Happy New Year to all our readers. Clan McClarey spent New Year’s Eve in our usual fashion in watching the movie Dune (1984) a movie so wretchedly bad that it is good, if watched as an unintentional comedy! When the film was originally released the introduction to the film consisted of the above video by Princess Irulan, portrayed by Virginia Madsen, a very minor character in the film. When it was determined that the introduction merely confused already confused moviegoers more, at least those who had never read Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, a new introduction was made up when the film was released on television:
Upon its release the film was nearly universally panned. David Lynch, the director, disowned the film, and adopted the pseudonym of Alan Smithee, a name traditionally adopted by directors of films that turn out so badly that the directors do not want their names attached to it. The film earned the title of worst film of the year by film reviewers Siskel and Ebert. Janet Maslin in the New York Times gave the film one star, and regarded it as completely incomprehensible: “Several of the characters in Dune are psychic, which puts them in the unique position of being able to understand what goes on in the movie”.
Why is Dune such a grand buzzard of a film?
1. Confusing. Audiences were simply asked to take in too much of an immensely complicated science fiction setting. Now if they had simply had this catchy tune at the beginning of the film, perhaps some of the confusion could have been eliminated:
2. Overacting. A prime example:
3. Sting. Dune was the movie where Sting amply demonstrated that he could not act to save his singer soul. His role is actually fairly minor. But he does have a climatic fight scene where he jumps around like a deranged gerbil and comes off as silly rather than menacing:
4. Wasted Talent. Some fine actors and actresses appeared in Dune and their talents were completely wasted. Jose Ferrer, who gave an unforgettable performance as attorney Barney Greenwald in The Caine Mutiny, portrays Emperor Shaddam IV and is stuck in a two-dimensional bit role, used primarily for expository purposes:
5. Gross. This scene says it all:
6. Overblown music:
7. No sense of the ridiculous. Demonstrated by the “My name has become a killing word scene”:
8. Sting in a bathing suit. Not a sight for the faint of heart:
David Lynch sums it up:
I started selling out on Dune. Looking back, it’s no one’s fault but my own. I probably shouldn’t have done that picture, but I saw tons and tons of possibilities for things I loved, and this was the structure to do them in. There was so much room to create a world. But I got strong indications from Raffaella and Dino De Laurentiis of what kind of film they expected, and I knew I didn’t have final cut.
Everything that could go wrong with a film went wrong with Dune: overstuffed, meandering, incomprehensible in parts due to butchering of the film to get it down to a manageable size, taking seriously the dime store politico-religious “philosophy” that Frank Herbert ladled into his novel, and the list could go on and on. Viewing Dune as a serious film is akin to watching a troupe of Shakespearean actors performing a three-hour length Three Stooges “short” written by Sartre. However, when viewed as a black comedy commentary on just how woefully bad a film can be, the film can be hilariously funny, and thus it gave the year a humorous send off last night, and laughter is always the best way to end a year and begin a year. Best wishes for all our contributors, commenters and readers in 2012!