This is a look at the controversial and flawed, two-hours-and-seventeen-minute, 1984 filmed release of Frank Herbert's novel "DUNE", from Director David Lynch and what was caused by the powers-that-be at "Universal-MCA-Pictures".
On September 3, 2021, at the "Venice Italy Film Festival", "Part One," of French-Canadian film maker, Denis Villeneuve's, vision of "Dune", premiered.
When completed, Denis Villeneuve's, two-part screen adaption would be the fifth attempt to bring Frank Herbert's novel to the motion picture screen and the third to actually do that.
At two-hours-and-thirty-six-minutes, "Dune, Part One", only covers some of the material from the novels first half. Villeneuve admitted to having eliminated major characters from his screenplay and that it was sketchy in nature, but has promised to correct that and restore the missing characters in his second part of Herbert's story.
From before the completion of the primary filming of "Dune, Part One", in July 2019, into October 2021. Denis Villeneuve had been waiting to get the green-light to even began preproduction of "Dune, Part Two". As of this writing, my readers will have to wait until the tentatively set release date of October 20, 2023, to view Villenuve's second half.
THREE PROBLEMS WITH THE NOVEL TO SCREENPLAY
Frank Herbert's, "DUNE", as originally published in 1965, was 412 pages in length. The complex story was originally published as two separate serials in "Analog Magazine" and then combined into one single novelization. Presenting the obvious first problem of relating the story on-screen without losing the author's intent.
As of this writing a first trade edition of the novel will cost my reader between $1,499.95 and $1,999.95, depending on the book's condition.
The second problem in writing a screenplay is the large number of characters woven into the narrative by Herbert and the decision upon which ones to keep and which ones to possibly reject. The following list of the main characters are found on the front piece of my copy of "Dune".
The Main Characters (27)
House Atreides (8)
Duke Leto Atriedes
House Harkonnen (5)
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Pier De Vries
Glossu "Beast" Rabban
House Corrino (3)
Bene Gesserit (2)
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
Lady Margot Fenring
The Fremen (7)
The Shadout Mapes
Reverend Mother Ramallo
The Smugglers (2)
Based upon the above main characters listing:
The 2021, "Dune, Part One", only kept 16 characters, and in the case of some, they are named and disappear immediately without saying a line of dialogue, but to be fair we must wait until the release of "Dune, Part Two" to determine how many are actually seen on-film.
Director John Harrison's, 2000, "SciFy Channel's", four-hours-and-twenty-five-minute, three-part mini-series, kept 24 characters.
Director David Lynch kept 21 characters in his theatrical release, but filmed 23 characters prior to final editing.
The third problem to consider in writing a screenplay based upon the overall novel, is who is your target audience? Those familiar with the novel, those going to a movie for pure enjoyment and escape, or both?
BEFORE THERE WAS DAVID LYNCH
I started this article by mentioning that Denis Villeneuve's film was the fifth attempt to bring Frank Herbert's novel to the motion picture screen. Those attempts begin with what is known as, "Jodorowsky's Dune".
In December 1974, a French consortium purchased the rights to Frank Herbert's novel. They hired Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky to make a motion picture version.
The sets were to be designed by H.R. Giger and French cartoonist and artist, Jean Giraud. Visual effects supervisor Dan O'Bannon was to do the special effects, and the cast appeared to include, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Mick Jagger, and, Salvador Dali. The music was going to be from Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, and other pop groups.
The Jodorowsky screenplay had an estimated running time of between ten and fourteen-hours, at a projected budget of $15-million, 1975, dollars, but in 1976, the project came to a standstill as the remaining $5 million dollars could not be raised.
In 2013, a French-American documentary, "Jodorowsky's Dune", was released about the failed making of the first filmed version of Frank Herbert's novel. For those of my readers who might be interested, the documentary is available, as of this writing, on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Back in late 1976, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis purchased the rights to Herbert's novel from the French consortium. He next commissioned Frank Herbert to write a screenplay of his novel and when it was turned in to the producer in 1978, the new screenplay was 175-pages in length. De Laurentiis next hired director Ridley Scott to film the motion picture and screenplay writer, Rudy Wurlitzer, the screenplay writer for director Sam Peckinpah's 1973, "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", to rewrite the screenplay into a shorter version. While, he kept H.R. Giger to continue designing the look of "Dune".
