Atlantic Article on David Lynch’s Dune

As a teenager, when I first saw David Lynch’s Dune, I thought it was brilliant. I loved its uber-complex mythology, its bizarre costuming, and its archetypal plot. Like a typical SF nerd, I would passionately quote, “He who controls the Spice controls the universe!” Having a soft spot for the film, I always bristled at the near universal criticism it faced.

I think this article, by Daniel D. Snyder, writing for the Atlantic, excellently captures the movie’s unique charms:

Dune was like the anti-Star Wars, undoing everything Lucas’s trilogy did to make sci-fi a friendly place. A New Hope took audiences to far away galaxies, sure, but it smoothed the transition into the fantastical with a simple, recognizable tale: A gentle farmhand meets a wise old man and a cowboy, gets himself a sword (of sorts), and goes adventuring. It’s almost baffling, in retrospect, that producer Dino de Laurentiis, who bought the rights to the notoriously obtuse Dune project in 1978, one year after Star Wars became a hit, could look at Herbert’s novel and think that something as warm, friendly, and accessible could be squeezed from its pages.

Herbert’s book offered a meticulously detailed saga of a dark future where royal houses war for control of the desert planet Arrakis and its precious resource, the spice melange. Fitting all of that tale into movie length proved comically impossible for Jodorowsky. Lynch’s film palpably suffers from numerous cuts and recuts to the final edit, which clocks in at two hours and 17 minutes. So instead of showing not telling the story, the movie relies on a flurry of voiceover and breathy exposition.

For the rest of the “The Messy, Misunderstood Glory of David Lynch’s Dune”, click here.


New Worlds Cover Gallery

For many decades the voice of British science fiction, New Worlds varied from being a fan-zine to a professional periodical to a series of paperbacks. It is perhaps most famous today for being the main publication for the British “new wave” of writers: J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, etc.

Published from 1946 through 1979 (re-emerging for sporadic public in the 1990s), New Worlds provides a fascinating source for cover artwork. All the following images come from The Visual Index of Science Fiction Cover art, which hosts a variety of exciting SF artwork. Their New Worlds page is here and their main page is here. Enjoy.



Eric Ambler and Post-Modernism

For my money, Eric Ambler was one of best practitioners of the classic British spy thriller. Intelligent, droll and brisk, his prose rewards readers looking for a literary escape. Anyway, found this interesting essay by Sarah Weinman on Ambler’s classic A Coffin for Dimitrios over at the Wall Street Journal:

Though Ambler’s style sometimes veered more into comedy (his 1962 “The Light of Day” became the basis of Jules Dassin’s classic caper film “Topkapi” two years later) and he stayed neutral on the Cold War, he remained true to the style of spy fiction that made him famous, influencing the likes of Ian Fleming, John Le Carré and Len Deighton. More than any of his other novels, “A Coffin For Dimitrios” stands out as a classic example of what Ambler termed “the ape beneath the velvet”—the furious, pulsating violence beating beneath a smooth and placid façade.

For the rest of the essay, follow this link. (art by Ryan Inzana)

Style: Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters

Is anyone else excited about fall? Having just pulled the trigger on a new corduroy blazer, colour me excited.

Great slide-show over at Esquire on the fall style lessons one can learn from giving Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters another viewing

As a bonus, here is another post from Put This On, evidencing Allen’s ability to completely nail a look.

Donovan’s Brain (1953)

Felix E. Fiest’s take on the much-adapted Curt Siodmak novel is worth checking out. Scientist Dr. Cory (played by Lew Ayres) researches keeping brains alive, which leads to him secretly preserving the brain of a corrupt millionaire industrialist named Donovan who “died” in an airplane crash.

Deluding himself on the ethics of his practices, Dr. Cory justifies his research to his wife and fellow researcher Dr. Schratt as benefiting mankind. Eventually, however, Donovan’s brain gains the power of mind-control and exploits Dr. Cory and others to advance its plan to clear Donovan’s name, gain revenge and dominate the world’s financial markets. Is there a message here? Probably.

However, what really makes the film is its screwball quality. As Dr. Cory, Lew Ayres demonstrates an American can-do optimism and willingness to ignore moral issues indicative of a sociopath. When possessed by Donovan’s brain, Lew Ayres’ performance becomes even more interesting as he ruthlessly carries out Donovan’s blackmailing and dirty business dealings all the while adopting a taste for rare steaks, soft asparagus, bespoke blue serge suits and H. Upmann cigars. Gene Evans also turns in a great performance as Dr. Cory’s alcoholic assistant surgeon.

Great dialogue. Awesome retro laboratory. Campy dialogue that is not annoying. A throbbing brain in a fish tank. Worth a watch for s/f fans (it’s on Netflix for those that are interested).

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [after Cory wakes Scratt up from a drunken stupor] My dear Dr. Schratt, you sober up with more

[pauses and shrugs] grace than anyone I ever saw. You’re terrific. C’mon, let’s go.

Dr. Frank Schratt: Are you kidding?

[He hold out his shaking hand]

Dr. Frank Schratt: . Look! Nope.

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: Frank, don’t let me down.

Dr. Frank Schratt: What’s more useless than a surgeon with a hangover? I’m a drunken zero.! I pass!

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: No, you don’t. I’d rather have you do a corneal transplant for me drunk than anyone else sober.

[Pulls him by the arm]

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: Let’s go boy.

Dr. Frank Schratt: You’re brilliant but not normal.

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [Laughs] So are you, but are you and who is?

(photo still from