Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Would you like to touch my Gom Jabbar?

Universal has announced that they will be releasing a new Dune DVD on January 31. It will include the original theatrical cut remastered anamorphically and with a DTS track. This will, of course, be a significant improvement over their current bare-bones DVD which only ported over the mid-90s laserdisc transfer of the film with its soft contrasts, copious edge-enhancement and anemic 384 kb/s Dolby AC-3 5.1 track (the Dolby Surround digital stereo track on the laser was much, much better).

The big news is that the second disc is an extended version. Now, there was a longer version put together by MCA TV for syndication that included several illuminating scenes, but it was such a sloppy job that the end results are extremely messy. Special effects footage is not completed, expansions are more cut for commercial placements than for dramatic enhancement. Test footage and outtakes are used, leading to extremely uneven performances. Toto and Marty Paich's score was artlessly tracked and retracked, sometimes over itself. Furthermore, due to a rights issue, all instances of Brian Eno's Prophecy Theme are removed. David Lynch was so dissaffected by the project that he had his name removed from this version, his screenplay credit becoming "Judas Booth" (a conflation of Judas and John Wilkes Booth) and the standard Director's Guild "Alan Smithee." Being prepared for television, it used panned and scanned footage (not a good idea for any Lynch picture) and minimized some of the more disturbing elements of the movie. Sean Murphy's "Building the Perfect Dune" in issues 33 and 34 in 1996 of Video Watchdog is to date the definitive article on the different versions.

However, David Lynch expressed an interest over the course of this year in being involved with the restoration of a longer cut of Dune, and Universal held up their release for his involvement. This, along with the fact that the extended version is going to be presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio implies that this has been the project that many have waited for a long time, as the television cut was only prepared in 4:3 and covered up the re-use of several shots by panning and scanning them differently and zooming/blowing up others. I tried to scour the internet looking for corroborative evidence that the new version of the film will, indeed, be Lynch's cut (which, contrary to rumor, would not have been five hours long, but closer to 3, which the listed version is at 177 minutes), but was unable to find anything more. Given Lynch's interest in keeping things on the DL, this may or may not be unusual, but there is also the fact that there are discs released in other regions including the MCA TV edition...

"I did not say this. I am not here"

I know better than to raise my hopes, but it's hard not to. Dune is a strange film, one of the strangest examples of science fiction cinema out there; Lynch's own tendencies towards surrealism gives this movie a bizarre twist that isn't found anywhere else in the genre except for maybe Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville or Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth. It is certainly one of the most visually unique films of its day (the 80s were actually a treasure trove of visually arresting sci-fi, from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner to Terry Gilliam's Brazil), the environments beautifully rendered but not overwhelming the foreground action. If the film is confusing it is because of Dino De Laurentiis' insistance that the running time be kept down. And, in a career that has produced disturbing image after disturbing image, one of Lynch's most disturbing occurs in this PG-13 rated picture; the 9 year old Alicia Roan Witt* as Lady Alia standing atop a pile of Harkonnen bodies with a blood stained knife, her face a euphoric with the thrill of violence.

Despite Laurentiis' meddling, Dune does in many ways fit into Lynch's oeuvre (and in return for which he was able to make what is his magnum opus, Blue Velvet), and so it is heartening to see that at least a decent presentation of the theatrical version will be available soon. I can only hope against hope that the extended version is not the MCA TV version but a decently prepared and restored cut of the film that Lynch is satisfied with.

* Who sure as hell ain't 9 anymore... jeepers!!!
Tags: cinema, david lynch

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