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The "Dune" that died will screen in Tacoma

"Jodorowsky's Dune" offers tantalizing peak at a sci-fi classic that never was

Could surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky have made a blockbuster?

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If you're a film buff, I have a job for you.  Check the Internet Movie Database's "Top 250" for any movies you haven't seen yet.  Hopefully the gaps in your resume are minimal, because the Top 250 includes some of the greatest films ever made. Still, as great as they are, they don't hold a candle to some of the greatest films never made.  There are all kinds of amazing film projects that fell apart for all kinds of reasons before a single camera ever rolled. That's why we'll never see Peckinpah's Superman, Tarantino's Casino Royale, Cronenberg's Total Recall or - Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune.

Jodorowsky's Duneis the latest from director Frank Pavich. This documentary chronicles director Alejandro Jodorowsky's legendary but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make a film adaptation of famed science fiction author and Tacoma native Frank Herbert's novel Dune in the mid-1970s. 

Duneposits a future wherein humanity colonized the known universe, but regressed into medieval feudalism. Royal families rule various planets and barter their worlds' unique natural resources with each other. The most precious of all these interplanetary exports is "Spice," a drug that gives users the enhanced mental capabilities necessary to navigate ships through space. Spice is found on only one planet: Arrakis, the desert world colloquially known as Dune. Whoever controls Dune controls the Spice, and whoever controls the Spice controls the universe.  Above all else, the Spice must flow.

It's pretty heavy material, especially considering that was about as thorough a synopsis as "Hamlet is about a Danish prince who talks to a skull."  Bringing it to the silver screen isn't a task to be taken lightly. 

David Lynch made a valiant attempt in 1984, (passing up directing Return of the Jedi to do so, in another case of a great film that never was), but he was hindered by both the time constraints of the medium and his own inescapable Lynch-ness, treating audiences to an ambitious but severely truncated adaptation peppered with bits of director-inserted weirdness that severely detracted from the final product. 

John Harrison brought Dune to the small screen with an Emmy Award-winning Syfy Channel miniseries in 2000.  With a running time of nearly four and a half hours and absent its predecessor's Lynchian influences, it offered a more faithful translation of the source material.  However, budgetary constraints and some wooden performances hampered it. It was far superior to Lynch's film, but far from perfect.

Jodorowsky envisioned Dune as a berserk 10-hour science fiction opus. His production team included Ralph McQuarrie, Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger. Orson Welles and surrealist painter Salvador Dali were going to star in it. Pink Floyd would have done the soundtrack. Every single one of those statements is true, and believe me, that's just the tip of the Spice-berg.

Sci-fi fans may never get a flawless, definitive film version of Dune, but Jodorowsky's Dune offers a tantalizing look at what might've been, had he truly been the Kwisatz Haderach.

Or maybe if he'd had more funding.

JODOROWSKY'S DUNE, opens Friday, May 9, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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