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.
Another great Atlantic piece (this one by Scott Meslow) on Richard Matheson (famed script-writer of numerous Twilight Zone, Night Stalker, Night Gallery, and Star Trek episodes as well as a pile of hardboiled and s/f short stories and novels, including the popular I Am Legend) and his deserved place in the history books.
“Steel” may not hold up particularly well, but Matheson’s contributions to The Twilight Zoneshouldn’t be denied: He wrote 14 scripts during the show’s original run, including all-time classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which starred William Shatner at his hammy best. During the 1960s and 1970s, when the science fiction and horror genres were still in their television infancy, Matheson’s contributions included episodes of Star Trek, Night Gallery, and the first two televised appearances ofKolchak: The Night Stalker.
Over at the Atlantic, Scott Beauchamp has an amazing post detailing changing trends in s/f book covers.
The phrase “pulp sci-fi” conjures images of rockets and men with ray guns landing on distant planets. That wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but the classic images associated with science fiction literature usually refer to the Golden Age of sci-fi: the magazine-dominated epoch lasting roughly from the 1920s until the 1950s, when graphic artists like Frank R. Paul and Hugo Gernsback set the standard for speculative fiction cover art. Fun, simple, and very literal in its connection to the story that it accompanies, that kind of art was generally intended for a younger audience. But sci-fi cover illustrations evolved after the 1950s in near parallel with the other changes that transformed America in that time.