In 1984, the high school I attended decided to start a science fiction class. It was my first real exposure to the masters of the genre. We read Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon and to my great joy, Frank Herbert's Dune - just as David Lynch was finishing post-production on the film.
When the film finally premiered, critics panned it. Rumor had it that there were sheets handed out at the theater with definitions of Dune terms (Hah! "For those who can't be bothered to read the book," thought I). Having seen the film, I'm quite glad I read it first. The film is a wonderful companion piece to the book. The translation to film was as good as it could have been for the amount of time available. But I can't say how I would have enjoyed it had I not read it.
When DVDs hit the scene in the '90s, Dune was put out in a crappy, lackluster edition that did little to enhance the experience. There were no extra features to speak of, unless you really dig a French language track in digital 2.0 surround.
Now Universal has seen fit to release a decent version of the film in Special Extended edition (one double-sided disc). Side A has the original theatrical release at 2 hours and 17 minutes; also included on Side A are the extra features, including some deleted scenes, preproduction featurettes and a photo gallery. This is what Dune fans have been waiting for all these years: some behind-the-scenes insight into the making of a classic sci-fi film. My only real complaint lies in the transfer. Dust and scratches are present in abundance. I can live with that; I know it came from celluloid, and I've made my peace with that. What bothers me most is a bluish bright area on the right side of the screen. It's not visible in all scenes, but it's there and it takes me out of the movie from time to time.
Side B has the 2 hour 57 minute Alan Smithee extended version often shown on the Sci-Fi channel. I have not watched this, and I have no plans to do so. I started it twice, and it seemed really plodding and ham-handed - picture paintings made for Dune calendars that were rejected by wise calendar editors. Imagine a clumsy narrative as the camera pans around these bad paintings. I suppose to those not in the know about Dune, it provides enough information to make sense of the plot, but for me it's not worth seeing. The bright area is also present on the sides of many scenes in this transfer, though maybe more subtly. Also among the extras is a terminology sheet (for those who can't be bothered to read the book).
If you've read Dune and dig it, see this film (if after 22 years you still haven't seen it). David Lynch's vision is not perfect, but the production design is pleasing and worth owning.
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