All of this fell through once more, and Ridley Scott is quoted in Paul M. Simmons work, "Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies", as saying:
But after seven months I dropped out of Dune, by then Rudy Wurlitzer had come up with a first-draft script which I felt was a decent distillation of Frank Herbert's (book). But I also realized Dune was going to take a lot more work—at least two and a half years' worth. And I didn't have the heart to attack that because my [older] brother Frank unexpectedly died of cancer while I was prepping the De Laurentiis picture. Frankly, that freaked me out. So, I went to Dino and told him the Dune script was his....
The project seemed to linger, but in 1981, facing losing his right to film the novel, Dino De Laurentiis went to Frank Herbert and negotiated not only the film rights to the current novel, but to all sequels, already written, or that would be written.
However, De Laurentiis needed further financial assistance and distribution backing for the production. He approached Sid Sheinberg, then president of "MCA" the parent company of "Universal Pictures", and Sheinberg agreed to the project. Whil Dino's daughter, Raffaella, had just seen director David Lynch's "The Elephant Man", starring Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt, and convinced her father to hire him as the new director.
DAVID LYNCH'S 1984 DUNE
Dino De Laurentiis was the uncredited "Executive Producer" and the credited "Producer" was Raffaella, who had produced the two "Conan" films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The "Assistant Producer", was Spanish filmmaker, Jose Lopez Rodero, who was also the "Second Unit Director" on this picture.
The initial problem with hiring David Lynch, is that he had no idea who Frank Herbert was, or had ever heard of the novel. However, he read the book, liked it, agreed to direct and write what would become the sixth screenplay since Dino De Laurentiis had acquired the film rights. Lynch initially worked with his co-screenplay writers from 1980's "The Elephant Man", Eric Bergren, and, Christopher De Vore, but split over their drafted screenplay. This was caused by Lynch deciding to make two separate screenplays for two separate motion pictures. In other words, what Denis Villeneuve's is currently doing, and the three-part mini-series did, to be able to film the novel. In the end, David Lynch, combined his two screenplays into one of 135-pages and submitted it to Raffaella De Laurentiis. Filming began on March 30, 1983, at Churubusco Studios, in Mexico City.
Above, David Lynch and Raffaella De Laurentiis on the set of "Dune".
Six Important Technical Aspects of the Motion Picture
The musical score was written and performed by the Van Nuys, California, rock band "TOTO".
Note: Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Kevin O'Connell, and Nelson Stoll were nominated at the "57th Academy Awards", held on March 25, 1985, for "Best Motion Picture Sound" for the feature.
The Cinematography was by Freddie Francis. Francis was David Lynch's cinematographer on "The Elephant Man", but prior to this picture had worked on the low-keyed,1961, ghost story, "The Innocents", starring Deborah Kerr, and, the crime thriller, 1964's, "Night Must Fall", starring Albert Finney, and in 1985, the Walt Disney Pictures, "Return to Oz". Freddie Francis was also a director associated with the English horror studio, "Hammer Films", and among his pictures prior to "Dune" are: 1964's, "The Evil of Frankenstein", 1965's, "Dr. Terrors House of Horrors", and, 1968's, "Dracula Had Risen from the Grave".
Anthony Gibbs was the film-editor. Among his work prior to this picture are, 1961's, "Doctor Blood's Coffin", 1963's, "Tom Jones", 1971's, "Fiddler on the Roof", and 1977's. "A Bridge Too Far".
The production design was now by Anthony Masters. Among his work are, 1958's, "Corridors of Blood", 1961's, "The Day the Earth Caught Fire", 1968's, "2001: A Space Odyssey", 1973's, "Papillon", and, 1977's, "The Deep".
Pier Luigi Basile was the art director. Among his other work were, the Yul Brynner spaghetti western, 1970's, "Adios, Sabata", the Burt Lancaster, mini-series, 1974's, "Moses the Lawgiver", 1982's, "Amityville II: The Possession", and, 1984's, "Conan the Destroyer".
