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Review - Dune: Extended Edition (DVD-2006)
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Dune: Extended Edition (DVD-2006)

Universal Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Larry Jakubecz

 

It is one of the most famous planets in all of literature. It is the center of decades-long struggles for power. It has seen wars, political intrigue and tests of strength, will and survival. It is the dry desert planet Arrakis, also known as... Dune.

 

David Lynch’s 1984 epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune has been reissued by Universal Home Entertainment as an “extended edition” 2-sided DVD, packaged in a beautiful metal case. It tells of the messianic rise to power of young Paul Atreides, son of royalty who comes to learn he is a long-prophesied leader with a developing psychic power called the “weirding way.” As Paul, then-unknown actor Kyle MacLachlan made his big-screen debut alongside such cast members as Jose Ferrer, Max Von Sydow, Patrick Stewart, Sylvana Mangano and an impossibly wiry Sting.

 

There has been much conjecture in the years since the film’s release over a rumored “director’s cut” running up to 5 hours in length. I’ll address this point in a few moments.

 

So what, exactly, is special about this Dune? How does 2 versions of the movie sound? First, you get the original theatrical release, written and directed by David Lynch and looking better than it has in any previous video form.

 

The main attraction is the new-to-video “extended edition,” also known as “the TV version.” This cut was expanded for broadcast without Lynch’s participation, and he responded by removing his name from the project entirely. This version has always been regarded by fans as a mixed blessing. On one hand, the opportunity to watch nearly 40 minutes of new and extended scenes is invaluable. Rather than make it boring, the new footages enriched the story’s web of intrigue and made clearer some of the characters’ motivations. The quality of the footage is stunning, and perfectly matches the theatrical print. Most of the time you can’t tell where film was (re)inserted, though some transitions are a bit clunky. The special effects also look smoother than ever.

 

However, the studio also trimmed some shots and scenes that were deemed too weird or gross for TV audiences. Those scenes have not been reinstated in this DVD’s edition. And, because that footage never made an official cut, the studio never bothered to finish the optical FX that turned the eyes of the Fremen race blue. Thus, characters’ eyes jump from blue to normal and back again annoyingly often. Again, those scenes have not been corrected for the DVD. Most notoriously, the pithy theatrical prologue was replaced with a 9-minute history of Dune and its worlds, told through paintings and production-type sketches and unremarkably-delivered narration. It is useful and informative, but a bit like watching an educational film in school. The narration, which reappears throughout the movie, seems to be part genuine attempt to include as much of the book as possible and part desire to take advantage of much of Lynch’s unused footage.

 

For the first time, we get some Dune bonus features, starting with a handful of very short (and poor quality) “deleted scenes.” These have not appeared anywhere else and are fascinating to consider, in that they would have given the movie a completely different dynamic. Also included are 4 new all-too-brief featurettes on the film’s design, costumes, special effects and models. Although there is some priceless original on-set video here and lots of great production sketches, the overall effect of these shorts is of a tease, a hint at what undoubtedly rests in studio vaults. And, the absence of any sort of now-standard commentary track is one more disappointment in what this package could have been.

 

But, let’s give long-overdue props to the rock group Toto for composing a unique and underrated score that perfectly complements the film. Even when it occasionally slides from full orchestra to guitars, the sounds feel right at home with Lynch’s ambitious images.

 

As for that  “director’s version:” on the disc, producer Raffaella De Laurentiis tells us that the longest cut of the film was the original rough cut, running probably 4 hours 20 minutes. Unfortunately, hearing that only makes us more frustrated with what is a less-than-definitive edition.

 

Ultimately, though, I have to recommend this Dune for being the best-looking transfer yet on home video... in both versions. And, it does look pretty neat on the DVD shelf.

 

(By the way, did you notice that, on the DVD’s front cover, the eyes of the Fremen character Chani are not blue? Oops!)

 

 

2006 Larry Jakubecz/ Celluloid Dreams

 

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