Dave Kehr, my favorite movie reviewer of all time, says, "If this 1984 film really cost $60 million, producer Dino De Laurentiis deserves to be hailed as the greatest patron of the avant-garde cinema since the Vicomte de Noailles financed Bunuel's L'age d'or."

Even after seeing Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks, I never could get over associating him in this role in Dune. I've tried to get people to watch this movie and enjoy the David Lynch treatment. Very few have been able to comply.

Perhaps it's because they were such fans of the Herbert books and do not feel justice has been done. Perhaps it's the squished zits on the face of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan). Perhaps it's Sting. I don't know.

But I do know that Lynch's treatment of the beasts that warp space will never leave my mind.

There are several (computer) games related to Dune.
  • Dune was made by Cryo (www.cryo.fr) in 1991 (iirc). It is perhaps best described as an RPG. Shows quite a lot resemblance to the movie and the book. For the IBM PC.
  • Dune II was made by Westwood Studios in 1992, and is in no way related to the Cryo game. This game is generally considered the first real time strategy game for the Amiga and the PC. Prequel to the famous Command and Conquer series. Hardly any resemblance here.
  • Dune 2000, also by Westwood Studios, was released in 1998. This is basically a revamped Dune II built around the Red Alert engine.
  • Dune also has MUDs. Try telnetting to regent.nakednuns.com (port 4201), dune3.fremen.org (port 4201) or dune.servint.com (port 8888).
  • Dune is also available as a CCG, developed by Last Unicorn Games in 1997. It's based on the movie. It's also out of production since 1998.

There are also three different versions of the movie Dune. The theatrical release is about 2 hours and 10 minutes long, the Alan Smithee version is about 2 hours and 47 minutes long and the third version supposedly is the same as the Alan Smithee version, except that the scenes are in a different order. "The three hour Dune has many extra lines of dialogue added which were previously removed, as well as a few extra scenes. However, as this version was released intended for television only, several scenes were edited out as they were considered too gruesome for young children to watch."

Since no one has actually noded anything about the book itself, I think it is only fitting that I should take a stab at it now.

Dune is set in a long gone Past. The past of the storyteller, not ours, as far as WE are concerned it is in the future (around 10,000 years after a huge war known as the Butlerian Jihad which banished all computers and thinking machines).

The known universe is ruled by an Empire, and the main Families constantly jostle for power between each other. The ruling house at the start of the Book is House Corrino, and the head of this house is the Emperor Shaddam. Other houses of note are the noble Atriedes lead by Duke Leto, and the vicious house Harkonnen led by the Baron Vladimir. There are other families who are almost as powerful, and these form a sort of democratic arena to voice their fears and play politics and this is known as the Lanstraad. In the book people who involve themselves in the Lanstraad are generally seen as weak, but I digress.

The other main forces in the Empire are the Bene Gesserit - a sisterhood of mental and physical adepts who have a selective breeding program designed to produce the "Kwisatz Haderach" a supermale who is able to do many spectacular things, not least of which is being able to predict the future in ways the Sisters cannot. There is also the Guild, who hold a monopoly on space travel and guide the space freighters through the inky depths of infinity by their limited abilities at prescience. Running everything commercial is the CHOAM group, a business collective who basically run the economy. The last and major force in the empire is the spice Melange, a geriatric narcotic whose ingestion prolongs life, increases awareness, and allows limited prescience by adepts. Without the spice the Sisters wouldn't be able to carry out their feats of mental and physical agility, the Guild would not be able to carry out interstellar travel, and billions upon billions of people throughout the human universe would die of addictive withdrawal. As you can see, melange is important.

And it is only found on one lonely planet in the whole of the cosmos, Arrakis (or Dune).

It is called Dune for the simple reason that there is no water on its surface anywhere. The whole planet is one large desert. As such water is tightly rationed and sold off, ergo on Dune: water is wealth.

He who controls Dune, controls the spice, and he who controls the spice controls the Universe.

For the past few decades the Harkonnens have been in control of the planet of Dune, when suddenly the Licence to govern the planet and harvest the spice is given to Duke Leto's house. This isn't the victory it appears however, as all sides are aware that the Duke Leto is being set up for a fall, the Harkonnens can legally and are expected to take the planet back by force. After all the two Houses have been fighting for a VERY long time. By placing the Duke in this trap, Emperor Shaddam wishes to remove a House and a leader he sees who may rival him some day.

Anyway, the Duke arrives, prepares for the attack, his son Paul and lady Jessica (Bene Gesserit consort) in tow. Paul is rather special: he has been trained by Jessica, his mother, to be a male Bene Gesserit, with all the skills and mental knowledge that they possess. This is in defiance of her vows to the Sisterhood, but she does it nonetheless. To cut a long story short, (too late, I know) the Harkonnens attack, with the help of the Imperial Commando Troops (known as Sardaukar) in MASSIVE overkill (literally) and utterly destroy the Atreides... well, almost.

