David Lynch’s Dune has an extremely odd past, which some might say is just how David Lynch likes it. This cult classic came out in 1984 to the joy of sci-fi fans everywhere. Some time after the film’s release, the studio tried to get Lynch to take all of the extra footage that he had shot for the film, and re-cut the product into an extended TV-appropriate film. Lynch refused, but since the studio already owned the footage, they went ahead and cut it together themselves. The result is an “Alan Smithee” directe… version of Dune. (For those that may not know, “Alan Smithee” is a pseudonym often given to films that directors want to totally remove their names from, as a result of their films being re-cut by the studio against their wishes. A search for Alan Smithee on IMDB is a fascinating and often-times humorous look at what happens when the “business types” get involved in the creative process.)
Lynch further expressed his displeasure with this new cut of the film by crediting the screenwriter as “Judas Booth”, a cross between the Judas from the bible who betrayed Jesus, and John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. In this way, Lynch made the statement that the studio had betrayed him and killed his film.
Taking a page from Criterion’s excellent Brazil release, both versions of Dune are included here; both the two hour, seventeen minute original cut, and the two hour, fifty-seven minute extended TV bastardization. The good news is that both films are presented in widescreen, which marks the first time that the extended cut has ever been available in widescreen. It appears that Lynch will never revisit this material, so this release is probably about as good as it is going to get for Dune fans.
The audio track on this disc is fairly impressive. Universal has done a great job of updating the quality for home theaters, while still keeping the feel of the original presentation intact. The result is not what is generally regarded as a “quality track”, but it is still notable nonetheless. While most of the sound come from the front of house, important music cues filter in nicely through the surrounds. The result is a soundscape that affects the listener’s emotions instead of striving for realism. This is an interesting concept, and for a film such as this one, the result is an original and effective approach to sound design.
I was really disappointed with the video transfer in this disc. Maybe I am just spoiled with so many great transfers being released of older films, but I really thought this would have a slick, sharp transfer. Unfortunately, the freaky images on this disc are marred by scratches and dust on the negative, as well as a fading color palette. The good news is, the black levels are deep and consistent, which is quite notable since so much of this film is dark.
The even better news is, this is the first time that the extended cut has been seen in widescreen, so while the quality of the images may not be outstanding, viewers are now seeing more of those images than they ever have before.
There is a nice assortment of extras included with this, the most recent special edition of Dune. First up, of course, is the fact that this disc includes both the Original Theatrical Version and the Extended Version of the film on the two-sided disc. Personally, I would go for the Original Version, but that’s just me.
For those that are curious about those extra scenes that were deleted from the Original Theatrical Version, they are available here as a separate collection of deleted scenes, with an introduction by Raffaella De Laurentiis.
The remaining collection of featurettes focus on the production aspects of the film, including segments on Designing Dune, Special Effects, Models & Miniatures and Wardrobe Design. These are all well-made segments, though I can’t help but think that there is probably still an even more special “Special Edition” to come at some point in the future.
Finally, there are some production photographs and production notes. The whole thing is packaged in a really cool tin snap case, the likes of which I hope I see much more of in the future.
Dune is a film that gets better and more complex with each viewing. It is a film that requires the audience to invest their time and their mind. Such films are rare today. Though I would like to blame this fact on Hollywood, the truth is that the laziness and ignorance of the common filmgoer has a lot to do with that. Sure, the special effects are dated, and the terminology is complex, but to truly experience great art,, you have to make a personal investment in the material. For those that will make the investment, the result is a fascinating and complex film that rivals any David Lynch’s complex films.
Special Features List
- Feature 1: Original Theatrical Version – 2 Hours 17 Minutes
- Feature 2: Extended Version Version – 2 Hours 57 Minutes
- Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Raffaella De Laurentiis
- Designing Dune
- Special Effects
- Models & Miniatures
- Wardrobe Design
- Photograph Gallery
- Production Notes