The costume design was by Bob Ringwood. This was Ringwood's second motion picture and it was proceeded by director John Boorman's, 1981, "Excalibur". Among his future work, were Tim Burton's, 1989, "Batman", 1992's, "Batman Returns", 1995's, "Batman Forever", and, 2004's, "Troy".
The International Cast
Jane Jenkins was the casting director for the motion picture and had been doing this work since 1979. Among her future work would be, 1986's, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", and, "Labyrinth", 1987's, "The Princess Bride", 1988's, 'Beetlejuice", 1990's, "Ghost", 1992's, "A Few Good Men", and, 1995's, "Apollo 13".
The following are the main character roles that Jane Jenkins cast for the screenplay as written by David Lynch:
Kyle MacLachlan portrayed "Paul Atriedes". This was his first on-screen role and he followed it as, "Jeffrey Beaumont", in David Lynch's, 1986, "Blue Velvet". From 1989 through 1991, MacLachlan was "Special Agent Dale Cooper", in Lynch's television series, "Twin Peaks". For fans of fun science fiction, Kyle MacLachlan portrayed an alien detective in the very good, 1987, "The Hidden".
Jurgen Prochnow portrayed "Duke Leto Atriedes". In 1981, the German actor starred in the excellent World War 2 motion picture, "Das Boot". Fans of televisions original, "24", know him as "Sergei Bazhev", and between 2010, and 2014, he was the very evil, "Mattias Draeger", on "N.C.I.S.: Los Angeles", playing cat and mouse with Linda Hunt's, "Heddy Lange".
Francesca Annis portrayed the "Lady Jessica". British actress Annis had been acting since 1959 on British television. In 1971, she was "Lady Macbeth" in director Roman Polanski's filmed version of the William Shakespeare play. Fans of British fantasy and science fiction, know Francesca Annis as "The Lady of the Web", in director Peter Yates', 1983, "Krull".
Alicia Roanne Witt portrayed "Alia Atriedes". This was the first on-screen appearance for the actress and song writer. In 1990, she appeared in one-episode of "Twin Peaks", she was sixth-billed in 1995's, "Mr. Holland's Opis", starring Richard Dreyfuss, and in 2017, appeared with Kyle MacLachlan, in director David Lynch's reboot of "Twin Peaks".
Freddie Jones portrayed "Thufir Hawat". Like many British character actors, Freddie Jones began his career on television. In 1967, he appeared with Patrick Magee and Glenda Jackson in the motion picture version of the play, "Marat/Sade". The actor co-starred with Peter Cushing in, 1969's, "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed", appeared with Roger Moore in the 1970 thriller, "The Man Who Haunted Himself", Jones was in the British comedy, "Son of Dracula", with ex-Beatle, Ringo Starr, as "Merlin the Magician", and in 1983, was Francesca Annis' lover, in "Krull".
Patrick Stewart portrayed "Gurney Hallack". The future "Captain Jean -Luc Picard", of televisions "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and, "The X-Men's", "Professor Charles Xavier", started on British television in 1964. I want to point out one usually overlooked role Patrick Stewart role in director Toby Hooper's 1985, science fiction, "Life Force". As "Dr. Armstrong", the actor had to portray a woman trapped within a man's body, when he's possessed by the alien female vampire.
Richard Jordon portrayed "Duncan Idaho". Jordon is an overlooked actor, but here are some of his roles my readers may be familiar with, he was "Francis", in director Michael Anderson's, 1976, "Logan's Run". He portrayed "Dirk Pitt", in 1980's, "Raise the Titanic", was "Grock", in 1986's, "Solar Babies", portrayed "Secretary Jeffrey Pelt", in 1990's, "The Hunt for Red October", and Confederate "Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead", in the 1993, Civil War epic, "Gettysburg".
Dean Stockwell portrayed "Wellington Yueh". Stockwell started acting in 1945, and in 1949, played the title role of "The Boy with Green Hair", title aside, dealing with the plight of World War 2 orphans. His career was mostly on television, but Dean Stockwell's other motion pictures include, director Richard Fleischer's, 1959, "Compulsion", starring Orson Welles, 1960's, "Sons and Lovers", based upon the D.H. Lawrence novel, 1970's, "The Dunwich Horror", based upon the H.P Lovecraft novel and co-starring Sandra Dee. In 1973, Stockwell was "The Werewolf of Washington", and from 1989 through 1993, the actor was "Admiral Al Calavicci", on televisions, "Quantum Leap".