Paul and his mother Jessica escape into the desert. They are found by the native Fremen (a cunning and violent people who are used to the ways of the Desert, and who can ride the huge (think Wembley Stadium as mouth size) deadly sandworms that all other people of Dune fear). Their leader Liet Kynes has instructed them to help the unlucky pair, which they do with reluctance. Jessica becomes a priestess for the Fremen, slipping into a role her sisterhood prepared for her. Paul joins into Fremen society and teaches them how to fight and organise themselves. He inevitably becomes their leader, and couples with the dead Liet Kynes daughter Chani. A little while later, he leads them in a battle that destroys the Harkonnen control of Dune, and smashes the Emperor's legions. This (with a little political intrigue and revenge for past grievances) makes Paul the new Emperor of Dune, and since the Fremen know the secret of the Spice, his place is even more secure than the old emperor. End of Story, till the second book.


I am going to stop there. That was meant to be a BRIEF synopsis of the book, but as you can see, to recall even the basic elements of the plot I have had almost too much material. The book is layered, and detailed, and has so much depth that it astounds you from the first page.

There is also this whole air of inevitability about the book which is consistent with its pose as history. It has superb characters, excellent background, is technically amazing, and also introduces some fantastic social and ecological concepts. Not only this, but it manages to reflect on what it means to be human, not in the context of increased technology, for in comparison with many sci-fi books there is very little tech in it, but in the setting of emptiness, and our own inner demons. That there are things we do, that are born of our very natures, and that they fix us on a path that isn't always of our own choosing. But mostly I feel this book is about redemption, not of power or honour, but of the soul. In the way we treat others and ourselves.

In addition to an excellent series of books, a dune is a wind-formed mound of sand. The prevailing winds blow sand up the face of the dune, until it reaches the top and falls onto the lee side (slipside) and settles. In this way, the dune advances forward. Dunes come in many shapes and sizes... some may be over a thousand feet tall.. and others are but ripples along a windy beach. Dunes are usually found in deserts, as most wet areas support vegetation which would stabilize them (in some areas of the Midwest there are vast forested hills that are actually stabalized dunes). Dunes are also common along beaches where there is a steady supply of sand. Dunes often take the form of crescent-shaped ridges, with the curve facing downwind. However, depending on the prevailing winds, they may take many forms, including huge mounds or star-shaped formations.

Although appearing lifeless, sand dunes support a variety of life. Many plants, such as sand verbena, are adapted to life in sand dunes. They are xeric, or tolerant of low moisture, and the also usually have tough stems and leaves to ward off sandblasting. These plants also have extensive root systems and are tolerant of becoming exposed by erosion or being buried. Many animals, such as beetles, lizards, snakes, and kangaroo rats, also inhabit sand dunes. Often these species are rare as they are restricted to one dune field.

Sand dunes are found throughout the deserts of the US, especially southwestern Arizona and southeastern California. They are also abundant in other deserts, especially the Sahara. Dunes are also common along beaches, especially those near rivers which supply a constant stream of sediment.

Dune

In December of 2000 the SCI FI Channel aired a six-hour miniseries version of Frank Herbert's Dune. It was written and directed by John Harrison, the executive producers were Richard P. Rubinstein and Mitchell Galin, and produced by David Kappes.

The cast included Academy Award-winner William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides, international star Giancarlo Giannini as Emperor Shaddam IV, newcomer Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, Matt Keeslar as Feyd, Ian McNeice as Baron Harkonnen, Barbera Kodetova as Chani, and Saskia Reeves as Jessica.

The crew included three time Academy Award winner (Apocalypse Now) Vittorio Storaro as cinematographer, Theodor Pistek (Oscar winner for his work on Amadeus) as costume designer, Ernest Farino as visual effects supervisor, and Miljen "Kreka" Kljalkovic as production designer.

The miniseries featured impressive digital animations and special effects, and had a good cast of actors. IMHO it is a great tribute to the excellent novels written by Frank Herbert.

The VHS/DVD is available on Amazon.com.

DUNE (1984)

Directed by
David Lynch

Writing credits
Frank Herbert
David Lynch


Cast overview:
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 Atreides
Virginia Madsen .... Princess Irulan
Silvana Mangano .... Reverend Mother Ramallo
Everett McGill .... Stilgar
Kenneth McMillan .... Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Jack Nance .... Nefud
Siân Phillips .... Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jürgen Prochnow .... Duke Leto Atreides


Runtime: 137 / USA:190 (special edition)

Soundtrack:
Written, composed, and performed by TOTO. Prophecy Theme by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Roger Eno. All selections produced by TOTO except Prophesy Theme by Brian Eno.

