Dune (1984 film)

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This article is about the 1984 film directed by David Lynch. For the upcoming film, see Dune (Paramount).

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Dune is a 1984 movie directed by David Lynch and based on the 1964 Frank Herbert novel of the same name. The film starred Kyle MacLachlan as the main character, Paul Atreides, and included an ensemble of well-known American, Latin American and European actors in the supporting roles, including Sting, Jose Ferrer, Virginia Madsen, Linda Hunt, Patrick Stewart, Max von Sydow, and Jürgen Prochnow, among others. This movie was filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico.

Although it became a cult favorite, the film cost $42 million to produce and had a domestic gross of only $27.4 million. It was also criticized by Herbert fans who objected to the director's liberal departure from the novel's storyline.

Main cast

(in credited order)

  • Francesca Annis .... Lady Jessica
  • Leonardo Cimino .... The Baron's Doctor
  • Brad Dourif .... Piter De Vries
  • José Ferrer .... Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV
  • Linda Hunt .... Shadout Mapes
  • Freddie Jones .... Thufir Hawat
  • Richard Jordan .... Duncan Idaho
  • Kyle MacLachlan .... Paul Usul Muad'Dib Atreides
  • Virginia Madsen .... Princess Irulan
  • Silvana Mangano .... Rev. Mother Ramallo
  • Everett McGill .... Stilgar
  • Kenneth McMillan .... Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
  • Jack Nance .... Captain Iakin Nefud
  • Siân Phillips .... Reverand Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
  • Angélica Aragón .... Bene Gesserit Sister
  • Jürgen Prochnow .... Duke Leto Atreides
  • Paul L. Smith .... The Beast Rabban
  • Patrick Stewart .... Gurney Halleck
  • Sting .... Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen
  • Dean Stockwell .... Dr. Wellington Yueh
  • Max von Sydow .... Dr. Kynes
  • Alicia Witt .... Alia (as Alicia Roanne Witt)
  • Sean Young .... Chani
  • Danny Corkill
  • Honorato Magaloni .... Otheym (as Honorato Magalone)
  • Judd Omen .... Jamis
  • Molly Wryn .... Harah


Shot almost entirely in Mexico, the movie is an adaptation of the first part of a series of novels, by Frank Herbert, containing elements from the later parts. The major plot concerned a young man foretold in prophecy as the Kwisatz Haderach who will save a desert planet from the evil House Harkonnen.

David Lynch originally wanted to create a much longer movie; his 135 page screenplay resulted in a 4-5 hour long movie. During post production, though, producer Dino De Laurentiis did not want to risk releasing a 40 million dollar movie that was three hours long, so he had David Lynch cut the film down to 137 minutes.

Frank Herbert saw both versions. He liked the longer one a great deal and disowned the shorter one.

Ridley Scott was also offered the director helm at one point, but production problems emerged and Scott moved on to direct Blade Runner, Scott worked on a few script drafts, eventually intending to direct 2 movies. As he recalls the pre-production process was slow, and to get the project done would had taken more time.

Pre-production traces back to 1975, when Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to film the story as a ten hours feature with collaboration from Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí, Gloria Swanson, H. R. Giger and others. The music would have been done by Pink Floyd, but the project was never finished. Some preparations were later used in the Alien films.

Box office and reception

This film wasn't the blockbuster science fiction film the filmmakers had hoped, grossing only $27.4 million in its domestic run off an estimated $42 million budget. This might have been due to the complexity of the story, featured in the movie in a thin, loose, and dream-like trail. On his review, critic Roger Ebert wrote "This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time".

Fans of the book were also disapointed in their majority, fans of sci-fi also found that the special effects left a lot to be desired. Also, as a result of the box-office and critical failure, David Lynch doesn't like to talk about Dune in interviews, politely excusing himself as having "blocked" much from that time in his mind. It is also widely seen by critics as the worst David Lynch feature (but in contrast, it's also one of the most popular ones).

Kinder criticism on the movie praises the noir-barroque aproach of Lynch to the movie, and states that in order to watch it, the viewer must first be aware of the Dune universe.

