Riders of the Worm

Dune: Special TV EditionThe one downside to buying DVDs in second-hand/charity shops is that a lot of your purchases tend to be made “on impulse”, without the ability to go online and verify the provenance of an “edition” via Wikipedia… and sometimes, silly people like me forget to read the cover blurb carefully enough! To date my most regrettable purchases have been a dubbed English-language version of The City of Lost Children (why would such an abomination even exist?) and an “anniversary” edition of Night of the Living Dead with new footage spliced into it for no good reason, and without George A. Romero’s involvement. Feh! I only mention this because t’other day I picked up the “Special TV Edition” of David Lynch’s Dune (1984), only to discover from the inlay booklet that Lynch was so disgusted with this unauthorised version that he had his name removed from the credits, leaving poor old “Alan Smithee” to take the blame. According to the booklet, the main bone of contention was the addition of a prologue which tries to establish the convoluted mythology of the film’s universe via a montage of still, painted images. The paintings themselves aren’t that bad, but they don’t exactly leap off the screen and get the blood pumping… and watching a camera slowly move across a flat painting of space for two minutes without any narration at all is a pretty lame way to kick off an epic action adventure! Bizarrely Amazon.co.uk is currently charging £19-99 for a new copy of this edition, but thankfully I only paid £1-50 for mine!

David Lynch in "Dune"For those who don’t know, Dune is set in the far future, and concerns the shenanigans of ‘Paul Atreides’ (played by Kyle MacLachlan), a young man who is prophesied to become the “Kwisatz Haderach” (super-powered Good Guy), who will protect the eponymous desert planet (where a vital natural resource is mined) from the malevolent House Harkonnen (fat, icky Bad Guys, and Sting in a pair of metal Speedos) with the aid of the native Fremen (ragtag freedom-fighters who ride giant worms). I can understand why the same story was later adapted into a mini-series, because even a three-hour long movie can’t really do justice to all of the characters and arcs… but even when I didn’t have the faintest clue what was going on, I was still able to enjoy the ride… and, to be fair, I often have a hard time trying to understand what’s going on in Lynch’s films anyway. Whether I was supposed to laugh as often as I did, I don’t know… but c’mon, how can you not chuckle over lines like: “When you see the Baron… remember the tooth! The tooth!” I mean, that had to be a joke, right? And if the mini-series adaptation doesn’t feature a subplot about ‘Thufir Hawat’ (Freddie Jones) having to milk a cat everyday to stay alive, then they’ve definitely missed a trick. The whole thing made me feel like I was watching it drunk, even though I was stone-cold sober. Is that a recommendation? I haven’t read the books it’s based on, or seen the original version of the film (which Lynch was also rather displeased with, due to all the studio interference he encountered), so I don’t really have anything to judge it against… all I can say is that I think it’s a credit to Lynch’s talent that even the worst iteration of his worst film is still strangely watchable, and filled with moments of absurd beauty. Of course, it helps that the production had a large budget behind it, so he had a decent cast of actors to work with… and the costumes and sets are so impressive, I wish I could have seen them in the original widescreen, rather than the cropped-for-TV version.

Chani 01As far as the theme of this blog goes, the flick contained two “Persons of Interest”. First up was Sean Young, who played ‘Chani’, the gorgeous Fremen chick Paul hooks up with. Now, true cinema buffs probably prefer to remember her as ‘Rachael’ in Blade Runner (1982), but I’ll always think of her as ‘Lt. Lois Einhorn’ in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994). They showed that movie on TV again recently, and I still find it fascinating… the homophobia grates a little more than it did when I first saw it, but the pure energy and insanity of Jim Carrey’s performance is just a joy to behold. Dude was off the chain! Young has also appeared in Stripes (1981), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993) and Sugar & Spice (2001), which aren’t exactly big money classics, but all have a certain quirky, cultish appeal. The gossip gathered on her Wikipedia page would seem to suggest that Young’s reputation in Hollywood is rather tarnished these days… but I’ve always enjoyed her work, so I’d still like to see her getting more gigs.

Alia 01Next up, making her screen debut at the age of eight was Alicia Witt. Apparently Witt was “discovered” by Lynch when she appeared on television reciting from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Dune she plays Paul’s young sister ‘Alia’, who appears out of nowhere near the end of the movie, with psychic powers and a scary Excorcist-esque voice. She cropped up in Twin Peaks too, but the first time I really noticed her was as ‘Zoey Woodbine’, the daughter of Cybill Shepherd‘s character in Cybill (1995-1998). I used to love that show back in the day, and had a huge crush on Zoey, the petulant, plaid-shirt-wearing prodigy. She also appears as ‘Cherish’, a former porn-star turned terrorist, in one of my favourite flicks of all-time, John Waters’s Cecil B. Demented (2000). Other notable credits include cameos in The Sopranos and Ally McBeal, as well as an almost-topless turn in Four Rooms (1995), the only Tarantino flick I have no interest in owning (but will probably buy someday anyway, just to complete my collection)

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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