Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Frank Pavich.
Another one for the film buffs! Journalist Chris Gore wrote a book called The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made, a fascinating book about a number of intriguing projects that never got off the ground, pet projects from some talented directors that were consigned to development hell by the Hollywood machine. One of them was a visionary adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi classic Dune.
In the mid 70’s Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky (best known for his trippy cult western El Topo and the mind bending The Holy Mountain) set out to make a film based on Frank Herbert’s seminal classic sci-fi novel Dune, long thought to be unfilmmable, even though he had never read it. Jodorwosky spent two years working on the design of his movie, only to find that the major Hollywood studios ultimately wanted no part of it, despite all his extensive preproduction work.
Frank Pavich’s fascinating documentary features an extended interview with Jodorowsky who talks about his epic vision for the project. Pavich spent three years interviewing Jodorwosky about the movie that never was and gained unprecedented access to his storyboards and a massive production booklet that laid out his elaborate vision.
According to an enthusiastic Jodorwosky, he wanted Pink Floyd, who had just released their Dark Side Of The Moon album, to do the music. He got British graphic artist Chris Foss to provide many of the key designs; graphic novelist Moebius to draw the elaborate storyboards; Dan O’Bannon was going to do the special visual effects after Douglas Trumbull (the genius behind some of the amazing visuals in 2001: A Space Odyssey) turned down an invitation to work on the film; and Swiss artist H R Giger contributed some early designs.
He cast Kung-Fu star David Carradine in the lead role, and his teenage son Bronius in another important role. More esoteric casting choices though included Salvador Dali, who, at $100,000 per minute for five minutes work would be considered the highest paid actor in Hollywood at that time. He also wanted rock star Mick Jagger, and Orson Welles in small but important roles.
Jodorwosky tells some amusing, apocryphal anecdotes and colourful stories about how he enticed celebrities of this calibre to be part of his film, including bribing Welles with the offer of hiring his favourite French chef to do the catering.
But even though the film was budgeted at $15 million, Hollywood studio executives balked at the project, and it is easy to see why they were suspicious of the flamboyant and idiosyncratic director and his vision. Eventually Dino De Laurentiis’ daughter acquired the rights to the project and gave it to David Lynch (Eraserhead), but the film was ruined by studio interference. And Jodorowsky can’t quite hide his joy when he talks about how awful Lynch’s version of the film proved to be.
Even though Jodorwosky’s ambitious Dune was never made, its fingerprints can still be seen in a number of sci-fi films that came afterwards, everything from Star Wars through to Alien, which had a number of the same creative people working on the production, and even The Terminator, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Blade Runner all benefited from his ground work.
Jodorowsky’s Dune is not just another talking heads documentary, though, as there are plenty of illustrations of his epic and ambitious vision, as well as some film clips. And Jodorowsky candidly talks also about how a movie is a work of art, full of passion and intellect, a far cry from the rather bland and derivative blockbusters being regularly churned out by Hollywood studios.
Jodorwosky’s Dune is an enthralling, entertaining, at times amusing and informative documentary about possibly the best film never made!