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Even those unfamiliar with Frank Herbert's seminal science-fiction series—though, to be honest, only the first three are all that great; it gets a bit sketchy after that—seemed abuzz with anticipation for David Lynch's Dune prior to its 1984 release. With the end of Star Wars (or so we thought—oh, snap!), the genre was ripe for a new franchise we could all sink our dental work into, and this certainly seemed to be it. Desert battles! Giant sandworms! Sting in a metal codpiece! Surely the wunderkind who gave us The Elephant Man would deliver.
And then it came out, and . . . well, it sort of tanked, and it's understandable why: audiences undoubtedly expected more action and less expositional dialog, which was delivered in different accents by an impressive but confusingly international cast. Knowing what we know post-Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, it's not surprising Lynch had a unique approach to the material; still, he deserves enormous kudos for attempting to harness Herbert's labyrinthine epic of a boy's rise to messianic heights amid an intergalactic power struggle. Frankly, it's an impossible story to tell in little more than two hours. (Also to the director's credit, the six-hour Sci-Fi Channel adaptation a few years back didn't quite nail it, either.) Still, the film is an impressive visual feat even today, from the perpetually dusky desert vistas of the embattled planet Arrakis to the villainous Harkonnens' home planet, a nightmarish vision akin to something Fritz Lang might've dreamt up during a bad hangover.
Love it or hate it, this week Dune is rereleased as a long-awaited extended version, incorporating 50 minutes of footage only previously seen on television. (Lynch removed his name from the TV version, and it carried the notorious Alan Smithee credit, but he seems to have approved this re-cut.) Though a lot of plot is still lost in the translation, the added scenes lend a bit of emotion and depth to what probably never had a chance in hell of being the next Star Wars, but is still well-worth revisiting.
Also released this week: The Champ (1931); Hill Street Blues: Season 1; Lust For Life; MI:5: Volume 3; The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection; Tim Burton's Corpse Bride; The X-Files: Seasons 1 & 2 Collector's Editions.