September 7, 2021

Spice Boys: 5 Crazy Ass Moments from David Lynch’s DUNE that we forgive but must never forget

by joeyphoenix

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written by Chris O’Keeffe 

To our friend, Zarah, who loves the desert planet of Arrakis. 

RELATED READING: “The Lucky Ones: All 28 Episodes of The Leftovers, Ranked”

Who knows what the rest of this year holds, but it appears one thing is certain: a new version of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic Dune will be hitting whatever screens you’re comfortable watching at some point in 2021 (currently slated for October 22). If the trailers are any indication, we’re all in for some slick, predestined, spice-dusted escapism. 

There have been a number of adaptations of Dune: the 2000 tv mini-series on the Sci-Fi Channel (and its 2003 sequel), the bedeviled mid-70s Jodorowsky vaporware fever dream (great documentary on this one), and, of course, David Lynch’s 1984 infamous, Hindenburg-esque take on the novel. 

Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck in Dune (1984)

Before we get into Lynch’s Dune, I want to say something about the stakes for the 2021 version:

If Villaneuve pulls this off, if the film is even half as good as the trailers suggest, that puts the director, who is coming off huge artistic and commercial successes with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, in position to complete possibly the greatest sequential sci-fi cinema hat trick ever. EVER. 

I looked into it.

Not Alex Garland, not Cuarón, not Ridley Scott. Not the Wachowski sisters, Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson or J.J. Abrams. Not Spielberg. Not Gilliam. Not Kubrick. Not Tarkovsky. Not Jean-Paul Jeanet.1 No mainstream director has stayed in the pocket with three consecutive major sci-fi releases of this scope. Even Mad Max‘s George Miller had his Happy Feet period. 

But, this piece is not about the 2021 Dune and its possible successes. Lynch’s famous trainwreck. He doesn’t even like talking about it. All the interviews I’ve watched and read, he blames various situational factors, but my conclusion is that he just wasn’t all that interested in making the movie. 

Anyway, onto this list:

5 crazy ass moments from Lynch’s Dune that we should forgive, but never, never forget

1. Whatever this is.

Content warning: needles, disturbing imagery

So, in case it’s not clear, that’s the villain, Baron Harkonnen. After juicing his own boils (not a thing in the book) and declaring his master plan, the Baron floats up to the ceiling and showers under spigot of weird oil (also not a thing in the book). Then he floats back down to a terrified sex slave and dislodges the cowering boy’s heartplug (not a thing!) so he can smear blood on the lad as he bleeds out. The whole nightmarish sequence is sickening, surreal, and undeniably Lynchian.

2. “Gurney Halleck” 

From the book of Herbert:

“Gurney Halleck was an ugly lump of a man with brawny arms and long-fingered hands with large thumbs.  He had wispy blond hair that trailed over barren spots on his forehead, and a lumpy face with flat features, a too-round nose, a lumpy chin and blue glass-splinter eyes.”

But then there’s this clip, with Sir Patrick Stewart as our boy Halleck:

Except according to Lynch he’s a cue-ball smooth shakespearean actOR who leads charges with a live pug in his vest. 

p.s. if you’re looking for a good time, read these comments.

3. The soundtrack

I really do not like Toto. But I LOVE this shit. Put it on your next barbecue playlist and wait for the guests to uneasily start looking around. 

4. This quote

“Don’t direct a film if it can’t be the film you want to make. It’s a joke. It’s a sick joke, and it’ll kill you”

5. Folding space

In the Dune-iverse, long-distance space travel is completed by the Spacing Guild — a sort of deformed/evolved branch of humanity who have been given special perspective and navigation abilities by the spice. This? This is some sort of cosmic embryo mating with the universe. The resulting A to B travel shows the Atreidis ship materializing like a student film stop-motion. 

The conclusions? 

#1. Get hype for the new 2021 Dune. All indications are that it’s going to be amazing. If possible (and safe), see it at one of your local cinemas. (But also IMAX looks pretty sick)

#2. Read the 1965 Dune. It’s “really, really good.” — me (to my disinterested wife)

#3. Maybe wait on the 1984 Dune to avoid spoilers. But at some point, give it a shot. 

Chris O’Keeffe is a writer and podcast producer who lives in Salem, MA. He studied English at UMass Boston and Film on the DVD rental rack at Sarge’s Comics in New London, CT.  You can buy Drinking From Snowglobes, his first book of poems, right here. Follow him on Twitter @Okeeffewith2fs

1If you’re noticing some representation issues, you win a prize. I’m not going to get into it here, but I did find this piece that explores the dearth of major female sci-fi directors. If we were including television it might be more interesting — I think Mimi Leder’s work on The Leftovers puts and Nicole Kassel’s work in the HBO series Watchmen put them squarely in the conversation, but we’re dealing with capital C Cinema here. Please post any response articles in the comments. I’d love for this to be hub of conversation about as many underrepresented groups as possible.
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