Kenneth McMillan portrayed "Baron Vladimir Harkonnen". New York City born character actor McMillan started his on-screen career, in 1969, with two bit-parts in director Dan Curtis' prime-time soap-opera, "Dark Shadows". You might miss his next four roles in 1973's, "Serpico" starring a basically unknown Al Pacino, the original, 1974, "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three", the original, 1975, "The Stepford Wives", and 1975's, "Dog Day Afternoon", also starring Al Pacino. McMillan was becoming a regular face on television dramas with, "Ryan's Hope", "Kojak", "Rhoda", and the 1979 mini-series, "Salem's Lot", but he also appeared in motion pictures such as the sequel to the movie "Love Story", 1978's, "Oliver's Story", starring Ryan O'Neal repeating his previous film's role, the James Cagney, 1981, "Ragtime", and, 1984's, "Amadeus".
Brad Dourif portrayed "Pier De Vries". Dourif started on-screen acting as "Billy Bibbit" in 1975's, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", starring Jack Nicholson, was "Tommy Ludlow", co-starring with Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones in the 1978 mystery-thriller written by John Carpenter, "The Eyes of Laura Mars", and would play, "Raymond", in director David Lynch's, 1986, "Blue Velvet".
Sting portrayed "Feyd-Rautha". Gordon Matthew Summer, better known as "Sting", had basically been appearing on-screen in music videos for the "New Wave Rock Band" "The Police" since 1978. However, he had appeared in four motion pictures, in 1979, the two were "Quadrophenia" and "Radio On", in 1981, Sting was "The Angel of Death" in a battle for the future of mankind, entitled, "Artemis 81", and right before this picture was the 1982 thriller, "Brimstone & Treacle".
Paul L. Smith portrayed "Glossu 'Beast' Rabban". Smith started with an uncredited role in director Otto Preminger's version of author Leon Uris' novel, "Exodus", in 1960, and moved primarily to television roles. His first major movie role was as "Bluto", in the Robbin Williams, 1980, "Popeye". Next, it was back to television and two long forgotten motion pictures followed by this feature. Raffaella De Laurentis cast Paul Smith as "Falkon", in her 1985, "Red Sonya", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jack Nance portrayed "Iakin Nefud". As "John" Nance, the actor appeared in David Lynch's, 1977. "Eraserhead", and would also appear in 1986's, "Blue Velvet", and the original run of "Twin Peaks". His other work includes, 1984's, "Ghoulies", and the 1988 remake of "The Blob".
Jose Ferrer portrayed "Shaddam IV". Jose Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintron, was a Puerto Rican actor known as Jose Ferrer. In 1947, he won the "Best Actor Tony Award" for the title character in the play, "Cyrano de Bergerac", and in 1950, won the "Best Actor Academy Award" for playing the role in the motion picture version. In 1954, his character defended Humphrey Bogart in "The Cain Mutiny", and Ferrer's, Turkish Bey, tortured Peter O'Toole as 1962's, "Lawrence of Arabia".
Virginia Madsen portrayed the "Princess Irulan". This was the actresses fourth on-screen appearance, but two were music videos, one for Kenny Loggins and one for Philip Oakley. Madsen would follow this movie portraying "Marion Davies", the actress-mistress of media mogul William Randolph Hearst in the made-for-television-movie, 1985's, "The Hearst and Davies Affair".
Sian Phillips portrayed the "Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam". Welsh actress Phillips started in British television in 1958. In 1963, she was part of the historical drama, "Becket", starring Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and Sir John Gieguld, in 1965, she appeared in "Young Cassidy", starring Australian actor Rod Taylor, Julie Christie and Dame Maggie Smith. However, it was as "Livia", in the 1976 mini-series, "I Claudius", that she dominated the cast of exceptional actors, and then continued her carrier in several outstanding historical mini-series. In 1981, Sian Phillips portrayed "Queen Cassiopeia", in stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen's, "Clash of the Titans".
