Lazgun/Shield reactions and the Sardaukar terror-troops. These are explained in a lot more depth in the Frank Herbert's Dune.

The Three Hour Dune

Up until 1988, many fans of the film were hopeful that a longer version of the film would be released. David Lynch was unable to at the time, and so Universal - the studio which wanted a shorter version of Dune - decided it would create a longer, 3 hour, version of Dune itself.

This version, despite including over half an hour of previously unseen footage, was not liked by David Lynch, and he requested that his name be removed from the credits. This version is known as the Alan Smithee version.2 Not only is David Lynch not listed as the director, the name "Judas Booth", a reference to Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, and John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin appears instead of David Lynch as the screenwriter.

The three hour Dune has many extra lines of dialogue added which were previously removed, as well as a few extra scenes. The main new scenes are with the Fremen, the inhabitants of Dune. These include more scenes with Max Von Sydow as Liet Kynes, including one where Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck plays an instrument called the ballisett. The Fremen way of life is explained
in greater depth, as we see Paul Atreides fight Jamis and after his death, we see his body being liquefied and Paul being awarded the water. Another scene added is seeing how the Water of Life is made from a young infant sandworm.

However, as this version was released intended for television only, several scenes were edited out as they were considered too gruesome for young children to watch. These include the Beast Rabban squeezing a mouse and drinking its guts, Baron Harkonnen unplugging a man's heart and watching him bleed to death, Baron Harkonnen spitting on Lady Jessica and Alia, Lady Jessica and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam suffering nosebleeds when Paul takes the Water of Life.

There are disadvantages to the three hour version. Firstly, in all the new scenes of the Fremen, the Fremen's eyes are not blue-within-blue as they are for the scenes in the David Lynch version, and so you see characters such as Stilgar frequently change colour eyes. Another thing is a mistake where, in a new prologue, the new narrator tells us the year is 10,192 at the beginning of
the film, and 10,191 halfway through. This is an error, as the original introduction placed the year as 10,191 in both the beginning and middle.The original introduction, and all the narration, was originally done by Virginia Madsen, who played Princess Irulan. This was removed and replaced by a male voice and a ten minute long prologue giving an over-simplified explanation of what the film is about. This narrator introduces many of the characters and explains what is going on in several scenes, but overall this interferes with the story and slows it down - the narration by Princess Irulan tied in with the novel better, and was done better. Princess Irulan's role in this film is reduced to that of being in the background when the Emperor is in a scene.

Another disadvantage of the new version is it splices together scenes from other parts of the film to give you the impression that you are seeing something new - the main scene in which this is done is where Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohiam "travels" to Caladan. This scene was never actually filmed, and so was constructed using clips of the Harkonnen's ship, the pilots flying
the ship which is carrying the kidnapped Paul and Jessica - this doesn't happen until the middle of the film, but you can just see Paul and Jessica in the back of the scene regardless - and shots of the Reverend Mother from the Box scene. Despite being able to see that it is the wrong ship, containing people who cannot possibly be on that ship, and you see the ship over the surface of Arrakis when it is supposed to be travelling from Caitain to Caladan, it was included in the film, and frankly looks ridiculous. This particular scene was one of the main reasons why David Lynch had his name removed from this version of the film.

Effect of the Film

Despite the disadvantages of both versions of the film Dune, it is still a film that must be seen and enjoyed over and over again. Both versions are available in the UK on DVD, and David Lynch's version is also available on VHS, and the soundtrack is also still for sale. It's dark themes are well worth listening to.

The film has had quite an impact - it is mainly on the film that the 1993 computer game "Dune" was based, with many of the characters, especially Paul, looking like the actors who portrayed them in the film. This influence has continued to its sequels "Dune 2", the classic 1994 strategy game that was the basis for games such as "Command And Conquer" and "Red Alert", and "Dune 2000".

FremenDune Novels
1Famed for creating ET2 "Alan Smithee" is the Director's Guild Of America pseudonym for directors who do not want their name to appear in a film's credits.

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