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Good Bad But Not Ugly

José Ferrer, Sting, and Sian Phillips in David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

There are movies which one likes but almost no one considers to be really good. Yet one watches them hungrily every time they appear on television. In that category for me are the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski, both parts of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and—last but not least—David Lynch’s Dune.

I have read Frank Herbert’s novel Dune several times, and all the sequels at least once, even the over-long God Emperor of Dune. I love the mythology that Herbert created and could hardly wait for it to be turned into film, though I knew the story was so vast that it was virtually unfilmable.

Arch-Villain Sting as Feyd Rautha in an Expansive Mood

I could easily enumerate the flaws of David Lynch’s film version as well as anyone: Kyle MacLachlan was his usual wooden self. The story was too big to be filmed. There was too much dreamy interior monologue about the sleeper awakening. Some characters, like Chani (Sean Young), Duncan Idaho (Richard Jordan), Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart), and the Shadout Mapes (Linda Hunt) were wasted. And so on ad infinitum.

But the first hour of the film is outstanding, featuring some of the most outrageous steampunk set designs. The villains, the Harkonnens, are truly horrible, especially the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. It’s only when Paul and his Bene Gesserit mother are among the Fremen natives of Planet Arrakis that things get a tad sketchy.

I still love the film, having seen it about a dozen times.

Later this month, another version, covering only the first half of the novel, is to be released. I will review it after I’ve seen it.

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