Dune (1984)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Jose Ferrer, Max Von Sydow, Linda Hunt, Sting
Extras: Deleted Footage, Featurettes, Photo Gallery

David Lynch sure managed to anger devoted fans of Frank Herbert when he decided to bring the novelists story of "Dune" to the screen back in 1984. Following his less than stellar presentation that never came close to box office expectations, Lynch was not 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.)

If you are interested in the "Alan Smithee" cut, hang on to your Standard-Definition "Extended Cut" of "Dune" as this HD DVD only contains Lynch's original theatrical presentation.

Now I am a David Lynch fan, always have, always will be. I will easily go on record as admitting to liking Lynch's 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, what many consider, a partially flawed presentation.

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 execution. Still, David Lynch's telling of "Dune" has it's adoring fans, myself included.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents "Dune" on HD DVD in a full 1080p High-Definition wide screen presentation that features a huge improvement in depth and clarity over the Standard-Definition release. This HD DVD of "Dune" also possesses a beautiful rich black level and healthy color saturation that work at producing gorgeous detailing throughout. The enhanced dimension is evident in the vast array of wide angle interior shots, where every design is exhibited. You will also pick up on the increased clarity that is visible in every tiny ripple of windblown sand on the vast dunes during the opening shots of the film, truly impressive! The only downside comes from this being the exact same transfer that was utilized for the "Extended Edition" DVD. Suffering from the presence of mild film wear on the source print, which nothing short of a full digital restoration will ever correct, and the introduction of minor dust particles scattered throughout the film. Like I reported in my review of the HD DVD of "Superman The Movie", older special effects laden films tend to have their shortcomings highlighted in High-Definition, with regards to the traditional use of miniatures and models. If you take "Dune" for what it is, you will be entertained by the best presentation of the film thus far.

Paired with a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound track, this HD DVD proves that "Dune" has never sounded so good. Naturally reproduced vocals and good sonic dispersion provide the film with a slightly improved dynamic range. The smooth bass level is handled quite appropriately to define sound effects without overpowering the presentation. For sound, this HD DVD of "Dune" aims to please, with the added element of Toto providing original music for the films score.

Leading off the special features is a deleted footage section that 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 story-lines were assembled. But due to the sheer amount of special effects shots, grand costumes, sets and not to mention bank rolling 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 photo gallery complete the added values section of this HD DVD presentation of "Dune".

"Dune" is a film that you either love or loath, there really is no in-between. I for one favor this film as one of the perfect rainy day movies that offers tremendous escapism. This HD DVD release comes packaged with the exact same special features as it's Standard-Definition counterpart, so I can only recommend true fans of "Dune" consider upgrading for the improved visual presentation of the film.