We don't like to overexaggerate around here, but it's not a stretch to say that if you've read Frank Herbert's Dune, you know it's one of the greatest written works in all of human history and should replace all other books taught in schools permanently.
Many readers have fallen in love with this epic sci-fi tale that pits noble families against one another in search of the ultimate power — control over the harvesting and production of spice. That includes many famous filmmakers, from blockbuster whisperer Ridley Scott to the avant-garde Alejandro Jodorowsky.
But on December 14, 1984, after decades of attempts at bringing it to the big screen, it was David Lynch's version of Dune that hit theaters.
And it bombed.
After the budget ballooned to over $40 million — gotta pay for those 20,000 extras somehow, ya know? — it didn't even recoup the cost. It has been looked at as one of the biggest bombs in modern box office history, which seems a bit harsh, but it's not up to us.
It was also panned almost universally by critics at the time, with Roger Ebert calling it the worst movie of the year. On At the Movies, Gene Siskel simply said: "I hated watching this movie."
I love me some Siskel and Ebert, but we had very different experiences watching this movie.
David Lynch came to it after producer Raffaella De Laurentiis saw The Elephant Man, and looking for a director willing to take on the seemingly cursed project, decided he was the man for the job. Lynch hadn't read the book, but ended up loving it and agreed to do the project.
It was besieged by issues from the start, from losing electricity on set in Mexico to reducing the scope from multiple films to just one — and then having to cut that single film down as short as possible. Again, if you've read the book, it's hard to imagine turning that thing into just one movie.
Contrary to urban legend, Lynch only ever made the one cut. A TV version aired in 1988 that featured some additional narration at the beginning along with concept art, but Lynch disavowed it. Instead, the pseudonym Alan Smithee was credited as director. Burn!
After all of that, I still love this movie — and I loved it before I ever read the book. The epic sets, Kyle MacLachlan, Sting, and so much more. There is a vision to this movie, and despite the supposed bomb, fans noticed. Today it has a "cult following," aka me.
Maybe David Lynch is just bitter because at the time he had the opportunity to direct another movie, one which would have possibly been received a little better at the box office. Which movie was it?
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