Everett McGill portrayed "Stilgar". McGill actually started out as a band leader in Kansas City, Kansas, but his 28 on-screen roles are mainly those of a sadistic military type, see the Clint Eastwood, 1968, "Heartbreak Ridge", or your everyday terrorist, see 1995's, "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory". Of course, if you prefer werewolves, how about Stephen King's, 1985, "Silver Bullet". Then there's both "Twin Peaks", but playing "Stilgar" was a bit of a change of pace.
Sean Young portrayed "Chani". Young was "Louise" in Bill Murray's and John Candy's, 1981, "Stripes", and "Rachel" opposite Harrison Ford in director Ridley Scott's, 1982, "Blade Runner". In 1987, she discovered that Kevin Costner had "No Way Out", but probably one of her most interesting roles was in 1995's, "Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde", as the female "Mr. Hyde".
Swedish actor Max von Sydow portrayed "Dr. Leit-Kynes". Von Sydow starred in some of the classic films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, 1957's, "The Seventh Seal", and "Wild Strawberries", 1958's, "The Magician", and 1960's, "The Virgin Spring", are examples. In 1965, Max von Sydow portrayed "Jesus" in director George Stevens "The Greatest Story Ever Told", and followed it in 1966, co-starring with Julie Andrews in the epic "Hawaii". Probably the motion picture that got the actor noticed the most was in the title role of 1973's, "The Exorcist", and in 1980, he played "Ming the Merciless" in "Flash Gordon".
Linda Hunt portrayed "The Shadout Mapes". Stage actress Lydia Susanna Hunt, known as Linda Hunt, first appeared on-screen in 1980's, "Popeye" as "Mrs. Holly Oxheart". Most of my readers may know her primarily as "Hetty Lange" on televisions "N.C.I.S.: Los Angeles", appearing in 280 episodes through October 2021, as of this writing. However, that overlooks playing the real-life Indonesian male, "Billy Kwan", in 1982's, "The Year of Living Dangerously", for which the actress won the "Best Supporting Actress Academy Award", and was nominated for the "Golden Globe", among other international awards.
Judd Omen portrayed "Jamis". Omen is primarily a television actor who started with a 1974 in an episode of "Kojak". Besides this film in 1984, Omen was a "Nicaraguan Captain", in director John Milius' original "Red Dawn", and played, "Mickey" in 1985's, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure".
Molly Wryn portrayed "Harah". This was Wryn's first of only four on-screen appearances through 2020.
Silvana Mangano portrayed "Reverend Mother Ramallo". An Italian actress and dancer, Mangano first appeared on-screen in the French motion picture, 1945's, "Le jugement dernier (The Last Judgement)". The actress had an uncredited role in the made in Italy, 1949, "Black Magic", starring Orson Welles, and starred in the dual roles of "Circe and Penelope" in the 1954, Kirk Douglas, Italian motion picture, "Ulysses". Silvana Mangano co-starred in 1960, with American actor Van Heflin and French actress Jeanne Moreau, in American director Martin Ritt's, World War 2, "5 Branded Women". She portrayed "Rachel" in the Italian epic biblical production, 1961's, "Barabbas", starring Anthony Quinn.
THE UNKINDLIEST CUT OF ALL?
Rumors still persist of both a six and ten-hour version of the 1984 "DUNE"!
However, what the audiences first saw on December 3, 1984, in the "Eisenhower Theater", of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts", in Washington, D.C., was the official edit of the motion picture. As confusing as the screenplay remained, that same cut was released to the general public on December 14, 1984.
So, why the confusion?
I turn to the interview with Raffaela De Laurentis in the extras on either the DVD, or Blu-ray of the 1984 "Dune". According to her, the initial edit, or rough cut, of David Lynch's picture ran approximately four-hours and twenty-minutes, BUT the executives at "MCA Universal Pictures" wanted a motion picture with a running time of no longer than two-hours. De Laurentis, Lynch and film-editor Anthony Gibbs were now faced with the problem of how to deliver on that demand and maintain Frank Herbert's story?
What was the thinking of the "MCA Universal Pictures" accounting department behind the studio's demand?