1. Prologue 1:47
2. Main Title 1:55
3. Robot Fight 1:18
4. Leto's Theme 1:43
5. The Box 2:37
6. The Floating Fat Man (The Baron) 1:24
7. Trip to Arrakis 2:35
8. First Attack 2:43
9. Prophecy Theme 4:19
10. Dune (Desert Theme) 5:30
11. Paul Meets Chani 3:04
12. Prelude (Take my Hand) 0:59
13. Paul Takes the Water of Life 2:48
14. Big Battle 3:06
15. Paul Kills Feyd 1:51
16. Final Dream 1:25
17. Take My Hand 2:35


PLOT:
"I see two Great Houses -- House Atreides, House Harkonnen -- feuding... I see you behind it." - A Third Stage Guild Navigator to Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.

The planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, an inhospitable desert world and is also the only source of the rare spice, melange, that allows for the folding of time, which is a necessity for interstellar space travel. The Spacing Guild, the ancient and mutated navigators who control all space travel, suspect that there may be a plot developing to halt spice production while the Emperor feels that the noble House Atreides is becoming too powerful with their new 'weapons'.

When a third stage Navigator from the Spacing Guild meets with the Emperor, a solution seems to be forthcoming for the Emperor. Remove House Harkonnen from Dune, and replace with House Atreides, all the while plotting with House Harkonnen for a final takeover and the annihilation of House Atreides.

The Bene Gesserit Women do not wish this to be, as in House Atreides is one of the tools of their political and religious breeding program.

House Harkonnen is not completely successful and one member of House Atreides survives, and lives among the local fremen (desert people, who are vastly underestimated by House Harkonnen).

Paul takes on the name Paul Muad'dib, and becomes the religious leader of the vast fighting force of the fremen also the final goal of what the Bene Gesserit breeding program was looking for, a little before his time, and out of their control.

In a final confrontation between the Emperor, House Harkonnen and Paul Maud'dib, Paul gains control of planet Arrakis.


My Opinion:
Despite the movie straying from the way the book tells the story, it still gets the basic story across. You become familiar enough with the characters, the story, also the politics aren't gone into as deeply as they are in the book which is both a relief and a loss. Unfortunately, I felt that the movie was too 'hurried along' the pace to fast, the ending too abrupt. Yet somehow I still came away from watching the movie for the first time, too young to even remember how old I was, with a good impression, and the second I again came off with an overall positive feeling about the movie, but this time I noticed its downfalls.

Worth the watch if you liked the books, but be prepared to witness it jump to the ending in leaps and bounds, and make unexpected bridges to cover the plot holes they got through cutting the book down into a short movie.

"When I first read the script I was disappointed. I came in saying, "I want Dune." It took me a little time to get used to the differences. I finally said, "It's not going to be Dune by Frank Herbert. It's going to be Dune by Frank Herbert, adapted by David Lynch, put on film and conveyed by actors." - Kyle MacLachlan (Paul Atreides).
I got the cast list from the video, and the soundtrack listing from the CD (both of which I should give my dad credit for).

Since no one else has mentioned it, it is worth noting that the first Dune book, published 1965, was inspired by the formation of OPEC in 1960.

By the 1960s America and the Soviet Union had been battling for influence for decades when the locals decided to take control of production of the world's most traded commodity: oil. And there are a hell of a lot of sand dunes in the Middle East.

The parallels aren't exact (don't ask me who the Bene Gesserit are in international relations) but they are certainly intentional: Frank Herbert had already written "The Dragon in the Sea" about a world war over oil resources; and Muad'Dib is suspiciously close to Mahdi, the messiah figure of Islamic tradition.

I've listened to sand dune rumble during a school trip when I was in 8th grade in Saudi Arabia, perhaps out of ignorance, or amusement, our teacher ascribed the drum beats we heard to Jinns. Also ascribing it to evil spirits, Marco Polo stated in the 13th century, "at times fill the air with the sounds of all kinds of musical instruments, and also of drums and the clash of arms."

According to research carried out by Bruno Andreotti from the University of Paris-7, his proposal is the sounds come from vibrations in the sand bed that have been excited by collisions between hot and dry grains of sand.

The French physicist took his equipment from Paris to the Atlantic Sahara in Morocco, which contains more than 10,000 crescent shaped dunes known as barchans. The wind in the desert can erode the back of these dunes, causing sand to build up at the top of the dune.

An avalanche takes place and the dunes start to "sing". There are about 35 known locations in the world where the dunes "sing". The sounds produced can be heard up to 10 kilometers away and resemble a drum that can last up to 15 minutes. The sounds can be as loud as 105 decibels and have frequencies between about 95 and 105 Hertz.

Dune (?), n. [The same word as down: cf. D. duin. See Down a bank of sand.]

A low hill of drifting sand usually formed on the coast, but often carried far inland by the prevailing winds.

[Written also dun.]

Three great rivers, the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt, had deposited their slime for ages among the dunes or sand banks heaved up by the ocean around their mouths. Motley.

 

© Webster 1913.

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