I got a copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune for my 13th birthday, mere weeks before David Lynch’s film of it hit theaters, and promptly didn’t read it. Too daunting. That anyone would even consider filming it boggles my mind. Lynch’s was a nice try, but a little laughable, while the SyFy Channel’s 2000 miniseries was better and did well enough ratings-wise that the network followed it up in 2003 with Children of Dune, which featured a relatively unknown James McAvoy.
Unbeknownst to me, until now, notable Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky also took a stab at an adaptation, in the mid-1970’s, but for reasons financial it never happened. If you know of his films—Fando y Lis, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, among others—then you have an inkling as to how bizarre his version of Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi opus might have turned out. More bizarre even than that of Lynch, himself a master of the bizarre.
I myself have never seen any of Jodorowsky’s movies—blasphemy, I know—and base my presumption on the clips of them shown in Jodorowsky’s Dune, a mesmerizing account of how Jodorowsky went about putting together his ambitious almost-adaptation, recounted mainly via interviews with the director himself and his son and others—including the late H.R. Giger, who designed the alien in Alien—associated with the ill-fated endeavor.
Most important to the telling here are the storyboards late French artist Jean Giraud created outlining Jodorowsky’s entire vision of the film, which Jodorowsky preserved in a massive book he refers to throughout the film, and of which director Frank Pavich makes very inventive use. At times he brings the drawings to motion-comic life, giving us a real idea how certain scenes would have physically played out. Perhaps the best example of this is his rendering of Jodorowsky’s grand opening shot, which was apparently inspired by the opening shot in Touch of Evil.
While the drawings are certainly cool, and prove that this never-filmed film was worth making a documentary about, the real enjoyment emanates from Jodorowsky himself. Even some forty years later, he vividly recalls how he would have made his Dune, and relates it with a contagious enthusiasm that belies his 85 years. He practically vibrates with excitement. He’s honest, too, particularly about his meeting with famed visual effects artist Douglas Trumbull.
Jodorowsky evidently became juiced to make movies again as a result of this project, the result being The Dance of Reality, his first directorial effort in nearly twenty-five years. But his near-miss at bringing an iconic sci-fi tome to the screen will probably remain just that. In some ways, it’s too bad we have this film about it, that we know about a movie that would have involved Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali (!) and Pink Floyd, and would probably have rivaled The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the ultimate midnight-movie experience. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 7/8/14