Departures from the novel

The film makes numerous departures from the novel, including the following.

  • In the novel, the "Weirding Way", properly termed "prana-bindu training", is a super-martial art form that allows an adept like Paul Atreides to move with lightning speed. The Lynch movie replaces this with "weirding modules" (essentially, sonic guns) that amplify the user's shouts into a destructive force. This change literalizes a moment in the novel in which Paul says his name has become a death-prayer because the Fremen shout "Muad'dib!" before killing an opponent. In the movie, the Fremen actually destroy their enemies by shouting his name, leading Paul to make the remark "my name has become a killing word".
  • The character of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is diminished so that he contributes less to the story, even in the climactic scene. In the novel, Paul and Feyd get into a dramatic knife-fight. In the movie, there is little fighting in the climax and Feyd is overcome extremely quickly.
  • The movie ends with Paul commanding rain to fall on Arrakis. In the novel, this is accomplished through years of terraforming, and it does not rain for decades after Paul ascends the throne. This is because there is nothing mystical about Paul's powers; he is the product of genetic breeding and training, and could not possibly command the sky to rain on Dune.
  • In the novel, the final line, spoken by Jessica to Chani, is "Those of us who bear the name of concubine, history will remember as wives" (in reference to Paul's marriage to and refusal of Irulan). In the movie, the final line (spoken by Alia) is "He is the Kwisatz Haderach!" (despite the fact that, in the book, Paul states that ultimately he is not the Kwisatz Haderach, but something wholly unexpected because he was born a generation earlier than planned).

Cult success and revisions

Despite the original complaints by disgruntled Herbert fans, harsh criticism and a historical box office failure, the movie has achieved a respectable cult status of which at least three different versions have been released:

  • The original theatrical version (137 minutes)--This version is the only director-approved and authorized version. It has been widely found on videocassette and DVD.
  • The Alan Smithee Version (approx. 190 minutes)--The less-seen 3 hour "Alan Smithee" version is a cult classic on its own. Prepared originally for syndicated television (and later seen on basic cable networks), it is now available worldwide (including the U.S.) on DVD. The missing footage includes a painted montage at the prologue, and some scenes added back into the mix, including the "little-maker" essence-of-spice scene. The TV version was edited almost haphazardly (for example, certain shots were repeated throughout the film to give the impression that footage had been added). Lynch objected to these edits and had his name removed from the credits of the TV print (his name remains on the theatrical print as it is the only version authorized by the director).
  • The Channel 2 Version (approx. 180 minutes)--KTVU, a San Francisco, CA Fox affiliate, pieced together a hybrid edit of the two previous versions for broadcast in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992. It is essentially the TV version with all the violence of the theatrical version reincorporated into the film proper.

An Extended Edition was released by Universal Home Entertainment in the U.S. on DVD on January 31, 2006. The DVD contained both Lynch's 137-minute theatrical cut and a 177-minute edit of the Alan Smithee TV version (the latter being presented for the first time in its original Todd-AO aspect ratio). It also featured a documentary on the design and special effects, and a separate supplementary section of outtakes and scenes not included in any previous version of the film, including an alternate ending.

Also, a DVD Extended Edition version was released in Europe in November, 2005. It includes, amongst other extras, an extended version of the film, credited to Alan Smithee, which is 177 minutes long. The booklet explains this version was created for an American TV channel, and is probably the aforementioned Channel 2 Version. Neither the video nor the audio was remastered, exhibiting a poor TV-like quality. Despite the fact that the cover states that it is a mono soundtrack, it is, in fact, in stereo.

The British Observer newspaper gave away free DVD copies of Dune on January 22nd, 2006. This DVD release contained no special features.



  • Michael Bolton appears as an extra, playing drums as the knife fight between Feyd and Paul begins, in the extended DVD version of the movie.
  • The costumes worn by the characters who were members of The Guild were made from used bodybags. The film crew acquired the bodybags from an old firehouse that was closing down. The actors who wore the costumes were not told about this until after filming was completed.