Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dune (David Lynch, 1984)

Call me crazy, but I think there might be a connection between the spice and the worms. What that connection is, I'm not entirely sure. But what I do know is... Oh, wait. Virginia Madsen has started talking again. Just a second... Okay, I think she's done. All right, where was I? Ah, yes, the spice and the worms of Arrakis, a sort of spice planet. Since the discovery of the spice back in the year who gives a shit, humanity has longed to control the spice. In fact, according to Baron... What the fuck! (What happened?) You won't believe this, but Virginia Madsen has started talking again. It's my fault. I mean, I had three options at my disposal when it came to watching Dune for the very first time the other night. The first option was the theatrical cut. I said, no way, I ain't watching that. The second option was the extended cut. This option seemed tempting, but director David Lynch famously had his name removed from this version of the film, so, I passed on it. The third option was something called "The Work-print Cut." Cobbled together by a fan(s) of the film, the work-print cut combines both the theatrical cut and the extended cut and uses the notes of David Lynch as a sort of guidepost... I think. Now, I'm not sure if Virginia Madsen's opening slab of exposition is longer in this version. Nevertheless, I just sat through three hours of Dune, and my mind is... throbbing like one of those pulsating pus-laden cysts that litter the right side Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's greasy face. I'm no dermatologist, but I think  Baron Vladimir Harkonnen should start washing with soap that contains tea tree oil. I've read that it helps remove sebum from the skin, thus preventing the chances of your pores from becoming clogged.

Yes, I realize that  Baron Vladimir Harkonnen already has a doctor, played by Leonardo Cimino, who is currently treating his severe case of space acne. But he isn't doing a very good job, now is he?

While I could talk about the Baron's clogged pores for hours on end, Dune isn't really about space acne. It's about spice, baby.

However, it's the acne plagued Baron Harkonnen who says so succinctly at one point: "He who controls the spice, controls the universe."

While the Baron (Kenneth McMillan), the ruler of Giedi Prime and the leader of House Harkonnen, wants to control the spice. He is, actually, under the control of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (José Ferrer), the leader of the Known Universe, who resides on the Planet Kaitain. When Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow), the leader of House Atreides on the Planet Caladan, takes over the Planet Arrakis, a.k.a. Spice World, this enrages the Baron, who, along with his demented sons/gay lovers, Feyd (Sting) and The Beast Rabban (Paul L. Smith), plots to bring down House Atreides, and takeover spice production on the Planet Arrakis.

In-between all this scheming, lot's of weird ass nonsense takes place.

Now, with so many planets and so many characters to keep track of, it's easy to see how someone might get lost.

In order to prevent this from happening, we end up spending the bulk of our time following Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), the duke's son.

I know, what kind of name for a kid is "Paul"? But then again, his mom's name is Jessica (Francesca Annis). What I mean is, in a film populated by characters with names like, Shadout Mapes (Linda Hunt), a shadowy Fremen housekeeper who is always carrying a crysknife, Thufir Hawat (Freddie Jones), House Atreides' bushy-browed head of security, and Gurney Halleck (Patrick Stewart), Warmaster for House Atreides, Paul and Jessica seem out of place.

While the story of Paul's rise from being a wide-eyed duke in training to a spice worm-riding God is super compelling, I couldn't help but be obsessed by the oft-kilter goings-on transpiring on Giedi Prime, the home of House Harkonnen.

Don't get me wrong, Planet Caladan is loaded with talented actors. The aforementioned Jürgen Prochnow, Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart and Freddie Jones, for example, are all great. As are, Richard Jordan and Dean Stockwell, who plays Doctor Yueh. But Giedi Prime has Kenneth McMillan as the awful Baron Harkonnen, a balloon-shaped tyrant covered in cysts, Jack Nance as Nefud, a Harkonnen lackey...

...Paul L. Smith (Pieces) as The Beast Rabban, a disgustingly vile man who sweats pure evil, Sting as Feyd, a lanky ginger who digs knives and loves doing crunches (the entire planet, by the way, is populated by redheads), and, my personal favourite, Brad Dourif as Piter De Vries (his "juice of sapho" monologue was glorious), the Baron's right hand man, who, strangely enough, doesn't have red hair (edit: Piter de Vries is a Mentat, a human computer employed by House Harkonnen).

Okay, now that you got the image of all those repugnant motherfuckers in your head. Imagine them all in the same green-walled room. I don't know 'bout you, but watching a bunch of repugnant motherfuckers acting all gross 'n' junk was kind of awesome. Did I feel sad whenever the Baron's undulating cysts weren't onscreen? In a way, yes. Yes, I did. There's something about these rupugnant motherfuckers that was quite appealing.

And that appeal seemed to go through the roof when the Baron drains/fucks/absorbs... um... Whatever the Baron did to that boy-toy, who was, for some reason, planting fake purple flowers at gun point, was tremendously discombobulating.

Actually, now that I think about it, if you were to ask me to describe Dune using only two words, I would say it was: tremendously discombobulating. Yeah, I like that.

Kooky wordplay aside. Even though three hours might seem a tad excessive, I couldn't help but be sucked into this unnecessarily complicated world of spice and giant worms. And, in a bizarre twist, I ended up rooting for Paul to defeat my beloved Baron. It's bizarre because I usually loathe these bland Luke Skywalker types. But there was something different going on here. Or maybe it's because Kyle MacLachlan (Showgirls) is awesome. There you go.

I've always wanted to review a David Lynch movie on here. Why I haven't done one is a bit of a mystery. One day, I asked a friend: If I was going to review a David Lynch film, which one should I do? And, without hesitation, they said, Dune. After thinking about it for, oh, I don't know, five whole seconds, I said: You're absolutely right. Dune it is.

Quirky fun-fact: My only connection to Dune up until this point was through the early 1990s techno rave scene. You see, a U.K. techno project called "EON" released two tracks back in '91. And both, "Spice" and "Fear Is the Mind-Killer," sample the movie rather heavily. The spice must flow.


  1. I am of two minds with this movie.
    First off it is bad, just cringeworthy bad in places. The Star Wars envy in this movie is incredibly high.
    But it is also a lot of fun, in the way that Rocky Horror Picture Show or Mystery Science Theater is. As long as you don't take it seriously it can be a great romp.

  2. A couple of years ago I bought a Dune dvd. It was the Alan Smithee version. I still haven't watched it all the way through.
    I think Wild at Heart is more of a House of Self Indulgence kind of movie. You could also compare it to the Alex de la Iglesia movie with Rosie Perez (the name in spanish is Perdita Durango, I don't remember what they called it in other places).

  3. Yes. Wild at Heart... I should review the shit out of that review.

    Perdita Durango... Javier Bardem, if I recall correctly, is awesome in that flick.