Dune (1984) Revisit


Having done an extensive review and historical post just last December for this movie, I will refer you to that page on “30 Years On“. This film is a personal favorite of mine, a characteristic it shares with my oldest daughter Allison. We had originally planned to go together but she had some other conflict and missed out tonight. Since I’d already bought the tickets, my wife agreed to go with me and I’m happy to say she liked the film quite well.

Once upon a time I might have felt a little guilty defending this movie against it’s detractors, but that hesitation is gone. This movie is much better than it’s reputation and it was even better tonight than I had remembered. The image on the big screen really brings out the spectacular set design and the quality of the costuming. The music is impressive from the beginning and the work by rock veterans Toto, combined with a little added “spice” from Brian and Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois with the prophesy theme was extra special. Coming at us in full theater sized dolby stereo made it sound really impressive along with the sound design of the film which was the one category that the movie was acknowledged for by the Academy.

As I sat watching and listening to the film, I was surprised at how well the plot really did develop. I had thought before that it was somewhat clunky, relying on verbalized inner thoughts to hold things together. When I paid close attention, I think half of that dialogue could go away and the movie would still make sense and be a bit less obvious.  The villains do chew some scenery, but the visualizations and their maniacal gleams, remind you how awful the Harkonnens really are. The sequence with the Baron showering in who knows what effluent and then taking sexual pleasure in the murder of a frightened young man was very David Lynch and very disturbing. The rest of the cast succeeds because they were well chosen and played their parts with a bit more subtlety. I especially appreciated Jürgen Prochnow as the doomed Duke Leto. He has some lines that end up resonating bigger themes in the story and if you listen to them, he sounds both sad and inspiring.

I can’t say enough about the look of the film, it was just as amazing as I always thought it was. With the exception of some of the spacecraft shots and one or two scenes with the sandworms, these effects can stand up to scrutiny and outclass a lot of the CGI junk that gets foisted on us nowadays. One bit of collectible ephemera I neglected to share in the post on “30 Years On“, was the standee for the VHS release that I snagged from the Music Plus store back in 1985. Here it is in the back patio room where it has sat since we moved in to this house 21 years ago. That’s a three dimensional display with the foreground figures on one section and the background on another.

There was a fair sized crowd at the theater, “The Sherman Oaks Arclight”. Since this is probably a big nostalgia piece for any of you reading, the “Arclight” in the valley is located at the site of the old Sherman Oaks Galleria. You know, the mall featured in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Valley Girl“. It is now an outdoor shopping area with a few upscale stores and a few stylish eateries. For an 80’s classic like “Dune“, it was fun to think about as we walked from the parking structure.

Wearing my “Visit Scenic Arrakis” shirt, designed by my daughter, and sitting with my favorite person in the world.

2 thoughts on “Dune (1984) Revisit

  1. You’ll get no argument here. When I saw this first-run, I hadn’t yet read Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi saga, but this pushed me to do so. I was blown away by the author’s work, and subsequently read the rest in the series. I know many fans criticized the film mercilessly. At first, I had my doubts, noticing the changes made and the Lynchian touches. Yet, I could still watch it.

    Then, the 2000 TV miniseries came out on cable. John Harrison’s more literal translation. Faithful as that was, I began to realize something was missing, a vitality with the work not there. That’s what David Lynch brought, even though he’s disowned this due to Universal Studio’s interference in the production. Yes, key aspects were changed, but the spirit of the novel was not ground down by exactitude.

    The basic story was allowed to breathe. And what a cast! You even had a young Patrick Steward in support, for chrissakes! I’ll take the 1984 version any day of the week now. It must have be great to have seen it on the big screen once more, Richard. I’m so jealous, my friend.

    • Glad there are other fans out there. I think the fans of the book had quibbles but it was really most non-fans who could not fathom the intricate Universe that Herbert created. As I said in the 30 Years On post, the film makers seemed a little unsure as well, hence the glossary that was distributed at some screenings.

      It is more in line with Blade Runner, another Sci Fi classic of the era that failed to resonate with audiences because the tone was so different. I was really impressed last night with how well the film stands up and how much more engaging it is than people give it credit for.

      Sorry you missed it, if you ever see it playing somewhere let me know, I’m willing to drive a long distance to see something I love. Thanks for coming by Michael.

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