A motion picture of two-hours, or less meant more showings per day, which of course, translated into larger profits for the studio. A film near the rough cut's length of "Dune", would mean a "Road Show Engagement", and require a minimal 15-minute Intermission to permit the audience to hit the concession stands for the individual theater's profits and more importantly, the restrooms. The last true "Road Show" motion picture had been, 1971's, "Nicholas and Alexandra", with a running time, minus the intermission, of three-hours-and-eight-minutes.
Using Raffaella De Laurentiis' approximate running time, the rough cut had to be reduced by two hours-and-twenty-minutes to meet the studio's demand. In other words, half of what had been filmed by David Lynch's to meet his screenplay had to be removed from the story.
Raffaella and David decided he would have to write a condensed screenplay and add descriptive dialogue to explain some of the critical and missing story elements to what would remain on the motion picture screen.
Examples of Scenes Removed, or Changed.
The first such change was the addition of a prologue narrated by the on-screen "Princes Irulan", seen immediately after the "MCA Universal Pictures" logo is shown. Virginia Madsen was brought back and the prologue was shot, which cuts to the opening credits.
The prologue is used to condense the entire back story to what will now be seen by the audience into a few lines of dialogue. The following link, at the time of writing this article, takes my reader to the Virginia Madsen prologue.
The following are a few examples of what was removed, or changed that were directly related to the audiences understanding of what they were seeing.
Removed was a conversation between "Duke Leto" and his son "Paul", that explains to some degree, what is meant by:
The Sleeper Must Awaken!
The encounter with the "Fremen" between "Paul" and the "Lady Jessica", after they have escaped a giant sandworm to the rocks, is altered greatly. The audience sees the two standing on the rocks below the entrance to the "Fremen Sietch", the theatrical release cuts to the two already inside the sietch and being escorted. This eliminates the character of "Jamis" completely, and leaves the viewer wondering who the two young boys in "Paul's" Fremen entourage are? One of whom, played by either James Mathers and Miguel Cane, is in the following still.
Below, the "Lady Jessica" takes the place of the dying "Reverend Mother Ramallo" by drinking the "Waters of Life". This is after the other scenes of the "Reverend Mother Ramallo" had been severely cut out of the theatrical version. What basically remained was a close-up scene of "Ramallo, predicting the coming of the jihad, but without the audience having any real knowledge of who she is, other than a Fremen.
The answers, sort of, to the two questions I mentioned above, are combined with "Paul" acquiring the knowledge that "Shaddam IV" and the "Spacing Guild" want him dead. This in another of David Lynch's dialogue sequences created to try and explain a large amount of footage that's missing in the theatrical cut.
The Sleeper Has Awakened,"Paul Atreides" has become the, feared by the Bene Gesserit, "Kwisatz Haderach".
The "Shadout Mapes" seems to appear very briefly in only four scenes. This after Linda Hunt's role was cut and her character's significance removed in the theatrical release.
The "Shadout Mapes" is first seen moving among the potential house servants the "Lady Jessica" is meeting and must choose from, whispering of danger.
Next, she appears opening the door to "Paul's" room and districts a poison slow flying device meant to kill him. He identifies her as Fremen, which was done in an earier major sequence deleted from this version, she introduces herself, and warns him of a traditor in "House Atreides".
The third time we see the "Shadout Mapes", she is walking down a dark corridor as the "Harkonnen's attack, and then, in the fourth,m is discovered dying from the same weapon used against "Paul" by "Duke Leto", who is then shot by "Dr. Yueh", the traitor.
The "Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam" approaches "Shadam", and tells him the "Spacing Guild" delegation, without ever identifying them by that name, has arrived. Somewhat leaving the audience to identify them from the prologue.
The "Spacing Guild" leaves, "Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam" goes to her entourage and states they must have a look at "Paul Atreides" on "Caladan",
As to who the three that entered the room are in relation to "House Atreides", the profession of "Dr. Yueh" is obvious, but other than a comment. That "Gurney" likes playing his musical instrument the "baliset", the audience is left knowing nothing more about him. "Thufir" is a "Mentat", never mentioned, but what that is and what's his position is to the "Atreides", are both left to the audience to figure out.
Next cut to "Paul" walking down a corridor and seeing "Duncan Idaho", they hug, and "Paul" asks if the other is coming with them and is told no. "Duncan" has a special mission from "Paul's" father and has to leave for "Arrakis" ahead of everyone else. Again, other than his name, the audience is left without knowing what "Duncan Idaho's" position to "House Atreides" might be.
