Dune: Extended Edition

Dune: Extended Edition (1983)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Jose Ferrer, Max Von Sydow, Linda Hunt, Sting
Extras: Deleted Footage, Featurettes, Behind-The-Scenes, Still Gallery, Production Notes

David Lynch sure didn't make a whole lot of people happy when he took on the chore of bringing Frank Herbert's novel "Dune" to the screen back in 1983. Following his less than stellar presentation that never came close to box office expectations and was bordering on an almost "bomb" status, Lynch was not too keen on remaining in the shadow of a huge disappointment and quickly moved on to films that were better suited to showcase his unusual, yet awe inspiring talent. With an eventual studio cut of "Dune" began surfacing on the network television circuit and countless bootleg VHS and DVD editions, a version that that Lynch himself disowned, later passing the directing credit of this re-cut version to the ever infamous Alan Smithee (a common pseudonym for directors whose film was clearly re-cut heavily against her/his wishes in ways that completely altered the film.)

For the first time in region one on DVD, we get to own both the anamorphic presentation of "Dune" as well as the Alan Smithee version nicely packaged on one disc and in one cool looking DVD case too! Packaged in a slick metal wrapped case complete with artwork from the film that features the title of "Dune" embossed on the front, then appearing as a standard silver colored keep-case when opened, this DVD will sure turn some heads on its packaging alone. Also included is a fold out insert that displays some "Dune" terminology, just to bring you up to speed before sitting down to take in a viewing of either cut of the feature presentations of "Dune".

Now I am a David Lynch fan, always have, always will be. I will easily go on record as admitting to liking Lynchs original version, even though he did not present a full telling of Frank Herbert's novel and left many fans of this ever unfolding franchise scratching their heads. To me, this was a great story with interesting characters providing some imagery not seen before. With cinematography by Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man) and visuals that only Lynch could dream up, I will always find something entertaining within this partially flawed presentation. Sure if I was a true follower of Herbert's original novel and expected a near perfect, anally depicted, faithful transformation to the screen, then yeah, I might be disappointed. Moving on, fans looking for a closer telling of the adventures of Paul Atreides will easily take comfort in the mini-series starring William Hurt, but for fans that want a nice presentation of Lynchs version, complete with the longer extended cut, should easily take comfort in this new DVD release from Universal Home Video.

Some 8,000 years in the future, the year 10,191 to be exact, a rival between two families sets off an adventure that sees the two competing for control of the universe. To gain dominion requires seizing control of a special spice named mélange. A spice that expands life extends consciousness and offers a vital option for space travel, by permitting the folding of time. The spice mélange can only be found on the treacherous and desolate planet known as Arrakis or "Dune". Exhausted at the constant feuding, Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV (Jose Ferrer) allows the Atreides to take over the spice mining and production of mélange, all the while working with the scheming Harkonnens to launch a sneak attack and destroy the Atreides! Shortly after Duke Leto Atreides (Jurgen Prochnow), leader of the Atreides and father to Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) is murdered; Paul escapes to the planet Arrakis. While on the desert planet, Paul meets up with the Fremen, a large group of desert dwellers who prepare the spice for its usage. Taking over as a virtual messiah of the Fremen, Paul teaches them how to battle and leads the group in a revolt, one that eventually topples the balance of power throughout the entire universe.

Omitting characters and events from Frank Herbert's original novel allows Lynch to tell his story in a shorter period of time, taking an epic story and condensing it, which basically proved fatal in the films final exhibition. The new Alan Smithee extended cut manages to fill a few holes and stretches the storyline to enhance the telling, but it is done so in a way that features more narration and a rather gaudy opening that seemed to present a "rushed" version rather than a fully satisfying one. This is why I simply preferred the shorter Lynch version, a "light" offering of an epic tale so-to-speak. Again, if you want a more faithful and longer offering of this story, you are honestly better off with the fan endorsed mini-series.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers "Dune" in both the theatrical and extended versions in anamorphic presentations, displaying a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The theatrical version appears to look very similar to the non-anamorphic version that was previously available from the studio. The extended cut displays good color saturation and rich deep black levels throughout most of the presentation. I say most because some of the added footage appears a bit rougher than the original theatrical version. There is evidence of grain and some film wear that appears within the exhibition. Some black marks on the print are a sure sign of artifacts that made their way onto the negative during development, with the introduction of dust particles showing up during the video transfer in the form of tiny white flashes are visible but not too distracting overall. Image quality on the extended cut is satisfying, but could have been cleaned up a little better to match the transfer of the theatrical version. This could also be a sure indication that the original theatrical presentation simply received better care over the years.

The soundtracks for both versions come in a Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. I found the theatrical version to sound virtually identical to the previous non-anamorphic release, which exhibits a good balanced presentation with solid use of bass. The extended edition emerges with a slightly weaker soundstage, but still manages to produce an effective sonic presentation with naturally appearing vocals throughout. Overall soundtracks on both presentations are still almost certain to please, with Toto providing original music, in the form of a mellow 80's flavored sound for the film.

Universal has added a good amount of special features to this extended edition DVD. I honestly had hoped for a little more, but given the lengthy delays that "Dune" has gone through in region one, I'm not going to complain too loudly.

A deleted footage section features an introduction from Raffaella De Laurentiis. Here she discusses how "Dune" could have easily been a 4 hour and 20 minute epic film to capture all of the complexities that the story involved, once all of the characters and full storylines were assembled. But due to the sheer amount of special effects shots, grand costumes, sets and not to mention bankrolling a film of that length for theatrical release, "Dune" had to became a more realistic 2 hour and 17 minute presentation, much to the chagrin of fans and moviegoers alike. The footage is worth a viewing and is exhibited quite well, given the obvious treatment that deleted footage from films tend to get over the years, which is honestly a bit disheartening.

"Designing Dune" is a featurette devoted to a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the various sets and props used in the film. Set designers discuss the painstaking details involved in giving each of the different planets an original look. From Arrakis, Caladan, Giedi Prime and Kaitain, each of the cultures were represented very distinctly to produce the awesome visuals of the final presentation of "Dune". I had only hoped that this section would have been a bit longer, especially a special effects packed science fiction film of this grand scale. The overall presentation of "Designing Dune" felt a little too short in presentation.

There is a brief "Special Effects" featurette and a "Models and Miniatures" section where crew explain the challenges of utilizing traditional methods for the special effects in "Dune" to appear as realistic as possible, all in a time when there was no such thing as CGI. "Wardrobe Design" is an interesting featurette that introduces us to costume designer Bob Ringwood. Here he tells of the massive 9,000 plus costumes used in the film, including his use of older used body bags from the late 30's and 40's that he discovered and rendered to make the Guild Navigators costumes, while not telling the actors just what they were wearing until after production had completed. All in the name of providing that original "look', yikes!

A nicely presented photograph gallery and production notes section complete the added values section of this special packaging of "Dune".

Though this might not be exactly what fans had hoped for, the new extended edition of "Dune" is sure to put a smile on the faces of fans of the film. Given the fact that Universal has put together both the theatrical and extended "Alan Smithee" versions on one DVD complete with some good extras and a sweet looking overall package, region one finally gets a decent offering of "Dune" on DVD.