DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Jodorowsky’s Dune – documentary, Blu-ray (2014)

An amazing documentary on the ill-fated original film project of Herbert’s “Dune.”

Published on July 4, 2014

Jodorowsky’s Dune – documentary, Blu-ray (2014)

Jodorowsky’s Dune – documentary, Blu-ray (2014)

Cast: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seyroux, Gary Kurtz, Nicolas Winding Refn, others
Director: Frank Pavich
Studio: High Line Pictures/ Sony Pictures Classics 44222 [7/8/14] (Blu-ray + DVD)
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: Several languages DTS-HD 2.0
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Extras: Several deleted scenes, Theatrical trailer, Previews of other Sony films
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: *****

Spanish director Jodorowsky began work in 1975 on probably the most ambitious film project in history, one which never saw fruition. He wrote a script based on Frank Herbert’s hot sci-fi novel Dune, but with additions and changes of his own. Then he hired the French cartoonist that went by the name Mobius for his sci-fi illustrations, to create an entire storyboard of the whole huge film. He then went out to secure his actors, and none of them said no. First was his son Brontis, who had already played a naked little boy in his El Topo. He was to play Paul Atreides, the hero and “Messiah” of the story. As a teenager he was trained thoroughly in fighting.

Next he set out to select the other main characters in the story. For the Emperor of the Universe he selected Salvadore Dali, who originally demanded $1000 a minute. For the obese Baron Harkonnen he obtained Orson Welles, who first said no but had his mind changed when Jodorowsky promised him he could eat exactly the same food and wine right there where they were shooting, prepared by the same chef from his favorite Paris restaurant. For Paul’s father he got David Carradine and for the son of monster villain Baron Harkonnen he got Mick Jagger. He also obtained spaceship artist Chris Foss, FX man Dan O’Bannon and Swiss artist H.R. Giger (this was way before the Alien series and other sci-fi features), and got Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack music.

Jodorowsky had gained a high standing in the mid-‘70s for his latest film Holy Mountain, and working with producer Michel Seyroux in a castle in France he created a monumental project. He is referred to by one writer as a “psychedelic mastermind,” and was way ahead of his time in much of what he envisioned. They had already started preliminary filming in North Africa when they got a call that the promised money was withdrawn and the whole project must close down. Probably the main problems with the Hollywood studios was Jodorowsky’s strong point to have the final edit of the film, plus the fact that he never envisioned it being 90 minutes long, and even said if it takes 12 hours to tell the story that’s what it will be. The Hollywood people didn’t want to hear that—this was before the Star Wars series or long TV series that have become popular since. But on the other hand this was a pretty bloated project and in a way you can sympathize with their attitude.

For 35 years he didn’t speak to his one-time friend, producer Seyroux, but they got together for this documentary and even have made a new film together since then. Neither has ever seen David Lynch’s version of Dune, (which is not regarded as one of Lynch’s best films), perhaps because it would be far too painful for them. Their original Dune project changed sci-fi cinema forever and influenced many later films. Jadorowsky is a master story-teller and absolutely perfect for the main talking head in this documentary. This Blu-ray has some of the most interesting extras I have seen, much like those provided by The Criterion Collection.

—John Sunier




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