The "Lady Jessica" opens the door to "Paul's" room and he fakes being asleep. He overhears the two women arguing that "for the father there will nothing", and the "Reverend Mother" scolding "Jessica" for thinking you could give birth to the "Kwisatz Haderach". The "Reverned Mother" realizes "Paul" has been faking sleep and tells him she will await him in his mother's chambers.
What follows is a test given to young women of the Bene Gessert order, to see how much pain "Paul" can stand to prove he is human. At first, he resists the "Voice" compelling him to come to the "Reverend Mother" and she is surprised. Now, with "Paul" in front of her, she holds at his neck the "Gom Jabbar" containing a deadly poison that will be administered should he pull his hand out of the box of pain she holds.
After the test, "Paul's" asks who, or what is the "Kwisatz Haderach". "Paul" is told he is man who can see into a place that woman fear and, per the prophecy, the supreme being. The "Reverend Mother" tells "Lady Jessica" to skip the regular order of training and go to the advanced and leaves.
Cut to planet "Giedi Prime" as the Mentat, "Piter de Vries" approaches, cut to "Baron Harkonnen" being treated by his doctor as his nephews, "Rabban" and "Feyd-Rautha" enter. "De Vries" is now there and tells them of the plan to take back "Arrakis" and kill their enemy, "House Atriedes". The "Baron" makes sure that his two nephews understand that they are to keep quiet about the emperor's part in all of this.
Cut back to "Caladan" as "House Atriedes" leaves in a "Spacing Guild Ship", with a navigator that folds space to arrive on "Arrakis".
Cut to the arrival on "Arrakis" of "House Atriedes" and "Duke Leto" meeting "Duncan Idaho". Who reveals his belief that everyone is wrong about how small the Fremen are, but in reality, they're in the millions and actually control the planet! While, "Thufir", head of security, is overseeing the search for bombs and "Harkonnen" saboteurs left on "Arrakis" to cause trouble for the "Atriedes". Also, the protective shield around their new home and grounds isn't working, because of sabotage and is repaired and raised.
"Lady Jessica" now meets her possible house staff and the audience first sees the "Shadout Mapes".
Cut to, "Duke Leto", "Paul" and "Gurney" meeting "Dr. Kynes", who inspects their "Stillsuits" and discovers that "Paul" has put his on perfectly in desert fashion. When asked if he has worn one before? "Paul" replies he just thought that was correct way, and the audience hears a voice over, as "Dr. Kynes" thinks that, "He will Know Your Ways". The four go out in a small flying craft to witness spice mining and find a spice crew about to be attacked by a worm, because the hauler to lift them to safety hasn't shown up. "Duke Leto" orders the mining crew into his craft as the worm closes in and appears to care nothing about losing the spice they've mined over the lives of the miners, as the "Harkonnen's" have always done the opposite. "Dr. Kynes", voice over says, "He likes this Duke". At a dinner "Dr. Kynes" gets up and spits on the table as a Fremen sign of respect and loyalty by giving of his own precious water.
The picture is more than half-way done at this point.
The traitor, "Dr. Yueh", finds his orders in one of the dead "Harkonnen's" he's examining. "Thufir" enters and asks him, if anything is wrong? He replies no, but even with the imperial conditioning and a close-up of the diamond tattoo on the doctor's forehead marking that he had it and can't lie, "Thufir" senses something is off. However, the entire the scene goes over the audience, because the explanation of "Yueh's" imperial conditioning was cut from an earlier scene.
Meanwhile, quick cut to "Duncan Idaho" being killed, "Gurney" leading an attack and disappearing, "Thufir" is captured, and it is the Mentat "Piter de Vries" that is gassed by mistake and dies from the tooth. Tied up with tape across her mouth is the "Lady Jessica", "Paul" is tied also, and they're in the same type of craft that was used to get to the spice miners. The two are being flown out to the deep desert to become sandworm food, but "Paul", using "The Voice", is able to get one of the two "Harkonnen's" to remove the gag on his mother. She uses "The Voice" to get them freed and have one of the two "Harkonnen's" kill the other. They kill the remaining man, but he damages their flying craft with a shot from his weapon, as "Paul" takes the controls.
Now things happen at a fast pace, because of that two-hour time restraint. They crash in the desert, take the equipment left by "Dr. Yueh" including the "Ducal Signate Ring", and next are seen in "Fremen Sillsuits", but when they changed into them is not shown. The two have to make it to the distant rocks without having a worm show up. Worm sign is seen and "Paul" places a thumper to distract it and they make it to the rocks.
Above "Arrakis" is a large invasion fleet loyal to the emperor and awaiting his order to wipe out the Fremen. "Shadam IV" summons "The Baron" to his throne room in "Arrakeen", the capitol city of "Arrakis", located inside the protection shield. There "Baron Harkonnen" finds his nephew "Rabban's" severed head at the foot of the emperor's throne. Meanwhile, on the giant sand worms ride the Fremen army of "MuadDib" moving toward the city. Inside the emperor's throne room, seemingly a prisoner, "Alia" is brought before the emperor, his court, and the "Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Moniam", who wants that "abomination" removed.
Suddenly, the protective shield is blown by atomics placed by "Gurney" and the Fremen attack and defeat the Emperor's Sardukar Troop's. While, "Alia" cuts "Baron Harkonnen" with a "Gom Jabbar", causing him to fly off into the mouth of a worm.
Roger Ebert apparently demonstrated his film critics psychic powers in his review of the motion picture at https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/dune-1984, for the "Chicago Sun-Times". His review included:
It took "Dune" about nine minutes to completely strip me of my anticipation. This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.
The movie's plot will no doubt mean more to people who've read Herbert than to those who are walking in cold.
About Ebert's psychic powers, the review is dated January 1, 1984, 12 months before the film's release. One hopes the date is a typo, because it is used as fact in many articles.
Then there's a review in, "Variety", dated, December 31, 1983, seeming to have beaten the release of the motion picture by one year with:
Dune is a huge, hollow, imaginative and cold sci-fi epic. Visually unique and teeming with incident, David Lynch's film holds the interest due to its abundant surface attractions but won't, of its own accord, create the sort of fanaticism which has made Frank Herbert's 1965 novel one of the all-time favorites in its genre.https://variety.com/1983/film/reviews/dune-1200426103/
Should both dates be accurate, it would indicate that the movie was reviewed and then the release held up a year for some unstated reason.
As he would say years later, David Lynch just didn't want to be involved with "Dune" anymore.
What's the Real Difference Between the Two Versions?
The following is a partial list of seven sequences put back into the Smithee film. In some cases, only seconds are added to what was a scene in the theatrical cut. An example is the dinner scene in which "Dr. Kynes" spits, it actually started with "Gurney" playing his balliset.
1) The Prologue:
I mentioned how the theatrical release cut the "Shadout Mapes" down to three very small scenes. The following scenes on "YouTube", as of this writing, have the "Shadout Mapes" revealing the true purpose of her becoming the "Atreides housekeeper".
However, next "Paul" realizes they're not alone and the Fremen appear, "Paul" moves to higher ground to help his mother's defense, but behind him appears "Chani", who he sees her as the girl in his waking dreams. Speaking to "Stillgar", the "Lady Jessica" asks for asylum, but "Jamis" interrupts and says instead they should be killed and "their water" go to the sietch.
This leads to a knife fight between "Jamis" and "Paul", but before it starts, "Chani" gives "Paul" her "Crysknife" and words about how the other fights.
Which brings me to three more edit-outs of importance to the theatrical release related to "The Waters of Life".
5) The first answers the question about the source of "The Waters of Life". This link, at the time of writing this article, takes my reader to the one-minute-and-twenty-nine-second sequence that explains the relationship with the sand worms.
This link, at the time of writing this article, takes my reader to the actual sequence in which "Alia" reveals the true motives of the "Spacing Guild" as "Paul" is still in the desert dreaming.
Another version was apparently made for Oakland, California, "Fox" television station, KTVU, for a 1992 showing of "Dune". The station had sections of both David Lynch's theatrical version and the Alan Smithee version combined to form a new version of the film. I could not locate any specific information about the final running time, or what it looked like.
Which brings me to the end of this article and the website, "Film Book".